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Why don't Christians live what they preach?
January 23, 2005 9:23 PM   Subscribe

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience This is the question this article from Christianity Today asks. It shows some scary stats for anyone involved in the Protestant church, that the lifestyles of Evangelical Christians is not really all that different from the rest of society.
posted by livingsanctuary (129 comments total)

 
Duh.

Religion itself is a farce, regardless of whether or not you practice what you preach. Humans should not need ridiculous belief systems to tell us what is right and what is wrong.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:32 PM on January 23, 2005


The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience isn't really a question...
posted by Balisong at 9:35 PM on January 23, 2005


I really liked this article. I was, however, somewhat disturbed by the notion of a "biblical worldview" mentioned in the article:

George Barna has developed a set of criteria to identify people with a "biblical worldview." These people believe that "the Bible is the moral standard" and also think that "absolute moral truths exist and are conveyed through the Bible." In addition, they agree with all six of the following additional beliefs: God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.

It was that last part that got me.
posted by mokujin at 9:41 PM on January 23, 2005


Religion itself is a farce

Thanks for still more stridentathiestFilter crap. Why do so many here feel compelled to attack the fact of religious belief, rather than its ramifications?

We're more than happy to discuss, say, art, without attacking the functional value of cutting up marble or slapping ochre on canvas. We'll talk about music without making mention of the fact that people look silly when they're singing. (and don't get me started on flash animation...)

So what gives? Why, when religious expression is discussed, is there inevitably a torrent of pre-pubescent, Ayn-Rand fellating screeds? It's gotten boring.

That said, livingsanctuary, how about some background information or demographics to give some context for this otherwise interesting piece?
posted by felix betachat at 9:42 PM on January 23, 2005


Not all Protestant Christianity is Evangelical Christianity---the United Church of Christ, for example, wouldn't be called evangelical in the sense this article is concerned with.

Barna limits the term "evangelical" to a much smaller group... In addition to meeting the criteria for being born-again [all who say "they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today" and who also indicate that they "believe that when they die they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior."], evangelicals must agree with several other things such as the following: Jesus lived a sinless life; eternal salvation is only through grace, not works; Christians have a personal responsibility to evangelize non-Christians; Satan exists. Obviously this definition identifies a much more theologically biblical, orthodox group of Christians.

Most Protestants would agree that this is much more extreme than their own beliefs. For all the variety in Protestantism, the notion of a "Protestant church" is not a very useful one, I think. Try Wikipedia for a better overview---the article on Protestantism is a good start; then start looking up specific denominations.
posted by tss at 10:03 PM on January 23, 2005


Ayn-Rand fellating

She was kind of manly-looking, but...
posted by dirigibleman at 10:07 PM on January 23, 2005


We're more than happy to discuss, say, art, without attacking the functional value of cutting up marble or slapping ochre on canvas. We'll talk about music without making mention of the fact that people look silly when they're singing. (and don't get me started on flash animation...)

Because marble and ochre and music don't force their opinion on others and try to force others to follow their rules.

But wait, I forgot, it's those OTHER christians...
posted by c13 at 10:19 PM on January 23, 2005


Thanks for still more stridentathiestFilter crap.

This is why we can't have nice things.

One thing in the article the intrigued me:

Members of the renewal movement knew that miraculous moral transformation of character frequently happened when broken persons embraced the great religion.

I'm wondering what the author means by "broken persons." I speculate that they mean addicts of whatever kind (alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, what have you). If that is the case, I'd be curious to know the rate of recidivism of addicts who are born again vs. those who go through 12-step programs or other forms of therapy.

Otherwise, the article doesn't bring up much that is new, except possibly to evangelical Christians themselves, and you know how they love constructive criticism.
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:20 PM on January 23, 2005


Religion serves a useful purpose.

It is a socio-psychological tool, and a dang powerful one. It's not surprising many people either a) don't get it, b) get it way too much or c) eh.
posted by wah at 10:38 PM on January 23, 2005


I'm wondering what the author means by "broken persons."

In that context, "broken persons" almost certainly just means "people like you and me." We're all broken, living in a broken world, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:39 PM on January 23, 2005


Speaking of the "other" christians, American Christians live in the richest nation on earth and enjoy an average household income of $42,409.17 The World Bank reports that 1.2 billion of the world's poorest people try to survive on just one dollar a day. At least one billion people have never heard the gospel. The Ronsvalles point out that if American Christians just tithed, they would have another $143 billion available to empower the poor and spread the gospel.
One would think that extra $143 billion should go towards actually helping the poor, so that they don't have to survive on a dollar a day, that this amount would be enough to eliminate poverty completely (afterall, $120 a day is pretty damn good, so even the ones that live on $2 a day can benefit). But no, apparently, what these poor people need is to be empowered and to hear the gospel.
Which I guess makes sense, they have to be shown the light fast, since they tend to have a much shorter lifespan and all..
posted by c13 at 10:48 PM on January 23, 2005


i leave those of you with a biblical worldview to figure out how to make me care.

and make no mistake, it will take force & coercion & well, basically you'll have to torture me.

evangelistics' general lack of cultural appreciation is their distinguishing mark. their idea of "music" is either a poor reproduction of existing music or one equally devoted to "worship" and aesthetic blindness.

the only reason i can guage for this is that they are as a rule spiritually poor, and they don't know what it is like to appreciate life AS IT IS, in all its fullness, dark light, naked beauty--their worldview must be mediated by a musty, nay, refulgent corpse of moral authority.

my take, understand.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:08 AM on January 24, 2005


Luke 12 , 47-48

47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.


Something to ponder at least.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:24 AM on January 24, 2005


Because marble and ochre and music don't force their opinion on others and try to force others to follow their rules.

You're using this as an argument to support your own attempts to force your opinion on others. I hate the wannabe theocracy as much as the next guy, but by dropping that little deuce of rhetoric everywhere you're only weakening the argument for everyone.
posted by breath at 12:51 AM on January 24, 2005


Grimgrin, I often get caught up with the language of some versions of the Bible. In this case, the stripes threw me and so, I got out the Message, a fantastic, highly readable, very understandable paraphrase of the Bible.

So, for those (including myself - an evangelical born-again Christian) who don't quite understand what the point of that was, this might make more sense. It is indeed quite a wake-up call.

Luke 12:47-48
"The servant who knows what his master wants and ignores it, or insolently does whatever he pleases, will be thoroughly thrashed. But if he does a poor job through ignorance, he'll get off with only a slap on the hand. Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!"
posted by shawnmk at 12:58 AM on January 24, 2005


Religion itself is a farce,
wow people have been farced for a long, long time

regardless of whether or not you practice what you preach. Humans should not need ridiculous belief systems to tell us what is right and what is wrong.

So we have a government that tells us what is right and what is wrong instead?
posted by Hands of Manos at 4:20 AM on January 24, 2005


Maybe the reasons some evangelicals don't actually practice what they preach is that they have the sort of 'biblical worldview' this hilarious quiz endorses (use a spam-trap email. They do send you lots of spam). Apparently I (a liberalish Christian) am a secular Marxist, because I'm not a republican.
posted by Jeanne at 4:31 AM on January 24, 2005


evangelistics' general lack of cultural appreciation is their distinguishing mark. their idea of "music" is either a poor reproduction of existing music or one equally devoted to "worship" and aesthetic blindness.

Hey. I am a Christian and a musician and songwriter...and unfortunately a lot of that statement is true. Some of us out here want to change that, because it didn't use to be that way....think Bach, Handel, etc.

And for the record I was a broken person, and I did radically change. I know a lot of other people who did too. I also know people who gave verbal assent to the Gospel, and who didn't change.....guess only the Creator knows for sure about those folks.
posted by konolia at 4:32 AM on January 24, 2005


shawnmk:

Why do conservative Christians always have the limpest, squishiest, least poetic translations of the bible? I realize that understanding is important, and I am in favor of the whole Vatican II thing, but come on. Why does God's word have to sound so much like Tony Robbins' word? The Episcopalians and the anglicans may be ordaining Rabbi's, transgendered ponies, and the odd Catholic, but at least they have a bible whose poetic majesty is worthy of its subject. No offense, but you should throw that "message" away and get one of those new testaments that has four different translations on each page, one of which is the KJV. That way, if you have a problem understanding the text, you can figure it out by seeing how others translated it.

attention gorgor balabala:

I yearn to bask in the musty light of your wisdom. Together we will march on the refulgent corpses of morality. I, nay, we are waiting to receive succour from your mighty words.
posted by mokujin at 4:45 AM on January 24, 2005


Why do conservative Christians always have the limpest, squishiest, least poetic translations of the bible?

Moku, I was raised on KJV in a hot, sweaty, seedy, Southern Baptist environment...it's a miracle that when I get cut off by a someone in a big ass SUV that I don't say "FUCK THOU!"

It's a shame Christians gave themselves the bad label. I personally think there is nothing wrong with the teaching "love one another." For those of you who just hate Christians with a passion, just sit back and relax...they are going to "eat their young" eventually.

NPR had a show on not too long ago talking about how America has become much more Evangelical and less spiritual. It pisses me the hell off to see "W The President" "God is My CoPilot" "The Christian Fish Sticker" "The Christian Fish Sticker eating a Darwin Fish" "The Power of PRide" and a "Dick n Bush 04" all plastered back on their red american Escalade. Inside that escalade is a father smoking a cigarette, 5 spoiled little brats in the back, and a 45 year old wife that looks (and dresses like) a 16 year old slut due to her body augmentations. But hey, they are CHRISTIANS (god love'em).

But despite all that, do know that there are some Christians who are even evangelicals that give all they have to the poor, love others, are green conscience when they drive, ponder and questions their leaders, practice equal rights and tolerance, do believe that following Christ is a personal journey -- not one that you shove down someone's throat and worship privately. <--but I guess this is why you never hear about this breed of Christians.
posted by Hands of Manos at 5:10 AM on January 24, 2005


I'm thinking this isn't a bad thing--if some Christians aren't practicing what they preach, or keeping their own house in order, then they have even less right to force their views/rules/morals (views even they themselves don't obey) down the rest of our throats. Their hypocrisy can and will be used to defeat them.

Clean up your own house and life before trying to do so for the whole country.
posted by amberglow at 5:32 AM on January 24, 2005


Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!

I don't need the Bible to tell me this. I read Spider-Man comics.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:36 AM on January 24, 2005


Its ORGANIZED religion that is such a problem. There is a fundamental difference between what i would call "religion" and that which is "faith". Mainly that faith just means that "yes, i believe something is out there, there is perhaps more to life than a quick glance will reveal, and that may or may not include white-bearded grandfathers / 8-armed elephant-princes". Religion on the other hand says "Listen up dogs! You are pathetic wretches and there is only ONE true path to redemption. His name is ____ and you must bow to his (my) will. Now give me money and power! Now Dammit, before the apocalypse reigns fire on your blackened souls!"

What is religion/faith really but an explanation for that which we dont understand? If you were walking along one day and some guy comes flying down from the clouds in a hail of rainbows and butterflies and starts yammering about how hes really pretty pissed off about that one time where you stole some kid's bike because you were late to work and your car wouldnt start and he would really appreciate it if you went to church and apoligized would that be God? What if we then discovered it was a bunch of aliens flying around in an ultra-fancy ship using holograms and alien technology the whole time, just to mess with your head?

I think the earth/universe is an amazing place, and its' wonders will never cease to amaze me. The process of life and death is also highly mysterious to me, however I do not put my "faith" in an instruction book that was written nearly 2000 years ago.

Its pretty clear from Genesis alone that the bible was written by human beings and not transferred directly from the creator's mouth. I mean, if you were there, wouldnt you have been a bit more accurate about explaining what happened? It just doesnt match up at all with what we know about how the earth was formed and life evolved. While it may still be a good book, it is in no way "holy", "the ultimate truth", "sent from God", or any of that malarky. Its just a book, written by a bunch of guys a long time ago. While it may be a good book, it isnt really that great.

If you really want a good book, try the dhammapada

of for free here

A truly inpirational spiritual book, the foundation of all Buddhist thought, the only surviving writing of the man known as Siddartha Guatama, the Buddha.

Yet another philosophy compromised by power, hierarchy, and the dogmatic systems that abuse religion.
posted by sophist at 5:56 AM on January 24, 2005


Religion serves a useful purpose.

Really? Prove it.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:59 AM on January 24, 2005


Today's evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits "so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had."2 Wolfe argues, "The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-'em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical megachurches."

So true. New Mega-churches often have a lobby with a "Welcome Desk" instead of a traditional narthex. Many now also sport "patriotic" emblems in the "lobby" along with open advocacy of political entities. Older traditional churches around them are beginning to be upset by the constant prostelization of their members. Sad to see the Wal-Mart-ization of religion. Prosperity theology at its most brazen.
posted by nofundy at 6:13 AM on January 24, 2005


Not to bitch about a small point, sophist, but the Dhammapada wasn't written by the Buddha, anymore so than any early Buddhistic text. I'll quote Thich Nhat Hahn, who writes in the introduction to my copy: Even though the Dhammapada appeared a little later than some other writings attributed to the Buddha... and on, explaining how the Dhammapada still manages to capture the essence of the Way without truly being written by the man himself.

And really, in terms of depth of ideas, range, as well as beauty, the Dhammapada can't hold a candle to the Bible. Don't get me wrong: I'm a practicing Buddhist who has read the Dhammapada more than any other book I own. But nothing compares to a heady reading from John, or a bittersweet Psalm.
posted by NoamChomskyStoleMyFace at 6:35 AM on January 24, 2005


Thanks for still more stridentathiestFilter crap. Why do so many here feel compelled to attack the fact of religious belief, rather than its ramifications?

Now, hang on a second.
The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group [for example: here and here] are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general."
From that, it is fair to say that Christianity (or at least the American evangelical brand of it) doesn't make a damned bit of difference, not here on earth, and if your behavior on earth determines where you're going afterward, then it also doesn't make a damned bit of difference in heaven or hell.

So perhaps evangelical Christianity is a farce (farce: a ridiculous situation or event, or something considered a waste of time). It looks that way. And from that, it might be a bit of stretch to say that all religion is a farce, but wouldn't be too much of a stretch. It would certainly no more a stretch than claiming religion is not a farce.
posted by pracowity at 6:36 AM on January 24, 2005


Serious question: he spends some time on racism as a problem, but ignores the question of bigotry on other levels (against other religious beliefs, for example). Is this because ecumenicalism is not a part of his beliefs and/or those of Christianity Today, or am I reading too much into that omission? His references to "pagan" neighbors probably answers my question (true pagans being a bit of a rarity), but I'm curious as to whether there's a nuance I'm missing.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:49 AM on January 24, 2005


I'm definitely the last person anyone would call religious, but I think I get how the "biblical worldview" people work. You're here on earth for some reason. I think it's impossible to know, that reason could be no more complicated than a chemical reaction, but you're here, and you have both a limited time and the capacity for joy and happiness and love and all. Most of life is "how you take it". So, if you keep that in mind, it makes you really think about everything you do. It challenges you to find meaning in everything, because you know you have both limited time and the capacity to make life incredible. Religion is just a way of codifying that process, and the personal, daily aspect of any religion at its best is a parallel of that, simplified, neatly packaged, and proven to work. It's a wonderful way to help people harness their ability to create meaning.

In that way I'd liken religion to computers and big organized churches and doctrines to famous software packages. Religion is all-around a great, all-purpose tool, and a lot of people organize their lives with/around it. The biggest problem with using Microsoft (analogy, don't hurt me) is virii & woims, and that's exactly what's happened to modern American evangelicalism. It's infected with some money-flush SUV macho Jesus USA #1 normative standing on a chair screaming while a little liberal gay Jew Ay-Rab darkie scurries around the kitchen floor picking up crumbs thing. People who hack religion, like people who make trojans, usually have some pretty nasty motives. The best approach is open-source religion. You take the damn holy texts, read them up and down until you've memorized them, and decide for yourself.
posted by saysthis at 7:06 AM on January 24, 2005


From that, it is fair to say that Christianity (or at least the American evangelical brand of it) doesn't make a damned bit of difference, not here on earth

To be fair, the surveys you cite don't show that because they don't control for anything. They have raw percentages, not all-else-equal results.

It seems obvious to me that marrying young, marrying poor, having a high percentage of people in your peer group divorce, and a host of other socioeconomic factors play into the likelihood of divorce. A distinction between evangelicals and mainline protestants seems likely to me to be just tapping into a class/economic difference. If you want to really figure out the role that belonging to a particular denomination or nominally holding to a particular creed plays, you'll need to control for that.

I've googled a bit for the data, but can't see anywhere that I can download it from. If someone sends it to me, I'll run the probit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:11 AM on January 24, 2005


Religion IS the trojan.
posted by ulotrichous at 7:15 AM on January 24, 2005


Religion IS the trojan.
posted by ulotrichous at 7:15 AM PST on January 24


Great article in the new Harper's on this very subject with an essay by Lapham to support it.
posted by nofundy at 7:24 AM on January 24, 2005


It is very important to read this article the way evangelicals would.

Evangelicals perceive these statistics not as symptons of deficiency or hypocrisy within their movements but as indications that their communities are under concerted attack by secularlism and liberalism. Evangelical politics are, by and large, nothing more than a concerted defense against this attack.

I have found, generally speaking, that those who disagree with Evangelical politics are almost entirely ignorant of this key defensive motivation.
posted by MattD at 7:41 AM on January 24, 2005


To be fair, the surveys you cite don't show that because they don't control for anything.

But of course, but I'm not here to do science. Never waste good science and good time on religion. I was just linking to the surveys that the author of the article was referring to.

Real science can't touch real religion because real religion isn't real.
posted by pracowity at 7:50 AM on January 24, 2005


I found this article fascinating. I have read the Bible several times and have found it to have some very uplifting stories, but it has always been very apparent to me that it was written by men and in some cases they had a very obvious agenda.
I know to girls (they are a couple) and both have degrees and could make a lot of money in the private sector. Yet one works for a local organization that provides tools to non profit groups at little or no cost and she makes less than 20,000 a year. The other does landscaping and volunteers at every opportunity. They both volunteer for the rape crisis hotline. They are very liberal and neither one adheres to any organized religion. Yet I have so much respect for what they do and consider them to be the most christian people I know.
I don't know any evangelicals who give of themselves in anything close to this way.
posted by bas67 at 7:53 AM on January 24, 2005


I don't know any evangelicals who give of themselves in anything close to this way.

I know this one guy who was engaged to a good friend of mine. He cheated on her with another man and then he said "oops, yeah, I'm gay...sorry." It broke her heart and her confidence as a woman.

I don't know any gays who don't do this to straight people.




Does that last sentence sound absurd? Yes it does! There are plenty of loving, giving evangelicals just like there are plenty of loving, giving gays.
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:00 AM on January 24, 2005


"[The Cainites] believed that we created the heaven and the earth, and that you were the persecuted party in that unfortunate affair with your brother. They also held that the way to salvation was to give way to lust and temptation in all things. And no greater percentage of them turned up [in Hell] than of any other religion. Amusing, isn't it?"
--Lucifer, to Cain, in The Sandman: Season of Mists, by Neil Gaiman
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:06 AM on January 24, 2005


I guess that's probably because that's the only gay person you know.

I live in the heart of the bible belt and know many, many evangelicals. My last sentence is accurate to my experience. I didn't say there aren't any, I said I didn't know any!!
posted by bas67 at 8:09 AM on January 24, 2005


I guess that's probably because that's the only gay person you know.

bas67,

There's no reason to become childish, I respect you and I was not trying to demean your thought. You are about 310 miles east of the "heart" of the Bible belt. Just FYI because Alabama is "the heart of Dixie" (ie: Bible Belt)

You don't know me and you don't know who I know (gay or straight). But for pointers, I live RIGHT next door to you in Atlanta. Secondly, do you know that gay mag called David in midtown Atlanta? Yeah, I freelance for it. My roommate in college? Gay. My longtime girlfriend that left me? Gay. My wife's old boyfriend? Gay. One of my closest friends? Gay. Will you see me at Pride Week in Atlanta this summer? Yes.

But we can hash this out in Feburary because we're getting an Atlanta MeFi meetup there. I hope you can come (look for a Metatalk announcement coming up)
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:15 AM on January 24, 2005


I wasn't being childish, I was being sarcastic, as I assumed you were being in your previous comment to my post.

As for the rest of your last post, what's your point?
posted by bas67 at 8:20 AM on January 24, 2005


You know what y'all are missing? Sider's on the LEFT side of the evangelical church. His compatriot at Eastern, Tony Campolo, was regularly blasted in the Christian media for being seen with Bill Clinton. Campolo, Sider, and Jim Wallis make up the evangelical left, which argues that Jesus Christ is transformative, not some hood ornament to be worn whenever it suits you financially or politically. And this message isn't new: Sider's seminal book Rich Christians In The Age Of Hunger came out in the late 1970s. Sojourners, Jim Wallis' magazine, didn't just pop up during the Dark Dubya Times.

Evangelical Christianity is approaching its bubble-burst point; the ones who have been sleeping with the GOP will go over the cliff with them, leaving the rest of the church disconnected from society. At that point, the church will have to decide what to do next. In the 1920s, the fundamentalists were faced with a similar crash, and they chose to pretty much drop out of polite and political society, not to re-emerge until the backlash against the Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s and the Moral Majority in the 1970s. When the bubble bursts, what then?

Without the transformative power of Jesus, being a Christian is meaningless.

And as an aside, it never fails me to see how the atheists will jump all over Christianity for believing that their worldview is correct and being condemning, completely blind to the fact that they're just as inflexible in their beliefs and just as condemning.
posted by dw at 8:27 AM on January 24, 2005


There are plenty of loving, giving evangelicals just like there are plenty of loving, giving gays.
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:00 AM PST on January 24


Perhaps so. But the polls this article points to indicate otherwise.

Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe.

Yup. Sounds like good, giving people to me. (cough, hypocritical bastards, cough)
posted by nofundy at 8:44 AM on January 24, 2005


nofundy,

I agree completely agree (as I agree with bas). But isn't there hypocratical bastards in every labeled group?
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:52 AM on January 24, 2005


In spite of the renewal movement's proud claims to miraculous transformation, the polls showed that members of the movement divorced their spouses just as often as their secular neighbors. They beat their wives as often as their neighbors. They were almost as materialistic and even more racist than their pagan friends. The hard-core skeptics smiled in cynical amusement at this blatant hypocrisy.

:::smiles in cynical amusement:::
posted by rushmc at 8:56 AM on January 24, 2005


Yes there are, but this particular group deserves a little calling out, in my opinion, because of the unchecked political and social power that they are wielding at this time.
posted by bas67 at 8:56 AM on January 24, 2005


bas67, agreed completely (I sent you an email, did you get it)
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:01 AM on January 24, 2005


Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe.
I'd have to question this. Because most churches are financially supported by the church's congregation.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:18 AM on January 24, 2005


And most churches finances are in the red.
posted by bas67 at 9:20 AM on January 24, 2005


It should also be noted that tithing applies only to the gifts you give to the church. It does not apply to gifts given to other charities. So the total amount of giving may be at tithing levels, while the churches don't get as much.
posted by unreason at 9:20 AM on January 24, 2005


Revelations talks about a generation of lukewarm Christians, and also says how Jesus feels about the lukewarmness. (For those of you who don't already know, He says if they don't repent He will spew them out of His mouth-in other words, it makes him puke that we aren't fervent for Him and obedient to His word.)


I am sitting here embarrassed for us.
posted by konolia at 9:41 AM on January 24, 2005


It should also be noted that tithing applies only to the gifts you give to the church. It does not apply to gifts given to other charities. So the total amount of giving may be at tithing levels, while the churches don't get as much.

I'm not too sure about evangelical churches, but most Roman Catholic churches in my experience include charitable non-church-related givings as part of the tithe.
posted by sciurus at 9:44 AM on January 24, 2005


A term needs to be defined here. When Sider says "tithe," he's using the Biblical definition: 10% of income. When he says "6% of born-again adults tithed," he means that only 6% gave 1/10th of their income to the church.

Elsewhere he says that in 2001, evangelicals gave 4.27% of their income on average.

BTW, the idea of "tithe" has expanded over the last century to include NPOs and NGOs. Thus, many Christians count sponsored children through World Vision or gifts to tsunami relief NGOs as part of their tithe. It's unclear from this statistic whether these numbers were included in the tithe. Given the state of the church and the level of greed in this society, though, it's probably the extra-congregational giving was included.
posted by dw at 9:53 AM on January 24, 2005


putting these stats together with the recent survey on tolerance (or lack thereof) among churchgoers in the US makes for a pretty dark picture, no?
Church-going Americans have grown increasingly intolerant in the past four years of politicians making compromises on such hot issues as abortion and gay rights, according to a survey released on Saturday.
At the same time, those polled said they were growing bolder about pushing their beliefs on others -- even at the risk of offending someone.

posted by amberglow at 10:09 AM on January 24, 2005


Wait, I thought Jesus said to sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. So where did this 10% figure come from? It's pretty sad when even the so-called Christian moral leaders are urging at best only 10% fidelity to Jesus' teachings. It's the 401(k) plan version of Christianity.
posted by boaz at 10:36 AM on January 24, 2005


There is a teeny, tiny area of the brain, I imagine about the size of pinhead or, at the most, a grain of rice, which gives us the idea that the coffee table is responsible for us stubbing our toe on it, and the belief that the universe has a face named God. That's religion.
posted by Hildago at 10:43 AM on January 24, 2005


Boaz,

I feel that you are ripping that out of context. If memory serves (and man could I be wrong) a rich man asked how was he supposed to enter the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus told him to sell all that he had (I don't think it then said "and give money to the poor). Then the man walked away hard hearted.

I think it also says something about render to Ceasar what is Ceasar's to the Pharisees.

There are also parables where Jesus talks about the man giving three servants an allotment of money (talents) to grow. One person (I think) got 3, one 2 and one got only one. The many with 3 made many dollars, the man with two made some dollars and the man with one held onto it and was pissy because he got one. (boy I'm probably shredding this parable to death...damn me for not looking it up). Anyway, there was nothing there about giving to the poor.

Lastly, Luke was a doctor/physician. Something tells me he wasn't hurting financially yet there is no place in the scriptures where Jesus gets all up in his game about having wealth.

Don't get me wrong though...I DO BELIEVE YOU SHOULD GIVE TO THE POOR and give graciously. I also think all humanity should want to give and give and give. I try to do it myself and ditch some of my greed (but boy, greed is a harsh mistress).

Anyway, to wrap up. I think it's very dangerous to pluck a part of a 2000 year old manuscript out of context and put it into our world, our culture our biases. (Boaz, this goes for both you and me as I am plucking myself)
posted by Hands of Manos at 10:48 AM on January 24, 2005


Something tells me [Luke] wasn't hurting financially yet there is no place in the scriptures where Jesus gets all up in his game about having wealth.

Perhaps because Jesus never had the chance? There's no record at all in the scriptures of Jesus meeting Luke.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:00 AM on January 24, 2005


Devils,

Do you mean Luke or the writer of Luke?
posted by Hands of Manos at 11:03 AM on January 24, 2005


And Jesus told him to sell all that he had (I don't think it then said "and give money to the poor).

Yes it did, actually. But most think that the point wasn't that everyone should give everything away, necessarily. He didn't tell everyone he met to give their money away. The point was that for a rich man, it's tough to have a relationship with God because the rich tend to put their money ahead of everything else. He was trying to show the man that he wasn't as spiritual a person as he thought, and that his money was getting in the way.

Lastly, Luke was a doctor/physician. Something tells me he wasn't hurting financially yet there is no place in the scriptures where Jesus gets all up in his game about having wealth.

Luke gave up his practice to travel with Paul. He was not wealthy, as he stopped practicing medicine. When in the book of Acts you see the pronoun "We", that means Luke (the author) and Paul.

As for giving to the poor, there's quite a lot in the new testament about it. You're not required to
posted by unreason at 11:04 AM on January 24, 2005


Ooops, got cut off. I was going to say that although you're not required to give everything, you are required to give to the poor.
posted by unreason at 11:06 AM on January 24, 2005


Wherever you invest your time and your wealth, there will your heart be also.

It appears these evangelicals fail this basic test of Christian faith.

But they support the preznit! And Calvin when he doesn't pee!
posted by nofundy at 11:41 AM on January 24, 2005


The actual quote:
21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Keep in mind this is a religion that ditched, say, the rules on eating kosher based on God providing non-kosher food to a single person in the Bible. So, there's definitely a precedent for expanding his teachings to a single person to apply universally (if only in cases where it lowered what was required of Christians). And if someone doesn't believe that Jesus' teachings personally apply to them, then why are they Christians?

But most think that the point wasn't that everyone should give everything away, necessarily

I think you meant to say, 'Most [relatively wealthy people] think that the point was...' The truly poor people are probably wondering why they're still starving with all these Christians all over the place.
posted by boaz at 12:11 PM on January 24, 2005


Ahem: Acts 4-5 as an example:
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,


35And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.


36And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,


37Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

1But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,


2And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.


3But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?


4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.


5And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.


6And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.


7And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.


8And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.


9Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.


10Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.


11And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Now how many contemporary fundamentalist Christians live in communal societies?

I think the significance of these surveys is that they point out a problem with the whole rationale for faith-based charity. If Christains are just as likely as their neighbors to engage in a number of social ills, then why should our tax dollars be spent bundling Christianity along with prison literacy, aid to the homeless, or support for single mothers. In addition, they combat a core social myth promoted by Christians of non-believers as wrapped in a fog of amoral existential angst in need of rescue. As a happily monogamous, non-smoking and non-drinking (although that has more to do with a tricky gallbladder) atheist, it certainly seems that the existensial fog is not dispersed by the sweet winds of Christian faith.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:39 PM on January 24, 2005


Hear hear! These "Christians," as you all call them, should be out saving the world, if they believe all the stuff you've been quoting! It's not damn well saving itself!

*gets another root beer and puts feet up*
posted by koeselitz at 12:44 PM on January 24, 2005


There are plenty that are. I know a doc that downsized his house and gives quite a bit (tho HE isn't telling people that.) I also know a very wealthy man in town that dresses and lives modestly-his wife too-and they give tons to the poor and to various needs in town. He doesn't toot his own horn either, but I have ways of finding these things out.

I know one year when our only car died, we were too broke to replace it (barely could put food on the table) and hubby's job required a car. A fellow choir member just handed me a check for over 1500 bucks when he heard. Didn't toot HIS own horn either. And this wasn't a close friend. I barely knew him.


YEah, we overall could do a lot better. But there are a ton who are doing exactly as Jesus taught. And not tooting their own horn, so you wouldn't know.
posted by konolia at 1:06 PM on January 24, 2005


But there are a ton who are doing exactly as Jesus taught.

Shouldn't you have an actual example of someone selling everything and giving the money to the poor before you claim they are doing "exactly as Jesus taught"? You know, that being exactly what Jesus taught.
posted by boaz at 1:12 PM on January 24, 2005


boaz: I'm not trying to troll here. But are you really arguing that more people should live as Christ taught? And, if you are, shouldn't you stop focussing on the people that fail and just exhort people to try to succeed?

Also, it doesn't seem like "give to the poor" is the sum of Jesus' message, at least in a literal sense-- you can "sell everything you have and give to the poor" and still be a jerk. To my mind, the context in that passage is certainly pointing to "denying yourself in order to let God live in you." The thing that was most important to the rich man was his wealth; for others, it's something different. You and I can snidely remark that contemporary evangelicals sometimes hold their wealth as dearly as the man who gave up his soul rather than lose his money; but it's likely that we have things that we ought to be giving up, too. For myself, I don't think I can attain to the kingdom until I give up my desire to be right all the time. I don't have any idea what your burden might be, though.
posted by koeselitz at 1:22 PM on January 24, 2005


this goes for both you and me as I am plucking myself

TMI
posted by rushmc at 1:29 PM on January 24, 2005


p.s., I should have said: Konolia gave some really, really good examples of evangelicals being awesome. If you really think that they're jerks, you probably don't know any of them. Reading James Dobson doesn't give you a good idea of how these people are.

I was stranded at my brother's university, Wheaton College, last week because my car died. I've genuinely never met people nicer. I really can't count the number of times people offered me things-- someone loaned me a spare mattress, and people were constantly offering me money and food, asking "do you need anything?" One nice guy even offered to loan me his guitar, "if you like playing or anything like that." Evangelicals are really some of the nicest people on earth. This doesn't mean they're right, but people like us who choose to criticise evangelicalism should probably refrain from casting aspersions on their niceness or their charity, as the "speck-in-eye" proposition nearly always applies.
posted by koeselitz at 1:30 PM on January 24, 2005


I think you meant to say, 'Most [relatively wealthy people] think that the point was...' The truly poor people are probably wondering why they're still starving with all these Christians all over the place.
posted by boaz at 3:11 PM EST on January 24


No, that's not what I meant to say. If you read all of the Gospel, rather than just a passage, you can see that Jesus talked to lots of people, and usually he did not ask them to give away everything. If giving away everything was required, he would have told everyone he met to give their money away. He didn't. The reason why he mentioned it to this particular guy is that money mattered too much to him. If you were to read Jesus's teachings, you'd know that his main point was not "Give all your money to the poor". It's "Put God first".

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

You skipped the end of what he was saying, which is the key part:

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."


So, Jesus isn't talking about only rich people being in trouble, he was talking about everyone being in trouble, and alluding to what was going to be done to fix the situation.
posted by unreason at 2:15 PM on January 24, 2005


koeselitz: I think the problem is, when we go from individual anecdotes to looking at the group overall, then the realities don't live up to the claims made that acceptance of Christianity leads to a fundamental transformation in how people live their lives.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:18 PM on January 24, 2005


koeselitz: I think the problem is, when we go from individual anecdotes to looking at the group overall, then the realities don't live up to the claims made that acceptance of Christianity leads to a fundamental transformation in how people live their lives.

I think the problem is people judging an entire group of people without ever bothering to get to know any of them.
posted by unreason at 2:24 PM on January 24, 2005


First, we're talking about evangelicalism here, not Christianity at large. If we were talking about Christianity at large, I think it's still an open question as to whether it's changed people for the good. I think it has.

Second, I don't buy these "study after study" things. Sure, some statistics are dismal, but this says almost nothing about the character of people involved, which cannot be reduced to numbers. Numbers, that is, can be manipulated in a variety of ways. The only good evidence is experiential. There is a good way of knowing if Christianity is good for people: understanding it, and understanding how it effects people. That means being friendly with people who've joined it, and who live in it, and being open to seeing what its influence does.

On preview: what unreason said.
posted by koeselitz at 2:32 PM on January 24, 2005


But are you really arguing that more people should live as Christ taught?

Not at all. I'm suggesting that more (any?) Christians should. I apologize if I was too subtle on that point. For example, that "'speck-in-eye' proposition" you reference is actually a Christian teaching. Yet you, as a Christian, instead of applying it to yourself, are arguing that I should apply it to myself. You see the problem there, right?

And unreason, you're not making sense. Just because the bible mentions it only once is hardly evidence that he only said it once; it is, after all, an abridged account of his life. Can we hereby disregard everything in the bible that isn't repeated over and over again? That would have the obvious practical advantage of giving Christians a much easier set of teachings to follow, but I doubt you would consider that a defensible religious position.

Also, back up a bit. Notice how Jesus gives the same man advice beforehand that the wealthy man is already following; that's a pretty clear indication that Jesus is giving advice that he considers a universal teaching rather than specific to that man, since he mixes both teachings that the man is already following and teachings that he's not. If he were giving advice specific to that persion, he would have only included the teachings relevant to that person, no? Also note that both Jesus and his disciples and the early Christians referenced in the Acts did consider this an official teaching and lived in this manner.
posted by boaz at 2:43 PM on January 24, 2005


Just because the bible mentions it only once is hardly evidence that he only said it once; it is, after all, an abridged account of his life. Can we hereby disregard everything in the bible that isn't repeated over and over again?

One wouldn't expect he'd say it everytime, but you'd expect that he'd make it a fairly main portion of his teachings. He didn't. In fact, there's a direct counterexample:

8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”


9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.


This man, who became a disciple, did not give away all his possessions. He have away half, plus what he owed. Yet he was accepted as a disciple, without giving up all his money. So it's quite clear that giving away all your money was not a requirement.
posted by unreason at 2:57 PM on January 24, 2005


unreason: I think the problem is people judging an entire group of people without ever bothering to get to know any of them.

Certainly. In my relatively modest experience having known people who practice dozens of different faiths, I have had the great honor of knowing some truely exceptional persons of quality, people who would think nothing of giving you the shirt off your back if your need it.

However, it appears that the existence of these persons of quality has relatively little to do with the faith they profess.

Meanwhile, I'll refer you to this choice quote from the linked article:
Then the pollsters started conducting scientific polls of the general population. In spite of the renewal movement's proud claims to miraculous transformation, the polls showed that members of the movement divorced their spouses just as often as their secular neighbors. They beat their wives as often as their neighbors. They were almost as materialistic and even more racist than their pagan friends.
Which gets to the heart of the conflict here. I look at the people of the world see that the Gaiman-Prachett maxim tends to be true: people turn out good in spite of their religion. I don't care what religion you profess, I care what you do in the world.

Mr. Sider takes a look at the world and wonders why his people are statistically not that much different from their secularist or pagan neighbors. He starts from the assumption that people who lack a belief in the bible as the word of god would not respect marriage, would engage in spousal abuse, be materialistic and racist.

koeselitz: The only good evidence is experiential. There is a good way of knowing if Christianity is good for people: understanding it, and understanding how it effects people. That means being friendly with people who've joined it, and who live in it, and being open to seeing what its influence does.

Wouldn't said experience also involve looking at the multitudes whose lives are greatly improved after leaving the Church as well?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:00 PM on January 24, 2005


boaz:

I'm sorry. I should, instead of referring to "the speck-in-eye proposition," have said "hypocrisy." That is what you're objecting to in others, right?

KirkJobSluder:

"Wouldn't said experience also involve looking at the multitudes whose lives are greatly improved after leaving the Church as well?"

Of course, if they exist. I'm still looking. Please show them to me.
posted by koeselitz at 3:20 PM on January 24, 2005


koeselitz: Of course, if they exist. I'm still looking. Please show them to me.

Well, as an atheist married to a pagan, we seem to be among the shocking group of monogamous, non-abusive, non-materialistic, and non-racist non-believers that are making Christians look bad in Mr. Sider's eyes.

In the interest of inter-faith (or faith/non-faith) dialog, I'm more than happy to engage in discussion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:30 PM on January 24, 2005


This man, who became a disciple, did not give away all his possessions. He have away half, plus what he owed.

Normally, I'd just snark about the bible's inconsistency, but, since you seem like a nice guy, I'll offer up the scholarly explanation for this apparent discrepancy; the most commonly given reason that the first man had to give all while the second only half is because the second man (the tax collector) was married, and his wife needed to remain supported. When they use the term 'young man' in biblical times they were referring to an unmarried adult, while the more generic term referred to a married adult (hey, those were different times). This is in fact a passage often cited by modern Biblical scholars to demonstrate Jesus' commitment to the gentler sex. OTOH, it is only fair to point out that this interpretation is not accepted by most Evangelical christians.
posted by boaz at 3:47 PM on January 24, 2005


And at this point in my anti-spiritual development, I'm less concerned with convincing people I'm right, and more concerned with convincing people that I'm moral!

Which, at the risk of making a true generalization, is perhaps one of the few forms of prejudice that Conservative Christians tend not to own up to.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2005


I'm sorry. I should, instead of referring to "the speck-in-eye proposition," have said "hypocrisy." That is what you're objecting to in others, right?

Now, that's such a harsh term to throw around at someone you just met. I do not think it would qualify as hypocrisy unless Christians were specifically claiming that one should give all their money to the poor without doing it themselves. Instead, they are merely claiming to believe in the moral teachings of a book, but redacting the portions they find inconvenient. The level of wrongdoing that represents is really only for God to decide. I'm just providing the information for those who wish to do better.
posted by boaz at 3:58 PM on January 24, 2005


Except, boaz, that there's other places in the Bible where the giving up of all money wasn't required. In the socialistic commune in the book of Acts, for example, when Ananias and Sapphira withheld money from the commune, they weren't judged for withholding it. In fact, it was made pretty clear that that was ok. What they were judged on was that they lied about it and deceived God. But no one judged them for withholding. The fact is that according to Jesus, the most important commandments had nothing to do with money: Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Put your faith in God. The fact is that Jesus wasn't concerned with money one way or the other. The only time money mattered to him was when it becomes an obstacle to knowing God. Giving up all your money isn't necessary. In fact, it can't save you:

Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.


Christian thought states that there is nothing material you can do that will give you an in with God. That includes giving away all your money.
posted by unreason at 4:07 PM on January 24, 2005


When something it bottled and sold, it becomes a product.

The genius of American capitalism is it's ability to relentlessly assimilate culture, repackage it, and sell it back to the people it came from. McDonald's sells rice balls in Japan, and serves wine in France. A generation of children raised in foreign countries idolize superstars being paid millions of dollars to market the shoes those same children assemble for pennies.

Christianity was threatened by this accelerating trend, and they finally bought in. This is why there are christian rock bands doing pelvic thrusts in packed stadiums, and why I can buy a poseable Jesus action figure at the local Christian supply store. This is why churches need plasma screen TVs and 24-hour cable television networks.

It'll increase their market saturation, sure; an aggressive marketing campaign like the one evangelical christianity has become will do that... for a product.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 4:38 PM on January 24, 2005


Christian thought states that there is nothing material you can do that will give you an in with God.

Ah, finally a Christian sees the full depth of the dilemma posed by the original article: the reason that Christians don't act any better than anyone else is .... because they don't actually even believe they need to. The faith-based get-out-of-hell-free card trumps any inconvenient moral teachings. Let's give thanks to Paul of Tarsis, for figuring out that a moral system would be more popular if it didn't have all those pesky morals, and to Jesus, for being too dead to do anything about it.
posted by boaz at 5:35 PM on January 24, 2005


Just because the bible mentions it only once is hardly evidence that he only said it once

Or, to be fair, ever.
posted by rushmc at 5:39 PM on January 24, 2005


Okay, let me state for the record that indeed, Jesus requires we give up all....in most cases we still get to keep it, but the truth is that we are all stewards of God's grace. He owns everything. He has the right to tell us to give it all away, or to use some of it to buy food, take a vacation, or bless a neighbor. The problem with a lot of us Christians is we really don't realize that all we have and all we are is at His disposal, and we will indeed be judged on how well we managed what He gave us.
posted by konolia at 6:06 PM on January 24, 2005


.... because they don't actually even believe they need to. The faith-based get-out-of-hell-free card trumps any inconvenient moral teachings. Let's give thanks to Paul of Tarsis, for figuring out that a moral system would be more popular if it didn't have all those pesky morals, and to Jesus, for being too dead to do anything about it.

Wrong on all counts. Paul specifically said that salvation by faith doesn't mean you shouldn't try to be moral. If you read his letters, he had quite a bit to say about the importance of morality. The point that he, and Jesus, made is that you shouldn't be good to be saved, you should be good because you are saved. As part of your process of faith, you have to try to be a moral person. Look at it this way: Salvation is by faith, not by works, but if you have no works, then you don't really have faith in the first place. Good deeds should come as a result of your faith. That is Christian theology, and it has nothing to do with "not needing to be moral".
posted by unreason at 6:12 PM on January 24, 2005


Look, boaz, you're being unfair. Extremely unfair. Hell, the original FPP was probably unfair, if it was meant the way I think it probably was.

Here we have an article written by a Christian who is sad at the lack of response among Christians to their own beliefs. This is a lament that a member of nearly any group can have. Americans have it every day now it seems. So most of us should at least be able to understand the sentiment; we in the west are often fallen people, complicit in all sorts of things that we feel are fairly immoral.

This gets posted here, and there follows a long stream of shadenfreude. "Tsk, tsk, those pesky Christians," we all say, "never doing what they say they believe in." Well, welcome to the modern world. We're all assholes here, as shown by our behavior when someone tries to better their own religious sect: we sneer.

You act as though you take the New Testament seriously, but only so that you can act as though you're above it. Look, I don't mind atheism; I don't mind you believing what you want, and, by the end of today, I probably won't care what you write on this blog. But the way you waste your time on some blog sneering about characters in someone else's religious book lends credence to the notion that you're not quite as thoughtful as you think you are.

First, it's "Paul of Tarsus," with a u, in most transliterations. Second, you imply that Paul corrupted the teachings of the Christ by removing all morality from it. I could point out that both of them have more complex teachings than that-- Christ, stressing the "fulfillment of the law," seems to be pointing to the fact that bare morality means nothing without a rational basis and a goal, and Paul, in speaking of leaving the flesh behind, seems to be commenting on the Christ's words about "cutting off" parts of the body that cause us to sin. But I doubt that means very much to you, because I somehow wonder whether you're really advocating a return to the teachings of the original Christ. You said above things that make me think you aren't; so what's your point here?

I think it must be: "Christianity is self-contradictory. It isn't even Christian." Or something like that. Which leads one back to the question: why do you care? Why argue and rage against a religion you think is bunk? There's another way: you can admit that you don't know much about it while saying you'd rather not learn, and respectfully decline to talk about it. Let it go. It's be easier on everybody. Yeah, yeah, I know, you find us offensive, but you don't have to sink to "our level," do you?
posted by koeselitz at 6:24 PM on January 24, 2005


Salvation is by faith, not by works, but if you have no works, then you don't really have faith in the first place.

Which is logically fallacious; after all, if works and faith are inseperable, then it's nonsensical to say that one and not the other get you into heaven. If you need works to get into heaven, then you needs works, and, if you don't, you don't. And let's face it, Christians don't. See the original article for copious examples of such.

That is Christian theology, and it has nothing to do with "not needing to be moral".

The original article has some persuasive statistics refuting that. Please try rereading it.
posted by boaz at 6:34 PM on January 24, 2005


First, it's "Paul of Tarsus," with a u, in most transliterations

Whoops. Missed that typo. I will make extra sure to sneer at the city properly in the future. ;)

As for the rest, you're about 3 comments behind. Try reading the last one directed at you to catch up. I will say that if you really think I'm enraged, then I'm afraid you're quite mistaken.
posted by boaz at 6:49 PM on January 24, 2005


Which is logically fallacious

No it isn't. In any logic class you will learn that if A then B is not logically the same as if B then A. Works do not cause salvation, salvation causes works. The two statements are not logically identical. Try making a truth table if you don't believe me.

The original article has some persuasive statistics refuting that. Please try rereading it.

I already have. You are assuming that the people polled are following true Christian theology. That is not a given. They may go to church, but that doesn't make them Christian, nor does it mean that they are necessarily saved. I have actually spent a great deal of time around real Christians, and found them to be quite moral. You, on the other hand, have found them to be immoral in absentia. I note also that you seem to be reading the article rather selectively; you seem to have noticed the negative statistics while missing that 29 percent of evangelicals give significantly to the poor, as opposed to 9 percent in the surrounding population. Perhaps you might try rereading the article yourself.
posted by unreason at 6:49 PM on January 24, 2005


boaz, it isn't logically fallacious. You're assuming they're inseperable when it was never said. What was actually postulated was:

1) It is possible to have works without faith.
2) It is not possible to have faith without works.
3) It is therefore possible to do good works and still get into heaven.
4) It is therefore not possible to get into heaven without good works.

Perfectly logical.

koeselitz, however, you're being a bit unfair to boaz yourself, who has been arguing quite reasonably about what he perceives as contradictions between the teachings of the Bible and the behavior of Christians, some of which are quite valid points; while it may not be the ideal, I seem to know quite a number of Christians who seem to believe that saying that are "saved' pretty much guarantees them a spot in heaven even if they do pretty much nothing else.

In a way, the argument is a bit academic for me, since I was neither born nor raised Christian. So, yes, all this scrutinizing for fallacies in a book that doesn't interest me very much seems faintly ridiculous to me . . . but koeselitz, there is in fact a valid reason the non-Christians in this country are very concerned about the behavior of Christians. They're the majority. They hold a lot of the power. And, since I have been told to my face that I am going to hell, that satan is "very strong" in me, and that I can have no morals since I am nonChristian, well, yes, I do admit to feeling quite an urge to do a little shouting about the log in their own eye sometimes, and so do many others.
posted by kyrademon at 6:51 PM on January 24, 2005


kyrademon: fair enough.
posted by koeselitz at 6:55 PM on January 24, 2005


The problem with that truth table is that we already know in the real world that it's absolutely possible to have faith without works, hence the whole point of the original article. Now, if those people go to heaven anyways, then works are not required; if they don't, then works are. You can't just ignore a whole group of people who we know exist because they don't have a spot in your truth table.
posted by boaz at 6:58 PM on January 24, 2005


You can't just ignore a whole group of people who we know exist because they don't have a spot in your truth table.

I thought we were dealing in logic? The people in your article ( or at least the parts you choose to read) have no works. However, you can present to me no evidence that they have true faith. They say they do, but that is not proof. The truth table stands.
posted by unreason at 7:00 PM on January 24, 2005


And really folks, I live in America. If you think there's practically anybody living in America hasn't "spent a great deal of time around real Christians," then you're only fooling yourselves.

However, you can present to me no evidence that they have true faith

This is commonly called the No True Scotsman fallacy, right down to switching from "faith" to "true faith". Please avoid it in the future.
posted by boaz at 7:07 PM on January 24, 2005


*shrug* I don't think faith or works will get you into heaven, so it's not really a point I'm going to get all het up arguing about.
posted by kyrademon at 7:13 PM on January 24, 2005


And really folks, I live in America. If you think there's practically anybody living in America hasn't "spent a great deal of time around real Christians,"

Scowling at W on the TV doesn't count. Nor does passing them in the supermarket. The fact that there are a lot of Christians in America does not mean that you have made any attempt to know, become friends with, or understand them.

This is commonly called the No True Scotsman fallacy, right down to switching from "faith" to "true faith". Please avoid it in the future.

No, it isn't, actually. In the true Scotsman fallacy, we have someone who is in set A, and someone asserts that he is not in set A. This is evident because being a Scotsman is an easily demonstrated trait. Having faith is not an easily demonstrated trait. Going to church does not prove it. Therefore, the Scotsman fallacy does not apply. You have not demonstrated that the people in the parts of the article you so admire are in set A, therefore there is no fallacy when I say that they are not in set A.
posted by unreason at 7:15 PM on January 24, 2005


Oh, come on. Something like 80% of Americans self-identify as Christians. You have to live a very cloistered life in this country not to "know, become friends with, or understand" a whole whopping bunch of them.

You're being unreasonable, unreason.
posted by kyrademon at 7:18 PM on January 24, 2005


Oh, come on. Something like 80% of Americans self-identify as Christians. You have to live a very cloistered life in this country not to "know, become friends with, or understand" a whole whopping bunch of them.

You're being unreasonable, unreason.


Not at all. Firstly, although 80% identify as Christians, much of that is comprised of lukewarm Christians that rarely go to church and don't really practice their religion except as a social mechanism. I'd put the real figure closer to 50%, if that. As for the difficulty of not being friends with Christians, it's quite easy. People tend to stick to their own social circles. Which in boaz's case probably doesn't consist of many observant Christians. Considering the glee with which he claims that Christianity has no morals, do you think he hangs out with Christians? Or would want to?
posted by unreason at 7:26 PM on January 24, 2005


(Sorry to go back to a subthread that was many comments ago.)

Do you mean Luke or the writer of Luke?

Luke, which is who I presume you were referring to. But I'm not aware of any evidence in scripture of Jesus having met either Luke or the author of the Gospel of Luke.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:33 PM on January 24, 2005


It's generally presumed that Luke and Luke the author are the same person. It's also thought that he wrote both Luke and the Book of Acts. (In fact he writes acts using "We" when he talks about Luke and Paul.) It's thought that he never met Jesus, he converted after the events in the Gospels, and learned what he put in his Gospel from the apostles, who he met afterwards. Some say that he also may have been the one who took dictation for Paul when he wrote his famous letters.
posted by unreason at 7:38 PM on January 24, 2005


Without the transformative power of Jesus, being a Christian is meaningless.

Not completely meaningless . . .it just makes the evangelical church look a lot like the Kiwanis Club or the Rotary. Where is the community of Xians who are experiencing transformative power? I don't know.

I guess that's why I quit going to church 18 mos. ago and joined the Rotary last year. We had a rewarding time taking textbooks, computers and medical supplies to Belize in November. Plus we get a yummy lunch each week!
posted by iwearredsocks at 7:52 PM on January 24, 2005


Wow, I was accused of raging against Christians for saying that most Christians don't fully practice what they believe in, and now unreason is claiming that a lot of them don't even really believe what they believe in. Weird. I'd expect a little more religious tolerance from a Christian .... for other Christians at least.

For the record, some of my best friends are Christians.[/clichéd but true] I'm going to hell, they're idiotic nincompoops and we get along splendidly. Maybe that means they're fakes. ;)
posted by boaz at 8:00 PM on January 24, 2005


koeselitz: We're all assholes here, as shown by our behavior when someone tries to better their own religious sect: we sneer.

Except that the standard by which "better" is measured in the linked article is a straw-man vision of amoral secularism and paganism. If you wish to argue that the state of Christian moral action could be better than it is currently, by all means, go boldly forward. That makes you no different from any other religious group. What I object to is the creation of a fiction of my moral depravity, to serve as a foil for your moral virtue. What I object to is using this as a justification for public policy in the form of using public monies for faith-based charities.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:56 PM on January 24, 2005


and now unreason is claiming that a lot of them don't even really believe what they believe in. Weird. I'd expect a little more religious tolerance from a Christian .... for other Christians at least.

Don't be silly. You've never belonged to any group where there are a lot of posers?

For the record, some of my best friends are Christians.[/clichéd but true]

Erm, yes, very cliched. Also unlikely, considering the great relish you seem to take in trying to prove that Christians are immoral.
posted by unreason at 3:36 AM on January 25, 2005


Works are the evidence of faith. If you have faith, works will be produced-like an apple tree produces apples. If you only say you have faith but don't, there will be no fruit.

The works don't save you but they are evidence of the faith that does save you.
posted by konolia at 6:29 AM on January 25, 2005


group where there are a lot of posers ... Erm, yes, very cliched. Also unlikely

Wow, it's almost like you're willing to believe absolutely anything about anybody, with no evidence, as long as it lets you feel morally superior. Who would have expected behavior like that from a Christian? ;)
posted by boaz at 8:10 AM on January 25, 2005



group where there are a lot of posers

Wow, it's almost like you're willing to believe absolutely anything about anybody, with no evidence, as long as it lets you feel morally superior.


Wrong again.

Unlike you, I've actually spent time in church and among Christians. Therefore, believe it or not, I actually know something about the large number of what we call "Sunday Christians". So I actually do have first hand evidence that there are a lot of posers. It was you who assumed without evidence that I did not have any knowledge on the matter.

Erm, yes, very cliched. Also unlikely

Fact: You make it quite clear in your comments that you don't like Christians, ie "Wow, it's almost like you're willing to believe absolutely anything about anybody, with no evidence, as long as it lets you feel morally superior. Who would have expected behavior like that from a Christian?"

Fact: You claimed to have many Christian friends.

There's a contradiction here. It's difficult to believe that you have Christian friends when you don't like Christians.
posted by unreason at 8:28 AM on January 25, 2005


although 80% identify as Christians, much of that is comprised of lukewarm Christians that rarely go to church and don't really practice their religion except as a social mechanism.

This is the hilarious point at which all Christians always break down, when they take it upon themselves to define what constitutes "true" Christianity and deny all the other Christians with different beliefs. And yet, they expect to be taken seriously in their claims of tolerance and good works...
posted by rushmc at 8:47 AM on January 25, 2005


when they take it upon themselves to define what constitutes "true" Christianity and deny all the other Christians with different beliefs.

It's not a matter of true Christianity as some abstract handwaving. Let's say that you're a member of a society of painters. You know two members. One of them almost never attends meetings, and doesn't show much enthusiasm for painting when he does. The other attends every meeting, writes books on painting, and helps new members to learn. Which one would you say is really a member, in the fullest sense of the word? They both signed up, but only one is really a part of the club. It's not judgmental to say that the first man isn't really a part of your art society.
posted by unreason at 9:00 AM on January 25, 2005


There's a contradiction here. It's difficult to believe that you have Christian friends when you don't like Christians.

I think the point you're missing is that not every one, or even most, of the Christians I've ever met is my friend. Many Christians are quite nice and moral people in spite of their Christianity. However, many other Christians treat their Christianity as a way of feeling smugly superior to the unbelievers and "Sunday Christians" around them. That group, of which you are a charter member, is not represented among my friends, nor is it likely to be. If that means I'm missing out on the "real Christians" with "true faith", so be it.
posted by boaz at 9:14 AM on January 25, 2005


boaz, maybe you should worry less about what other people say about this subject and consider where you yourself are vis a vis a relationship with the God that created you. He is capable of judging who is and who is not worthy of being called by His name. It isn't an exclusive club, but it is a smaller one than many think.

We will all come before Him as Judge. All of us. And He plays no favorites.
posted by konolia at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2005


Let's say that you're a member of a society of painters.

Except that it's more like asking which is the true artist. An artist does art, and membership in the society doesn't matter. A Christian follows the teachings of Christ.

But I agree that there are people who say they follow Christ (claim to be Christians) who don't, not if Christ is the superhero in the book (and his dad in some weird and wacky way).

What many supposed Christians should say is that they admire most of what they've heard of Christ, and they kinda wish they could follow him because everyone says he's the epitome of good, and they won't stand for anyone else bad-mouthing him, and he's a family and national tradition and all, but they don't really believe in hell and they're sure they've got a spot reserved in heaven, and maybe God is just love or a state of mind, and Christ was a wise man among a number of wise folk, and life is so cushy without the sacrifices, and they do write a small tax-deductible check for the poor sometimes (and another for PBS), so why bother?

All of which could be construed as a religion, I suppose, but it's not really following Christ as much as it is acknowledging a vague belief in the philosophy of Christ if asked. They may as well call themselves Metafilterians or Fox Newsians or Simpsonians or Red Soxians for all the following they do and the faith and fervor they have.
posted by pracowity at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2005


Let's say that you're a member of a society of painters. You know two members. One of them almost never attends meetings, and doesn't show much enthusiasm for painting when he does. The other attends every meeting, writes books on painting, and helps new members to learn.

The first, as little as he may care for it, does actually paint from time to time. As much as the second person may be enthusiastic about painting, there's no evidence (from what you've told us here) that he himself ever actually paints. Thus, I would refer to the first as "a painter," but not the second.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:51 AM on January 25, 2005


Many Christians are quite nice and moral people in spite of their Christianity.

So if a Christian is awful it's because of their faith, and if they're nice it's in spite of their faith? How convenient.

However, many other Christians treat their Christianity as a way of feeling smugly superior to the unbelievers and "Sunday Christians" around them.

I do not feel superior to Sunday Christians, or to you. I did not say that they were inferior, I said that they weren't really particularly Christian. That isn't said as a condescending statement, but as a fact. Nor, if you read my posts, did I ever say that I was the perfect Christian. In fact, I have a lot of work to do with my relationship with God. Please stop your assumptions of smugness where none exists.
posted by unreason at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2005


As much as the second person may be enthusiastic about painting, there's no evidence (from what you've told us here) that he himself ever actually paints.

Sorry, to clarify in my analogy I assumed that painting goes on at the meetings.
posted by unreason at 11:13 AM on January 25, 2005


Well okay then. You sure sound like a swell guy when you describe yourself.

On a lighter note, The UCC has welcomed a second fictional character into their church.
posted by boaz at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2005


On a lighter note, The UCC has welcomed a second fictional character into their church.

Oh God, Not another Tinky Winky thing. Seriously, if your biggest problem with society is a cartoon of a kitchen sponge that lives in an underwater pineapple, you've got issues.
posted by unreason at 12:11 PM on January 25, 2005


White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race.

Stuff like this and hate toward gays is because of their religion and not in spite of it.

Bravo for at least one person trying to turn religion into was it should be rather what it is. If they stamp out the hate they don't preach they can work on cleaning up the hate they do preach. I'm not holding my breath, but one step at a time i guess.
posted by Bag Man at 1:48 PM on January 25, 2005


Sexual Disobedience

Could just be that sex and interest in sex is...*gasp*...a natural thing that no one can legislate with a rule, law or world view?
posted by Bag Man at 2:05 PM on January 25, 2005


Stuff like this and hate toward gays is because of their religion and not in spite of it.

Oh? Rascism is inherent in Christianity? Maybe someone should've explained that to the Reverend Martin Luther King. Or the 19th century abolitionists, who were mostly driven by religion.
posted by unreason at 2:06 PM on January 25, 2005


Oh? Rascism is inherent in Christianity? Maybe someone should've explained that to the Reverend Martin Luther King. Or the 19th century abolitionists, who were mostly driven by religion.

Look at the policies of the Evangelicals and Conservative Christians today (of which the article refers to): Assaulting social security, destroying the welfare programs meant to uplift and open opportunity for the racial poor, opposing equality for all people and acting to widen the education gap between white and black by opposing any form of affirmative action.

If they did not what to be called racist they should act in a manor which causes me to call them racist.
posted by Bag Man at 2:21 PM on January 25, 2005


So if a Christian is awful it's because of their faith, and if they're nice it's in spite of their faith? How convenient.

No, the point here (and in the link) is that human nature precedes and trumps any pretension to religious belief.
posted by rushmc at 2:22 PM on January 25, 2005


Reverend Martin Luther King. Or the 19th century abolitionists

Even Ronald J. Sider admits that Evangelicals and Conservative Christians were absent form these cries for freedom (at least from the modern civil rights movement).
posted by Bag Man at 2:24 PM on January 25, 2005


Even Ronald J. Sider admits that Evangelicals and Conservative Christians were absent form these cries for freedom (at least from the modern civil rights movement).

Um, have you actually read any of the biographies of the Christians involved in the abolitionist movement? They were about as conservative as you can get...
posted by unreason at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2005


Um, have you actually read any of the biographies of the Christians involved in the abolitionist movement? They were about as conservative as you can get...

ummm..did you bother to read my post? I guess not because if you did you would see that I wrote this at least from the modern civil rights movement.

Please read before knee-jerk posting...thanks, that's all.
posted by Bag Man at 10:22 PM on January 25, 2005


Even Ronald J. Sider admits that the above three comments are pretty funny.
posted by mokujin at 4:17 AM on January 26, 2005


I'm so sorry I missed this stimulating conversation. Or, rather, you're all going to hell.
posted by nanojath at 9:42 PM on February 22, 2005


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