April 1, 2020

iMonk 101: Why Do They Hate Us?

One of the first big splashes this blog made was when this post (2002!) made it into the atheist blogosphere. I got about a hundred notes from atheists saying “Thanks.” I’ve always agreed with what I wrote here, and I’ve always felt it was important. I also know that many culture-warring Christians will say this is a surrender document and I should join in the hatred of those who sometimes hate us. Check with Jesus on that one.

Here’s “Why Do They Hate Us?” from this blog, 2002 version.

I don’t really know why someone thought it was necessary to do a poll to see just who were the most disliked groups in society, but the results are in. While serial killers and IRS agents still come in last, hot on their heels are evangelical Christians. Not Christians in general. Not Roman Catholics. Not all Christians, but evangelical Christians.

If you’re like me, you have three reactions to this news. First, you tend to blame the media. Almost every portrayal of an evangelical Christian on television or in movies makes us look like the worst version of every stereotype we fear. Of course, one cannot expect the mainstream media to take up the cause of rescuing the evangelical public image, and these days virtually every group has a list of complaints with various kinds of media portrayals. There is more to the public perception of Bible believers than a media vendetta.

The second reaction is what we tend to say to one another to reassure ourselves that we are really OK after all. “It’s the Gospel,” we say to one another. Evangelicals are identified with a message that no one wants to hear, and so they are disliked. If you don’t believe it, watch what happens when an evangelical leader appears on a talk show. It’s like raw meat to hungry lions, no matter if the evangelical in question is rude or wonderful. (I have seen some of the nicest evangelicals torn limb from limb in these settings including liberals who gave away the store.)

I would never argue with the basic premise of this observation. I have seen its truth too many times. They crucified Jesus. Enough said. But as true as this is, it is too simplistic to explain the increasing level of general despising of evangelicals in our society. It explains one thing, but it does not explain many other things. It actually may tend to blind us to our own behaviors. Like the residents of Jerusalem who were convinced their city could not fall because the temple was there, evangelicals may explain this dislike as reaction to the Gospel and then be blind to those things- in addition to the Gospel- that create legitimate animosity.

The third reaction is the guilty knowledge that evangelicals really are, very often, easy to dislike for many obvious reasons. Many evangelicals know exactly what the survey is registering, because they feel the same way themselves. We’ve all observed, in others and in ourselves, distinctively evangelical vices, hypocrisies and failures. We hoped that our good points would make up for these problems, but that was another self-deception.

It is easy to say that people’s dislike of Christians is the dislike of the Christian message, but that simply doesn’t hold up in the real world. It may be true of the Christian you don’t know, but the Christians you do know have it in their power to either make it easy or difficult for you to dislike them. For example, the Christian in your car pool may believe what others refuse to believe, but his life provides a powerful antidote to any prejudice against him. Thousands of missionaries have been opposed for simply being Christians. But hundreds of thousands have lived lives that adorned the Gospel with attractive, winsome and loving behavior. A past president of our school was revered by Muslims during and after 6 years of Peace Corps service in Iran, years where he talked about the Gospel to Muslims every day and saw many trust Christ. The fact that the Gospel has penetrated into many hostile environments is evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is also evidence that one way the Spirit works is by making Christians a display of the fruits of love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

We are loathed, caricatured, avoided and disliked because we often deserve it. There, I said it and I’m glad I did.

Here’s my list of why evangelicals are among the most disliked persons in America.

1. Christians endorse a high standard of conduct for others, and then largely excuse themselves from a serious pursuit of such a life. Jesus is the most admired person in history, but evangelicals are far more likely to devise ways for Jesus to be like us than for us to be like Jesus.

If it hasn’t struck you lately that you do the very thing you condemn others for doing, (Romans 2:1) urge others to do what you don’t do or excuse in yourself what you require in others, then you probably don’t get this article at all.

Did it irritate you when your dad said “Do as I say, not as I do.”? Then you get the picture.

2. Evangelical Christian piety in America is mostly public. Whether it’s our entertainment-saturated “worship” services, our celebrity cults or our mad obsession with worldly success, we love for others to see what “God is doing in our lives.” Of course, Jesus had plenty to say about this, and the essence of it is that when your piety is public, then there is almost certainly a lack of serious, life-transforming, private obedience and discipleship.

I have lately been strongly convicted by J.C. Ryle’s little book, “A Call To Prayer.” Ryle makes a devastating case for the obvious absence of the discipline of private prayer among Christians. What would Ryle say today? Does our public manner grow out of a true inward experience of private prayer? You see what I am talking about. If its public, we do it well. If it’s private discipleship, we probably don’t do it at all.

3. Many evangelicals relate to others with an obvious- or thinly disguised- hidden agenda. In other words, those who work with us or go to school with is feel that we are always “up to” something. You mean, they know we want to convert them? Apparently. Ever been yelled at for saying “I’ll pray for you.”? Maybe there was a reason.

You know that feeling you get when a telemarketer interrupts your dinner? I get that feeling sometime when my Pentecostal/Charismatic friends are trying to persuade me into their camp. It’s not that I don’t know they are good, decent, law abiding people who like me. I just want them to quit treating me as a target or a project and start treating me as a person who is free to be myself AND different from them.

This same feeling is prevalent among those who dislike evangelical Christians. They are annoyed and sometimes angered that we are following some divine directive to get them to abandon their life choices and take up ours. They want to be loved as they are, not for what they might become if our plan succeeds.

Evangelicals have done a lot of good work on how to present the Gospel, but much of that work has operated on initial premises that are irritating and offensive. I have taken my share of evangelism courses, and there is a great blind spot on how to be an evangelist without being annoying and pushy. We somehow think that the Holy Spirit takes care of that aspect of evangelism! Thank God for men like Francis Schaefer and Jerome Barrs who have done much to model evangelism that majors of maintaining the utmost respect towards those we evangelize.

4. We seem consumed with establishing that we are somehow “better” than other people, when the opposite is very often true. Many evangelicals are bizarrely shallow and legalistic about minute matters. We are frequently psychologically unsound, psychiatrically medicated, filled with bitterness and anger, tormented by conflicts and, frankly, unpleasant to have around.

I have an atheistic acquaintance who never misses an opportunity to post a news story about a morally compromised minister. Is he just being mean? No; he is pointing out the obvious mess that is the inner life and outward behavior of many evangelicals, truths we like to avoid or explain as “attacks of the enemy.” Our families are broken, our marriages fail and our children are remarkably worldly and messed up. Yet, we boldly tell the world that we have the answer for all their ills! How many churches proclaim that a sojourn with them will fix that marriage and those kids? Do we really have the abundant life down at the church, ready to be dispensed in a five week class?

We are not as healthy and happy as we portray ourselves. The realities of broken marriages among the Christian celebrity set underlines the inability of evangelicals to face up to their own brokenness. Was there some reason that Sandi Patti and Amy Grant were supposed to be immune from failed marriages? Why did their divorces make them pariahs in evangelicalism? The fact is that most evangelicals are in deep denial about what depravity and sinfulness really means. The world may have similar denial problems, but I don’t think they can approach us for the spiritual veneer. The crowd at the local tavern may have issues, but they frequently beat Christians by miles in the realistic humanity department. Maybe they should pity us, but the fact is that, as the situation becomes more obvious, they don’t like us.

5. We talk about God in ways that are too familiar and make people uncomfortable. Evangelicals constantly talk about a “personal relationship ” with God. Many evangelicals talk as if God is talking to them and leading them by the hand through life in a way only the initiated can understand. Christian testimonies may give a God-honoring window into the realities of Christian experience, or it may sound like a psychological ploy to promote self importance.

Evangelicals have yet to come to grips with their tendency to make God into a commodity. The world is far more savvy about how God is “used” to achieve personal or group ends than most evangelicals admit. Evangelicals may deny that they have made God into a political, financial or cultural commodity, but the world knows better. How does an unbeliever hear the use of Jesus to endorse automobiles, political positions or products?

In my ministry, I have observed how difficult it is to evangelize Buddhists. One of the reasons is that the Buddhist assumes that if you are serious about your religious experience, you will become a monk! When he sees American Christians talking about a relationship with God, yet does not see a corresponding impact upon the whole of life, he assumes that this religion is simply an expression of culture or group values. Now we may critique such a response as not understanding certain basic facts about the Gospel, but we also have to acknowledge the truth observed! Rather than being people who are deeply changed, we are people who tend to use God to change others or our world to suit ourselves.

6. Evangelicals are too slow to separate themselves from what is wrong. Because ours is a moral religion, and we frequently advertise our certainty in moral matters, it seems bizarrely hypocritical when that moral sense is applied so inconsistently.

I note that my evangelical friends are particularly resistant to this matter, but the current Trent Lott affair makes the point plainly. Lott says that he now repudiates any allegiance to segregation or the symbols of segregation. Suddenly, he sees the good sense in a number of things he has opposed. But bizarrely, Lott stands behind his evangelical Christianity as the explanation for his sudden conversion.

Watching this spectacle, there are many reactions, but what interests me is how Lott’s Christianity only seems to apply now that he is being dangled over political hell. Where was all this moral sense in the 1960’s? Where was it ten years ago? Why does it appear that Lott is using his religion at his convenience? It’s not my place to judge what is going on between Lott and his God, but his apparent pragmatism in these matters is familiar to many people observing evangelicals on a daily basis.

Most evangelicals are not the moral cutting edge of contemporary social issues. Despite the evangelical conscience on issues like abortion, it is clear to many that we no longer have the cutting edge moral sense of a Martin Luther King, Jr. or a William Wilberforce. Evangelicals are largely annoyed at people who tell them to do the right thing if it doesn’t enhance their resume, their wallet, their family or their emotions.

What is odd about this is that many of those who dislike evangelicals have the idea that we want to impose our morality upon an entire culture. Fear-mongering liberals often talk about the Bush administration as populated by fundamentalist Christian Taliban poised to bring about a Christian theocracy. I wonder if they have noticed that President Bush- an evangelical right down to his boots- is practicing religious tolerance over the loud objections of evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell?

7. We take ourselves far too seriously, and come off as opposed to normal life. Is it such a bid deal that Christians are offended at so many things others consider funny? I’ll admit, it is a small thing, but it is one of the reasons ordinary people don’t like us.

I read an incident written by a preacher to an internet list I monitor. He told about taking his youth group on an outing, when the students began singing a popular country song about a guy who leaves his wife to pursue his fishing hobby. It’s a hilarious song. But this fellow’s reaction was predictable. He asked them to not a song about a marriage that breaks up, and to instead sing something that honored God. I routinely hear students ridiculing a fellow teacher who labels much of what students find funny as “of the devil.”

These incidents show something that evangelicals need to admit. We are frequently unable to see humor, absurdity, and the honest reasons for humans to laugh at themselves. What very normal, very healthy people find laughable, we find threatening and often label with the ridiculous label of “the devil.”

The message here isn’t just that we are humorless or Puritanical. The message is that being human or being real is somehow evil. This is one place I can feel exactly what the unbelievers are talking about. When I see Christians trying to rob young people of the right to be normal, ordinary and human, it angers me. I feel threatened. It’s hard to like people who seem to say that God, Jesus and Scripture are the enemies of laughter, sex, growing up and ordinary pleasures. Some Christians sometimes seem to say that everything pleasurable is demonic or to be avoided to show what a good Christian you are. Isn’t it odd that unbelievers are so much more aware of the plain teaching of scripture than we are?

I am sure there is much more to say, but I have ridden this horse far enough. Certainly, unregenerate persons are at enmity with God by nature. And, without a doubt, Christians represent a message that is far from welcome. Christians doing the right thing risk being labeled enemies of society. Much persecution is cruel and evil. But that’s not the point. Christians are disliked for many reasons that have nothing to do with the Gospel, and everything to do with the kind of people we are in the relationships God has given us. The message of salvation won’t earn a standing ovation, but people who believe that message are not given a pass to rejoice when all men hate you…for any reason, including reasons that are totally our own fault.

No doubt someone will write me and say that, to the extent people like us, we have denied the Gospel. Therefore, being despised and hated is proof that you are on the right track. And there is a certain amount of truth to that observation in some situations that Christians may find themselves in. But that is an explanation for how we are treated, not directions on how to make sure we are rejected and hated by most people for reasons having nothing to do with the message of the cross. I hate to say it, but I’ve learned that when a preacher tells me he was fired from his church for “taking a stand for God,” it usually means he was just a jerk.

The scriptures tell us that the early Christians were both persecuted and thought well of for their good lives and good works. What was possible then is still possible now. I’ve seen it and I hope I see more of it…in my life.

(COMMENTERS: You can discuss the article. We won’t be debating atheism vs Christianity, nor will I allow either team to generally accuse the other of atrocity. Heavy moderation ahead.)

Comments

  1. Gay Believer says

    The same-sex marriage issue is another really great one.

    Religious marriage, as defined by the Bible, may be between a man and a woman. However, the Bible does NOT mandate that such a religious marriage entitles the married couple to ANY special legal or financial rights.

    In actual fact, even within the Christian Era the precise legal rights that one gained with marriage, if any, varied greatly from time and place. During many periods, especially the Dark Ages, marriage provided NO special rights whatsoever in many places!

    However, in our modern world we accord a number of purely SECULAR privileges to marriage that have NOTHING to do with Christianity specifically or religion in general. Your inheritance and tax rights come from the GOVERNMENT, not God!

    What gay couples want are the legal rights that, in fairness, they pay taxes for and should by rights receive. This has nothing to do with religion. Indeed, many Christian denominations will not even recognize a secular marriage performed in front of a judge as valid anyway!

    Even if same-sex marriage were legal no church would ever be legally obligated to bless it. The Roman Catholic Church already refuses weddings to divorced Catholics, and commonly refuses to perform mixed weddings unless the non-Catholic participant converts. Good luck trying to sue them for it because you won’t get anywhere. The government cannot obligate a church to administer a sacrament.

    Yet this is a good example of denying people civil rights for religious reasons, something that was once also done for slavery. Needless to say a lot of people don’t see that as an example of treating others as one would want to be treated oneself.

  2. @Gay Believer, those are all very good and valid points, but I have yet to see a Christian supply a good answer to how opposing gay marriage is following “Do unto others…”

  3. Andy D. Bible believing Christians have never said interracial marriage was an abomination. Why? Because the Bible does not support that. The Bible does not even talk about race. We are either Jews or Gentiles, and in Christ we are all one. The Bible has absolutely no prohibitions against interracial marriage. It does have a prohibition against Christians marrying non-Christians. But once the deed is done then we are supposed to remain married. Nice try at a myth. Have there been bigots in the church who “said” it was an abomination? Probably. Hypocrites in the church? do tell.
    As far as the Bible being unscientific. I could debate that with you all day long. In Job 26:7 the Bible says the “earth hangs upon nothing”. Job is considered the oldest book in the Bible. I could go on and on and on. Did you know that there has not been a single scientific paper (science not theory) explaining how cells evolved. Nothing. Which came first the cell membrane or the mitochondria?

  4. As I re-read older posts and read new ones here–and I deeply appreciate nearly every one–I see again how we American Christians made it so complicated, so hard–so Phariseeic. These complications only close many doors to suffering souls.

    How did true religion, especially considering the tattered state of family, marriage, and sexual relations in the church, become about the state’s laws regarding marriage–a topic prominent here? About evolutionary theory? With a faith so simple that none should err therein, even about Bible scholarship?

    Honor God above all, honor our neighbor as one’s self, care for widows and orphans, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit those in prison, don’t harm children. Walk humbly, love mercy, do justly. Is that so hard?

    Yes, it is. It is so hard! So, rather than pay that terrible price for true submission to our faith, we distract our attention with a hundred pointless disputes, interfaith squabbles, picayune rules, attended by stupid and ugly outreach (read: growth/success/money) plans, schemes, teams, musical extravaganzas, and architectures. Then, as is also noted here, rather than throwing ourselves into “foxholes” with other terrified and needy souls, we will happily dispute all day with atheists who have no need of us, for it is so much less muddy.

    When He returns, will He find faith upon the earth? I honestly do not know. Even in my own soul, I do not know. I hope so.

  5. Andy D.

    “30 years ago Christains said the scripture was clear and that interracial marriage was an abomination. Excuse me for not believing a book that was written at a time when a)marriage was a completely different venture then what it is today, and b)homosexuality was completely misunderstood.”

    +1. I have yet to hear a coherent argument as to why this issue is any different than the many other civil rights issues Christians have agreed to (if sometimes reluctantly) in recent years. Though in all fairness, i think us non-believers do have to keep in mind that the church in various forms played a key role in abolition and many other social justice movements. While I am a straight married female, I have enough gay friends that it would be hypocritical (and as near as I can discern from the gospels un-Christlike) of me to set foot in any church where their service and their love were not welcome.

    Lance,

    “Bible believing Christians have never said interracial marriage was an abomination.”

    I’ll let my southern grandparents know they weren’t “Bible-believing christians” until the 1980s, when they came around on this point. I have a feeling it may come as a shock, though…

  6. Religion seems to be dying in America. We are entering a new age of a godless America (Atheists doubled in population since 2001! There’s an advancing liberal/progressive trend and the movement is getting greater each day). Eventually we’re going to become a vocal subgroup and get rid of the chastising by people of faith.

    All we need is a bit of direction and we can shape this nation’s humanist and empathic future once and for all! 🙂

  7. From Overlake:

    How did true religion, especially considering the tattered state of family, marriage, and sexual relations in the church, become about the state’s laws regarding marriage–a topic prominent here? About evolutionary theory?

    —–

    Because our faith informs our views on issues does not mean that our faith is about those issues. We are citizens and faith mean more to us than simple sentiment and good feelings. Marriage is sacred to us. Expect us to stand publicly for the things we know to be true. How is this not loving? How is this not Christlike? If true, it is our moral duty.

    Separation of church and state does not (and has never) meant “no Christians allowed”. What a perversion of our founding principles! It means that government may not establish a state religion nor prohibit the free exercise of religion. Everyone’s position on these issues is informed by their basic assumptions about life and God; how did only those of Christians become unacceptable? An atheist says “oh, we are just beasts, and all that about homosexuality in their fable-book is not meaningful in our culture” which is entirely based upon their religious and philosophical assumptions. Perhaps they should be banned from the public square for attempting to enforce their religion on the rest of us? Because, if there is a God, and we believe there is, then there is no neutral position. This assumption of neutrality on the part of atheists is really a truth claim about (my) faith. It is an assertion that we are wrong, not because we are sometimes fools and hypocrites, but because we are Christian. We reject these claims. To deny us a role in the public square is pure anti-Christian bigotry and should be called such.

    Evolutionary theory is questioned because there are substantive questions about its veracity. This is how science works. Surely evolution is not sacred, correct?

    Being loving and Christlike cannot be used to make Christians act in ways contrary to what our Lord taught and lived.

    I’m sure we will be called these things and much worse by the enemy of souls in these times.

    I hope we stand firm.

  8. Very well written, insightful, humorous and honest essay. If you don’t mind, perhaps I can add an observation for a possible future revision.

    I haven’t yet met any non-American evangelicals. I’m sure they exist, but all I’ve ever encountered (in 20 years of living in Asia with occasional visits to the USA) have been white Americans. And with few exceptions they tend to be less well educated about cultures and philosophies other than their own. Perhaps most Americans wouldn’t pick-up on this since any communication with evangelicals would be framed by common cultural knowledge and assumptions. But to the outsider, or to an American with some knowledge and sensitivity to other ways of living and seeing the world, the over-zealous evangelical can come across as a boorish cultural imperialist. And when the evangelical does take the time to learn something about other cultures or philosophies, it is often with the purpose not of enriching his own life but of finding some weakness whereby he might convert the heathen.

    Keep up the good work, Michael. You’re the kind of American evangelical I’d very much like to meet.

  9. That Other Jean says

    RAP: “All very interesting, but how is this reconciled with ‘Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.'”

    Perhaps because early Christians were part of the Roman empire, where the majority of people believed in and depended upon the good will of their pantheon of gods. Christians refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and were indeeed persecuted for their obstinant disrespect. They were given plenty of chances, including Roman officials carefully not noticing if a Christian tossed a handfull of incense on the fire while praying to his own god, but ultimately they were punished for risking bringing the wrath of the Roman gods down on the Roman State through their refusal to participate in worship.

    In some parts of the world today Christians may still be subject to persecution, but too many American Evangelicals look silly claiming to be persecuted for their beliefs because someone wished them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or differs from them on which version of the Bible to use. Makes it hard to take them seriously, and easy to be annoyed and dismissive.

  10. Can an atheist be seen as a hypocrite in the way a Christian can? Unless they are caught praying?

    No attack intended.

  11. I got a weird feeling from reading the original post.
    Although much of it is an intelligent cultural evaluation of Christian hypocrisy, I couldn’t help but feel the breeze of a judgmental spirit – that we “evangelicals” are the villains set in contrast to the noble unbeliever.
    Strange.

  12. “Perhaps they should be banned from the public square for attempting to enforce their religion on the rest of us?”

    The public square is for free speech. Athiests are perfectly willing to let you exercise your right to free speech there, and expect the same in return. The debate over evolution has nothing to do with the public square, and everything to do with public schools. The difference between the two is that the public square is simply a public place, but a public school is effectively part of the government. It receives funding and must follow standards set by the government. Because of that, what happens in schools has to follow constitutional guidelines, in this case, the separation of church and state.

    “Evolutionary theory is questioned because there are substantive questions about its veracity. This is how science works. Surely evolution is not sacred, correct?”

    Frankly, no, there aren’t. Evolution is true, or at least as true as the theory of gravity, the theory of conservation of momentum, the theory of conservation of energy, etc. There are certainly details about the mechanisms behind evolution that are unclear, but that doesn’t mean that evolution is untrue.

    As an example, until about 100 years ago, Galileo’s theory of relativity was the current theory of how to compare two “frames” in relative motion. Then Einstein came around and discovered that time wasn’t actually a constant, that as things approached the speed of light, time slowed down. At first this was just a set of mathematical equations that explained a few observations that otherwise didn’t make sense. In the century or so since then, a number of experiments have been done that show that observations agree with the predictions of those equations. These days the only reason GPS works is that Einstein’s equations are used instead of Galileo’s. Does this mean that Galileo’s math was wrong? Maybe, but it’s still a very close approximation of reality in almost every case. Do physicists think that Einstein’s math is perfect? No, in fact, they know that there are inconsistencies, but they also know that it is a better theory than Galileo’s.

    Similarly, the current model of the theory of Evolution is not the final word. The current theory is almost certainly wrong in some details, however the basic tenets of the theory are true. This is very important because it isn’t just an abstract issue. Just like you can’t make GPS work without Einstein’s version of relativity, the science behind flu vaccines relies on the truth of evolution.

    For that reason, if children are going to be taught biology, it is essential they be taught evolution, just like it’s essential they learn about gravity in physics, multiplication in math, the periodic table in chemistry, etc.

    Creationism / Intelligent Design are not science, they’re theology. Science requires that you follow the scientific method. Biologists would gladly accept a theory that was consistent with the story of creation from the bible, or the newer intelligent design stories if those theories were a better model for the world than evolution. They don’t. Science is an open system. Any biologist is free to come up with a theory that incorporates creationism and is a more accurate model of the world than the current evolution model. All they have to do is publish that paper in a biology journal so biologists can duplicate their tests and verify their findings. However, if this new model doesn’t allow biologists to properly understand how to create a flu vaccine for the next year (for example), it won’t go very far.

    The courts have decided that the constitution requires that religion be kept out of the classroom in public schools. It is fine to teach creationism in a mythology class in a public school, or in a sunday school class in a church. However, the constitution says schools are not allowed to teach one particular religious viewpoint over another (thereby establishing a religion).

  13. imonk,

    I agree!! You said that very well!!

    Blessings,
    Gary

  14. Mark Borzillo says

    Our pastor recently said something very pertinent:
    We have to EARN the right to share the gospel with someone based on our actions and words. I feel like I’m walking a razor’s edge sometimes. For years we stuck to our church family but finally realized the lost weren’t coming to us. I’ve been criticized for some of the friends I have, but darn it, some of them are truer friends than christians. I just need to love these people, and I do. I don’t always love their language or laugh at their jokes. But they are friends, and who knows when they’ll be open to the gospel. I need to be in the right place at the right time, and that’s by being around them.
    M

  15. I grew up as an Evangelic Christian and always had a problem when fellow believers were ramming those outside of their elite camp to become Christians. Being a Bible scholar, I can find no support for the notion to become a Christian anywhere in Scripture. There is no such reference anywhere in the early Aramaic or Greek texts. Far more important than becoming a Christian is living out the words of Jesus recorded in Mathew 5-7. It is ironic that the ministers of the gospel would rather preach from the letters of Paul, but will seldom dare to preach the challenging message of Jesus as per the quoted Bible portion.

    It is time that we as evangelicals get over it! Yes, get over being a Christian and rather live as Jesus would have us live.It is significant to note that the early followers of Jesus were called ‘Followers of the Way’ as He was and still is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life!

  16. For those who have commented regarding receiving hatred as being assurance of being on the right track. That can only be said to be true sometimes.

    Jesus was seemingly embraced by the common people of his day. It was the religious people of the day who hated him. The “sinners” all wanted him to come to dinner!

    Too, Peter wrote in his epistles that we would have trials and suffer, but that none of us should suffer as a doer of evil. In other words, don’t commit evil, the say “I am being persecuted” when the consequences of your own evil deeds fall upon you.

    So when we’re jerks, the hatred of the culture is to be expected. Were we to be as Christ – and his life to be alive in us, some will hate us, yes (probably the religious), but many people will come to know Jesus.

    Jus tmy $.02

  17. Thank you Merc for a perfect example of the unfortunate fog the evolution debate is so often conducted in.

    In reality, the only portion of evolution that can be compared to gravity is on the smallest of scales, and within species. Everywhere else, including the fossil record, shows appearance, little change, and then extinction. Darwin himself considered this evidence to be falisification of his theory, but today darwinism has become such an article of faith to so many that to say so is to be called a “creationist”. This is not science.

    One simply cannot apply the certainty of microevolution to the large scale where there is no certainty. It doesn’t work, and all the evidence is marshaling against it while more is accumulated daily.

    And, for the record, ID and creationism are not the same thing and when they are conflated, it is for ideological reasons, not rational ones.

    Finally, I do not want ID or creationism taught in schools. I want evolution taught there, as well as the skills to question it. That is science without ideology.

    Someone called darwinism “the last of the great 19th-century mystery religions” and I must say there is some truth there.

  18. Thanks so much for this powerful post.

    Wish I had come across your blog prior to creating a movie with my atheist college roommate. We’ve had an amazing journey/dialogue over the past four years. You can see a bit of it at http://www.purplestateofmind.com.

  19. J (12 Mar, 1:54pm), you missed every one of my points. 🙁 The FAA’s concern for air safety has nothing to do with it. The church’s desire for excess resulted in the FAA making an authoritative and determinative decision in a religious matter. The FAA, and not God, made the decision. Irony.

  20. Funny, I see a lot of things wrong in many of the posts here. I’m not a Christian or an Atheist, just to be up front. I used to be a fundamentalist Christian though.

    First, faith does not equal belief – it presupposes it. Faith is actual TRUST that something is so with no evidence. A good example is Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade” where he stepped out onto what looked like empty space.

    Second, we ALL exercise faith in doing anything. Observation as a basis for reasoning by definition is having faith in causality.

    Stepping off the curb is an act of faith that some idiot won’t ignore the light and run you over. Trusting what your senses have reported and what your brain has interpreted it as is also an act of faith.

    I’ll agree with you Atheists on one point. It’s stupid to have faith in a belief that’s repeatedly shown to be contrary to evidence. Yet we all do it – religious and non-religious alike. What we should be doing is re-examining the belief that got us there.

    I’m not trivializing religion here. I’m just making the point that even Atheists and Agnostics and whatever I am have to live by some degree of faith and we all get it wrong sometimes.

    Third, it’s amazing to me how many of you who self identify as Christians DON’T visit prisoners, feed the hungry and care for the poor even though you were commanded to do so several times over in the new testament.

    Start doing that AND inviting “sinners” like prostitutes, homosexuals, abortion doctors and the like to have a meal with you. Use that time to get to know each other better and THEN you can start trying to talk to me about Christianity.

    If you’re not doing that out of genuine compassion and warmth, you’re not doing the most important things that Jesus taught you. Stop saying how much you love us and start DOING it!

  21. Don: First off, I am not lost. I am complete, happy and moral. I have been to many different churches but found them unfulfilling and fake. I’m sure that there are good churches out there, but honestly, I don’t need a man to tell me how to interact with my creator.

    Secondly, how exactly does a gay couple being married force anything on you? Additionally, how does that equate to people taking your job?

  22. Chris: I’ve left up a few atheist comments that mildly wished we could moved from the planet. I deleted about 50 that included lines like “I want to poison all evangelicals and their children.” If you can’t read the rhetoric in this thread and others that sounds like overt, open threats of violence, then I can’t help you. See those trees? There’s a forest in there.

  23. *J (12 Mar, 1:54pm), you missed every one of my points. The FAA’s concern for air safety has nothing to do with it.*

    Orly?

    *The church’s desire for excess resulted in the FAA making an authoritative and determinative decision in a religious matter.*

    Orly?

    *The FAA, and not God, made the decision.*

    Orly?

    *Irony.*

    I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  24. Memphis Aggie says

    Gay Believer:

    You confuse positive rights (the right to something, especially something from someone else) with negative rights (freedom from a constraint). Constitutional civil rights are all negative rights: there are no positive rights. Not the right to food or water or shelter much less marriage. The intent was to restrict government; not the people and especially not the church which asserted it’s right to religious freedom as the first enumerated right. Marriage is a privilege and a contract, although greatly damaged by divorce, it is not a right. Government has an obligation to adjudicate contract law and thus can justly be viewed as an arbiter of marriage. Now as to the basis for a given restriction on marriage that is open to debate. No one is free to marry anyone else as a civil right. It’s restricted to people of opposite gender, sufficient age, and genetic distance and limited to one at a time. You may object to the gender constraint, and I expect one can make a reasonable case on equity and minimal government grounds, but don’t distort the notion of civil rights.

  25. I should note that there are two Andys here. You can differentiate us because my name is followed with the initial ‘D’.

    @Lance, I make no arguments that using the bible to oppose interracial marriage is disgusting, but it did happen. You can justify just about anything from the bible if you go through it with a comb. People do this all the time, and I suspect in another 30 years or so we will look back in disgust at how the bible was used to stop gay marriage.

    @Don, if marriage is so sacred to you, why don’t you follow Christ’s example and share it with everyone.

    Also there is plenty of evidence to support macroevolution, yes there are missing links, but we have so many transitional fossils that show so much.

  26. Your points are well stated and well taken. I basically agree with everything he said, and I believe I can genuinely empathize with how the non-believing world feels about us evangelical Christians because it’s the exact way I feel about militant environmentalists, self-righteous vegetarians, and crusading homeschool familes. These three groups of people exhaust me as they make me feel guilty for not joining their cause. So I have an inkling of how the nonbeliever feels when I leave a Gospel tract with my tip or answer the phone “Jesus saves.” Yet my position is that the Great Commission is not to endear people to ourselves, i.e., make them our disciples. It is to make Christ’s disciples. Of course, the ordinary response to that is the salesman’s motto, “If you want to sell your product, you have to first sell yourself.” But the truth is that people will hate us no matter what we do—whether we are winsome or woeful. Let me back that up with Scripture from Matthew 11. No one epitomized the hated, crusading Christian more than John the Baptist with his ascetic lifestyle and “Repent or perish” message. Yet Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater” (Matthew 11:11). But here is the key to my assertion that people will hate us no matter what we do. Jesus essentially said that “we’re darned if we do, and darned if we don’t” (Jesus would use “darn,” not “dam*” 🙂 ) when He says seven verses later, “For John (the Baptist) came neither eating nor drinking, and they say ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinner.’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” The nonbeliever will hate us no matter how we behave. In truth, they don’t hate us but the message we deliver and ultimately they reject the God Who is the message. Sound bleak? But that’s why Jesus added, “But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” What does that mean? Read Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in the previous chapter, Matthew 10, and I believe you will see. Essentially, He says that we will be persecuted, and so we must be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Each individual must ask God how that plays out in his or her life. Some may be repent-or-perish John the Baptists. Others may be sinner-hugging, good-time loving, Pharisee-vexing sons of man. But neither is passive evangelism. It’s active, proactive evangelism that focuses on reporting “what we’ve seen and heard” (Matthew 11:4-6). In short, being a witness at the trial, not the judge. Then there will be a few in the world—even some who view us as militant, self-righteous, crusading evangelicals—who will understand that our main message is not that they are guilty, but that they are pardoned.

  27. Many great points in this article. I used to be (hopefully I am still not) one of the jerks. I attribute my past behavior to pride, immaturity, and being influenced by others’ “in your face” behavior.

    I especially appreciate the point you made on private prayer when you asked, “Does our public manner grow out of a true inward experience of private prayer?” It’s much easier to walk humbly before the world when we walk humbly with our God.

    Do you believe that a reason why so many “evangelicals” behave as you describe is because there is a lack of sound doctrine?

  28. Why not share marriage? Because I believe we were designed in a certain way and marriage can only between a man and a woman. I am all for civil unions with many of the rights of marriage, but marriage is heterosexual and I must oppose those trying to re-engineer humanity and the culture to match their current ideology.

    Please do not posit that Jesus would advocate sin for the purpose of being seen as “loving” by sinners. Instead, he chased off those condemning the sinner while telling them to “go and sin no more”. Love and righteousness are not at odds in the life and teachings of Jesus. I will not condemn gay people, nor will I call their relationships marriage. Indeed, a homosexual orientation is not even condemned in the Bible, only the act of gay sex itself.

    Re: evolution. It is becoming clearer by the day that darwinism simply fails on the large scale as poorly as it succeeds so well on the small. This will get worse, not better as more scientists dissent. Be prepared.

  29. Hey Sarah Yes. Ask your grandparents to back that up with scripture from the Bible. Many “church-goers” and undisciplined Christians open their mouths before checking with scripture on what the Bible says. Are there hypocrites and bigots and lazy folks who don’t read their Bibles in the church? Absolutely! Are their bad pastors, false teachers, etc…in leadership. You betcha! And folks take God’s word out of context all the time. This is what reformation Christians have always stood for… Do not go beyond what is written. Andy made a general statement that “Christians said scripture was clear”. Uhmmm no they did not. Some ignorant folks who called themselves Christians did. But the Bible did not, does not, and never will.

  30. Thank you for writing this.

    I was raised Catholic, but eventually found that the teachings conflicted too strongly with my conscience as well as my reason. I became an agnostic.

    I try to be a good person. I volunteer some time. I give to charities, buskers and beggars. I hold my temper, and shovel more than my share of snow. I believe in science, that gays deserve rights, and that tyranny is bad. I am kind and do my best to forgive people if they show remorse. And I don’t believe in any gods. I may burn in Hell for all this; I consider it my moral obligation to take that risk.

    I want to thank you for broadening my perspective. It has taken a long time for me to learn the wisdom of the advice, “Read people who disagree with you.” One of the ways I can tell you are a good writer is because you made me laugh at a ridiculous statement, but then out of respect for you I considered it seriously.

    I refer to “liberal fear-mongering” which gave me a fit of the giggles when I read it. I found the concept silly, but I forced myself to contrast it with “conservative fear-mongering”, which is *not* an oxymoron. I have to stretch my brain now. Thank you.

    I felt much the same in recent months when I read in a conservative magazine that liberals wanted to “take our freedoms away,” which made me laugh hysterically. But I didn’t respect the writer, so I didn’t take the idea seriously until I read it in three different places. Another brain stretch.

    But by far the funniest was when I first heard that evangelical Christians did not consider Catholics to be Christian. I laughed for fifteen minutes straight, holding my sides, tears streaming down my face, because following the stereotypes I had seen, I thought that the speaker was both so stupid and so ignorant of history that they didn’t actually know that Protestantism came from Catholicism. Much like the famous, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for our kids,” argument from a Texas school.

    I have since learned that “Christian” is a word rendered meaningless (although everyone will argue with me over that) precisely *because* everyone is arguing over what the word means. If you tell me you are a Christian, or that you want me to “accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior,” I have absolutely no idea whether you are exhorting me to become a homophobe or a missionary or a kinder person or just join a weekly social club.

    I made myself read through just about all the comments. Some of them were kind; some were well reasoned; some missed your point or each other’s points; some turned my stomach. But they gave me new views to consider, and that is of value.

    Until now, I have not really added anything to the discussion.

    I will add one reason evangelicals are disliked:

    It is not always because the message is unwelcome.
    It is not always because the person is a jerk.
    In some cases, it is because evangelism itself, regardless of the religion being espoused, is considered morally wrong.

    I consider prosetylizing morally wrong, especially when done in a predatory fashion. Some churches pressure insecure teenagers to have a “conversion experience” which smacks of brainwashing and arguably should be illegal. Some deliberately seek out the ill or the grieving, not to give consolation, but to prey on them when they are weak and irrational. If you can’t convince someone without them being vulnerable in some way, what does that say about the worth of your arguments? If you have to trick people and con them and brainwash them into following your Jesus, what kind of value can your beliefs possibly have?

    It’s not the message of Jesus that is necessarily wrong or offensive; it’s the act of cramming it down the throats of others which makes bystanders hate you. As if your message is so worthless that no sane person would take it except by trickery.

    I would rather have Good than God.
    I would rather be spiritual than religious.
    I would rather have Truth than belief.

    Most evangelicals make me feel I have to choose one or the other, and so they lose.

    Thank you, Internet Monk, for showing me that that isn’t *always* the case. And for reminding me that not all Christians are nasty people; I know it intellectually, but I have to struggle every day to remind myself of it. Thanks for making it easier.

  31. Preach It! I’m a ministers daughter of affiliation Church of the Brethren. I quit going to church over a year ago, for one thing – I’m embarrased and ashamed that I’ve heard my own pastor + 4 evangelical pastors cut down Catholics, other protestants, Baptists and of course Muslims FROM THE PULPIT!! What makes us think we ARE RIGHT OR BETTER than the others? We aren’t better than anyone else. Evangelicals truly believe they speak God’s mind – no you don’t. Nobody can truly knows who God is. He is beyond comprehension and concepts. In order for Christians and other faiths to accept each other we as God’s children have to go beyond the beliefs that we’ve been spoon fed since childhood, which is – We’re right – you’re wrong. So now I’m practicing Buddhism along with my Christian belief, while learning about Jews, Muslims, Catholics, etc. I want to have a better understanding of my brothers and sisters and accept them for who they are!

  32. One other note I would add regarding criticism of Christians evangelizing. Many folks say they don’t like when it seems like salemanship or is done by someone with limited knowledge, etc… I don’t criticize any Christian who wants to share their faith. Being a Christian is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. If I am able and if they are teachable I would help them find better more effective ways to share the message. Our command is to sow seed. The seed is the Gospel. The soil does not tell the sower how, when, or where to sow seed. There is too little sowing, not too much. Life is so short. A Christian cannot and should not wait to share their faith with those around them.
    There was a man condemned to death in England. The priest came to give him his last rites. The priest shared the message of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ, and that without trusting in Jesus payment for sin to satisfy God’s wrath against sin then he would be separated from God for all eternity. The man was skeptical because of the lack of passion he saw in the priest and in other Christians he had met and he said, “If I believed that I would crawl across England on broken glass to share that message.”
    God is Holy. He must punish sin and rebellion because He is Just. He does not want to punish anyone, so He sent His son to take the punishment for us. He offers forgiveness, mercy, and eternal life with Him as a free gift. We only need to repent and believe. Blessings

  33. Powerful and prophetic, writing, Michael. I think another possible reason why they hate us may be the fact that many non-Christian and non-religious people react negatively to the “product” we are selling – that is, the supposed good news we are offering. Most Americans I suspect, young and old alike, really don’t believe that they will be tortured forever in hell after they die if they fail to believe the right things about event in the past. Most people (by their actions if not also their words) seem to simply trust (have faith) that WHATEVER happens on the other side of death is just fine with them. Thus, if what we evangelicals call “the Gospel” or “the promise of salvation” is perceived only, or even primarily, as fire insurance, it’s not a surprise that others see as irrelevant news what we call “Good News”. Consequently, I think many may resent us for being so arrogant in our otherworldly, supernatural claims. Personally, I believe that the future of evangelicalism is a passionate REALizing (naturalizing) of our faith, such as I discuss in my book, Thank God for Evolution, and, most recently, in a recent blog post on Christian Naturalism: http://thankgodforevolution.com/node/1716

  34. As an atheist, I have to say that the honesty here is appreciated and respected. Being Christian does not make someone more or less than human. The belief that you are more than a person often leads o the consequence that you are a blind follower of anything, which makes you appear less human.

    Regardless of belief, or lack thereof, we are all susceptible to the same struggles. It is how we react to this that makes us each individually responsible. Faith, or the absence of it, does not change who we are intristriclaly. It is not so difficult to respect each other as people, if we only try.

    I see the point of the article as the lack of intellectual honesty among most of us. If we are truly honest with ourselves, and are willing to focus on our own strengths and shortcomings, we could live in a world that is better for all of us.

    To quote the Bible:

    Matthew 7:3-5 (New International Version)

    3″Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    Then why do most of us feel the need to obsessively judge each other instead of looking at ourselves and seeing how we can improve, thus making our relationships (including that of YOURS with YOUR savior) more reasonable and fulfilling?

    If there is a logical answer, I would love to hear it.

  35. Chris: Jesus was both Liberal and Progressive. He sought the people that needed him and gave without stipulations. How could you see Him or his teachings as Conservative?

  36. From Andy,

    Chris: Jesus was both Liberal and Progressive. He sought the people that needed him and gave without stipulations. How could you see Him or his teachings as Conservative?

    —–

    Hi Andy, If you don’t mind, I will attempt to address this.

    Because today to be liberal and progressive is all too often to be militantly secular and anti-christian. The culture is vastly different than in his day.

    I know we boomers co-opted Jesus-as-hippie, communist, and pacifist but it always was a bad fit. In truth, Jesus rigorously avoided politics and was quite successful in doing so. His life and death on the cross was about salvation, and whenever politics was thrust upon him, he simply shrugged it off. He moved easily among all strata of society rejecting no one, and participating in no grievance groups or class warfare.

    This is the hard lesson that the collapse of the Moral Majority should have taught us: secular power corrupts the Christian mission. This does not mean Christians should not vote and have input into policy, (even input informed by their faith), but it does mean we should never think we can create a Christian utopia through gaining political power. That is a doomed mission if there ever was one.

    If Jesus was here today, he would be neither progressive, nor liberal, nor conservative. He would transcend politics as he did back then. So should we.

  37. “Then why do most of us feel the need to obsessively judge each other instead of looking at ourselves and seeing how we can improve, thus making our relationships (including that of YOURS with YOUR savior) more reasonable and fulfilling?”

    Agreed. But, part of this is about having any standards at all by which you hold yourself and others to. I think even Dawkins accepts the idea of moral standards for the benefit of society. However the problem lies with when the answer is “because.” As I said above, it seems like atheists are not criticized as hypocrites, because they are incapable of hypocrisy.

  38. Both sides commit the same error, but it’s more grevious for Christians: They both hold an absolute truth claim with no HUMILITY.

    I understand it with atheists. I don’t understand it with Christians.

  39. Joe M wrote, “As I said above, it seems like atheists are not criticized as hypocrites, because they are incapable of hypocrisy.”

    I would like to point out my disagreement with this statement. If a hypocrit is defined as someone whose private actions do not follow his or her publically espoused morals, values, beliefs and so forth, of course it’s possible for an atheist to be a hypocrit. An atheist (as well as a religious person) could, for instance, extoll the virtues of a environmentalism and then drive a gas-guzzling vehicle or claim to be a vegan and eat meat on the sly.

    Atheism is the absence of religious belief, not necessarily the absence of values or ethics. The main difference in determining whether or a Christian or an atheist is a hypocrit is the fact that, once a person claims to be a Christian, that person is also claiming to espouse a certain set of values, whereas there is no standard set of values that can be attached to the label ‘atheist.’ It doesn’t mean that atheists by definition cannot be hypocrits, but it usually means that one needs to know more about them than their religious (non)affiliation to determine whether they are hypocrits or not.

  40. Also, please excuse my extremely poor spelling. I have a bad case of computer-screen-eye.

  41. Robert C. wrote: “Much like the famous, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for our kids,” argument from a Texas school.”

    I heard this attributed to Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who was governor of Texas during the 1920’s and ’30’s, but apparently the quote is something of an urban legend:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Miriam_Ferguson

  42. Don: I agree with you, but I have a feeling that Jesus would have erred on the side of helping people and not restricting anyone’s legal rights. He may have tried to convince people to lead a certain life, but he would have never legislated it.

    I appreciate the considerate conversation between the “two” camps. The only way that we can better understand each other is through constructive arguments like these. I learn from you guys and I hope the gift is reciprocated. Much love to everyone that can keep their convictions with a level head. That’s what makes this country and this life so wonderful.

    Monk: You are a true scholar, a searcher in a sea of sheep. Keep leading the masses to question their beliefs as that is the only path to true belief, solid faith and personal confirmation. I applaud your efforts and it is unfortunate that people feel threatened by the arguments you propose. I would probably go to church if I could interact with a true theologian like yourself.

  43. True, an atheist who believes in some ideology or non-religious cause can be a hypocrite for doing something against that cause. But in reality, I don’t see how an atheist can be accused of being a hypocrite for any action taken under the banner of atheism. How could you say “those atheists are such hypocrites” in any sense similar to saying “those Christians are hypocrites”? Atheists don’t have a common moral ground with which to judge themselves or others, except logic and reason and utilitarianism and even self-interest..

    I think there is probably a hole in my argument.

  44. Well sais. I think part of this problem is that most Christians have a faulty biblical view of God, themselves, and others. Reading the puritians is one way to shed a little light on the subject 🙂

  45. PERSONAL:

    iMonk:

    Chris: I’ve left up a few atheist comments that mildly wished we could moved from the planet. I deleted about 50 that included lines like “I want to poison all evangelicals and their children.” If you can’t read the rhetoric in this thread and others that sounds like overt, open threats of violence, then I can’t help you. See those trees? There’s a forest in there.

    Was this aimed at me or a different Chris? If me, I don’t understand how this relates to what I said.

  46. Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first Encyclical Letter which is titled “God is Love” in English, which you can read in its entirety at:
    http://www.vatican.va:80/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html :

    ” ‘God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him’ (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: ‘We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us’ “.

    (This is me writing now…not the Pope!)
    That makes it sound very simple, doesn’t it? Christians have come to know and believe in the love God has for us. That’s what we need to bring to the hurting world. If we don’t bring the world love, we bring it nothing. I know it is not as simple as all that, of course. Some will ask, “What does KNOW mean?” What does BELIEVE mean?” What does GOD mean?” “What does LOVE mean?” And then we are into the war of semantics again. Sigh…

  47. Joe M: I see where that seems unfair, but it also seems to me that the titles “atheist” and “Christian” aren’t really comparable. The mistake is thinking that they are and then expecting a fair comparison. It kind of reminds me of the joke: Atheism is a religion the way not collecting stamps is a hobby. ‘Atheist’ may be a box that can be checked on a survey about religious affiliation, but it’s really more like a ‘none of the above’ option. I imagine that it would also be harder to determine whether a Christian who identified himself or herself with a particular denomination/church/movement was a hypocrite rather than a Christian who claimed to be a nondenominational follower of Jesus. The person who belongs to a denomination has a de facto affiliation with all of that denomination’s beliefs — both in doctrine and in politics — whereas the nondenominational individual’s stated beliefs aren’t so easy to identify. I guess (in my opinion) saying, “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Lutheran” or “I’m a Baptist” implies that one holds certain beliefs, whereas the statement “I’m an atheist” (though it places a person somewhere on the religious-affiliation scale) doesn’t identify a person’s beliefs any better than the statement “I’m a dentist.” It simply doesn’t apply to the same topic. Generalizations about atheists based on the idea that they “don’t have a common moral ground with which to judge themselves or others,” necessarily ignores the fact that some atheists, as individuals, may be extremely ethical and uphold high personal standards. It is this failure to appreciate the individual, personal values of atheists that in turn makes it difficult it call an atheist a hypocrite.

  48. MS, I was tracking right along with you (and thanks to the many insightful commenters!) but I got a little bogged down in #7. Yes, I realize this isn’t the central point of the post, but….

    While I generally agree that many in the evangelical community take themselves too seriously in a cultural sense, and spend too much energy and vitality trying to build walls to keep out “bad things”, it also seems to me that for any given cultural context there is some place where a guy who loves Jesus stops being able to enjoy himself anymore.

    South Park is perhaps a good example – I’m an avid fan, but yet there is occasionally a scene that make me wince.

    I still wrestle with exactly how this works out for me and my family (and I know this is a ‘wrestling’ kind of thing, and doesn’t have any big answers), but don’t you think at some point it’s appropriate for a Christian to be opposed to aspects of life that are considered “normal” but can’t possibly be God-honoring?

  49. I’m trying to figure out which makes me wince more: South Park or most church services.

  50. Ky Boy but not now says

    phil_style
    “With respect to your ‘eyesore’ crossess. I’d be challenging the local government that granted planning permission. Landscape/visual imapcts.
    I’m not sure what environemtal/town planning is like in the US, but the argument against that kind of development here in the UK wold be very strong ;)”

    I’ve seen this at times on other message boards. The US and Europe are so totally different in areas like this that we at times find it hard to comprehend the discussion, much less the details.

    Zoning is local in the US. VERY LOCAL.

    Until recently in Houston, TX a property owner could mostly do anything they wanted as long as it didn’t physically impact other property, was structurally sound, and didn’t violate FAA height restrictions. So a homeowner in an upscale suburb could open up an auto wreaking yard if he wanted. In the not too distant past they’ve put up a few rules but compared to most of the US it’s still seems as if anarchy rules. On the other hand the town next door to me, Cary, NC, is well know for there incredibly tight zoning and proud of it. When the first Blockbuster store was built in the town, the town went ballistic when it opened up with their trademark lighted canopy. Blockbuster had to turn off the lights.

    My point is over on this side of the pond we have a lot of issues where the locals are in charge and the federal government has no standing.

    And some of this attitude rubs off in the way we “run” our religions. Sharp elbows and all that.