I Can Never Surprise You: the story of my life outside the church walls

I’ve spent a good deal of time with people who are not Christians, and in fact don’t have any interest in appearing to live by biblical standards. But most Christian pastors I know have limited contact with the wild world of subcultures I frequent. 

I know only a few pastors who have been to Burning Man. The Christian connection with the world of Burners is slim, and typically, it is a negative experience for the Burner. 

The preponderance of church leaders I know have no idea what today’s Pagan is (or ‘Neo-Pagan’, to use an anthropological identification). When they use the word ‘pagan’ or ‘heathen’, they typically mean godless hedonistic people. It’s a negative identifier for someone who drinks and parties a lot and should be avoided because they are a bad influence.

My friend Jim Henderson used to arrange discussions with atheists in churches. He would ask the pastor to find a few atheists to discuss their view of Christianity and the Christian church in front of the congregation. Jim came to our church in Salem about 12 years ago. He asked me to find three atheists for the panel––no problem. I found a few friends and acquaintances, and they were ready to be part of this public discussion. Jim was surprised that I found the atheists he needed. Apparently other pastors he had dealt with didn’t know any atheists, and Jim would have to visit coffee shops or pubs prior to the event to fill those slots. I was as surprised as Jim. He was surprised that I knew three atheists in Salem. I was surprised that other pastors couldn’t find anyone to join the discussion.

The other night, I was hanging out with one of my Witch friends in Salem. This Witch friend enjoys a rather hedonistic alternative sexual lifestyle. This is not necessarily standard in Pagan circles, but neither is it uncommon. After being told a few tales of sexual exploits, my friend remarked, “I just can’t freak you out. You never get surprised.” My friend occasionally tries to freak me out, and tests me with these stories.

My Witch friend was not the first person to make the comment that I was not easily surprised. I’ve heard that several times over the years from people who are trying to push my little Christian pastor buttons. It is almost as if I am being tested to see whether I can practice what I preach about loving people unconditionally.

From Burners, to Witches, to Atheists, to general non-believers, and occasionally from Christians who practice such alternative things as open-marriage, I have heard some variation of these words: “You never get surprised.” Typically, what they mean beneath that comment is that I do not reject them, and that I can accept them as friends.

It is true that I am not easily surprised by the weird things people do. I am also not easily offended. I do not need people to agree with me for them to be my friends. Perhaps being surprised easily and being offended easily are closely related. Even if they are not, the world around us that does not follow Jesus appears to think that they are related.

Perhaps our little Christian world is too little. Perhaps it is too narrow. Perhaps that is why we are surprised when we hear things that are part of the world of alternative sexuality, alternative religious beliefs, hedonistic partying, radically differing politics, violence, or criminality. I may walk a narrow way to Christ. In fact, it is narrower than most people think. But this way intersects the broad road in many places, and my lack of surprise and offence is just one more evidence to the non-Christian that I truly love the wide-road walkers I know. We are good friends because I am not surprised by what they believe and how they live. 

Perhaps my lack of surprise is simply a shadow of grace in the storms of judgment and bias raging in our world. Sometimes I wonder why I am so calm in the face of hedonism and heresy, but mostly I am thankful. That calmness allows me to go places that many other Christians can’t imagine.

Interested in more stories from outside the church walls and a theology of wild mission? Check out Love Big or Go Home.

19 thoughts on “I Can Never Surprise You: the story of my life outside the church walls

    1. Are you assuming that unconditional love is the same thing as agreement? If so, then it is not unconditional. The lack of conditions means that whether we believe the same things, or live in the same way we can still be friends who will defend one another against abuses, lies, and gossip. If someone thinks that I have to agree with them to love, then they are the ones struggling to love unconditionally.

      P.S. Thanks for the challenge. Me loves a good debate.

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      1. Unconditional love is having *no* conditions for love. It is not agreeing or disagreeing.

        It’s hilarious when Christians make the claim that their god has no conditions to receive its love when the entire bible is full of those conditions.

        You come off with calling others heretics and accusing others of hedonism, both of which show you have plenty of conditions, phil.

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      2. It would have done you well to read the other responses under this post. Your points are covered there. You apparently live in a world where terms like “heretic” and “hedonism” have only derogatory meaning. I have more than a few friends who openly use and prefer those monikers to describe their own lives. There is also an academic sense for the term heretic, which even Jesus was an example, because he was so counterintuitive to the religion of his time and place.

        For myself, I have the official papers kicking me out of a denomination for aberrance, which makes me an official heretic according to at least one denomination. Radical love would love despite incredible distances between people. It is that Levinasian space between myself and the face of another.

        You appear to contradict yourself in this view you have. It is in spite of the fact that I have good friends who are Heathens, Pagans, Hedonists, Heretics, and assorted other self-identifiers they use that makes the kind of love I am talking about powerful.

        Now, as for God, and position of unconditional love, that’s a much bigger subject that is not particularly the focus of this post.

        Thanks for the back and forth Club Schady.

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      3. Jesus was not counter intuitive at all. He still promoted a genocidal, child killing god who had no problem with slavery. And unconditional means having *no* conditions about loving someone.

        and that christians kick each other out of their sects is nothing new; you all make up what you believe, and no surprise it contradicts each other.

        “Now, as for God, and position of unconditional love, that’s a much bigger subject that is not particularly the focus of this post.”

        ROFL. You try to present unconditional love as a focus of your religion, and that it is what should be desired, and now you declare it isn’t “the focus” of your post. You insist you aren’t easily offended by what people do, but why proclaim how wonderful you are because of that? And why indeed do you need to feel offended at all when people don’t agree with you?

        and ” Sometimes I wonder why I am so calm in the face of hedonism and heresy, but mostly I am thankful.”

        so why would you need to be “calm” if you aren’t using them in a derogatory meaning?

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      4. “Jesus was not counter intuitive at all…”
        I’m afraid you’ll have to argue with a huge majority of theologians, philosophers, and historians on that point. Even if the crucifixion was just a political act under the Romans and the religious Jewish leaders, that by itself is a story of suppressing a rising counterculture movement.

        “and that christians kick each other out of their sects is nothing new; you all make up what you believe…”
        Okay, so this is an argumentum ad hominem with direct leap into a generalization fallacy, and circling back to think you’ve proved a point. Come on. I hope there’s more depth your argument than a circle of logical fallacies.

        “You try to present unconditional love as a focus of your religion, and that it is what should be desired, and now you declare it isn’t “the focus” of your post. “
        We’ve got two points here. I will try to make this simple for you. 1) The behavior of the Christian. 2) The character of God, which is called Theology Proper.
        The focus of this post is 1), not 2). If you reread it you will see that. You are arguing your position from both points. Consequently, you are also jumping all over the place with random arguments only loosely related to the post. This is beginning to feel like a discussion from the Dawkins’ school pretentious rudeness. I’m not trying to put you down, I would hope you are at least responding with a hint of kindness for my poor deceived mind.

        “so why would you need to be “calm” if you aren’t using them in a derogatory meaning?”
        I suppose I could have written that better. The contrast of calmness is not against whatever practices or beliefs others have, but against how many people I know (Christians and non-Christians alike) react in the face of strange beliefs and practices. I am inherently calm, and in fact interested in others and the wide spectrum of beliefs and practices in our world. I’m not sure why you added the word “need” above. I didn’t state some kind kind of necessity. I was simply stating my thankfulness in having a generally calm demeanor in the face of the weird and wonderful—that has served me well. It has nothing to do with critique or disrespect. I regularly use those words (heretic and hedonist) in an academic sense, and I only use them about people who, as I mentioned previously, self-identify with those terms and the lifestyles attached to those terms. I hope that makes sense now. To take more out of it than that is a leap in logic that would assume more than I have meant.

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      5. I don’t have to argue with anyone at all. It is a common delusion that somehow Jesus preached something new, and existed as the magical man he is depicted as in the bible.

        Humans do love to claim how unique they are, and they almost always fail at that.

        It’s also no surprise that you have no idea what an ad hominem argument is. Since my point that Christians have many different sects and kick people out of them is very true, it is not a ad hominem at all. An ad hominem is when a irrelevant statement is made to poison the well against an opponent, like “you are ugly and therefore you are wrong.” Before you start accusing me of anything, look up what you are accusing me of so you don’t get it wrong. There is also no generalization fallacy since you cannot show I’m wrong in my point about Christians. I do welcome you to show that Christians don’t have many sects and that you do all agree on things like free will, predestination, what heaven and hell are, how to be baptized, what morals your god wants, etc. I’ll be waiting.

        The behavior of the Christian and the character of their god is one thing, since again, you all have different versions. I do enjoy when someone tries to make up what they think are impressive sounding terms like “Theology Proper”. You have also not demonstrated where my points are supposedly random and “loosely” related to the post. Why no examples? And it is nothing new to see a Christian accuse someone for being “rude” when they show the Christian wrong. It is a common tactic for a theist to try to hide behind the skirts of courtesy when they are failing. Happily, no one needs to respect your nonsense nor to be “kind” in allowing such nonsense to be unchallenged.

        You wrote what you wanted to write and now it seems you are hoping that you can retcon what you said. The contrast of calmness and claiming that people are heretics and hedonists does not seem to be against how other people are faced with these things, but how you are when faced with these things. In context, you are accusing others of being upset with “heresy” and “hedonism”. Why would they be upset, again, if these words aren’t being used by you in a derogatory meaning?

        Considering your responses, I don’t see someone who is calm at all when challenged. You appear to need to be calm in the face of things you don’t like, and consider yourself superior in your ability to handle what you evidently consider upsetting things with this “calm”.

        Your claims that you use heresy and hedonism “in the academic sense” doesn’t ring quite true either. Words do have connotations and denotations and you have chosen ones that connote negative considerations of the actions of others. For example, hedonism is defined as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life”. Most Christians are entirely against this. So do you consider this an acceptable and beneficial worldview or not? Heresy is defined as “an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards”, so do you consider that acceptable/beneficial or not?

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      6. Hey ClubSchady

        “I don’t have to argue with anyone at all. It is a common delusion that somehow Jesus preached something new, and existed as the magical man he is depicted as in the bible.”

        This response barely touches upon his counterculture ways. Enough for me to say that you are off topic. Counterintuitive to the times in which one lives does not mean the same thing are wholly new. As far as not having to argue with anyone – you’re correct. On the other hand, if you want to make a comment which would generally be regarded as wrong by a large body of academics through history, and then claim the majority is deluded, well, we can let it stand. We will agree to disagree.

        “It’s also no surprise that you have no idea what an ad hominem argument is. Since my point that Christians have many different sects and kick people out of them is very true, it is not a ad hominem at all.”

        One subcategory of Argumentum Ad Hominem is what we also call “guilt by association”. Your exact words were: “and that christians kick each other out of their sects is nothing new; you all make up what you believe, and no surprise it contradicts each other.”

        Because there are Christians that kick one another out of their sects, we are (note your use of the word “you” here) “all” therefore guilty of making up whatever we believe. That point took the “guilt by association” subcategory of argumentum ad hominem and attached it to all Christians in a Hasty Generalization (another fallacy) but also specifically attached it to me. Unless of course, you didn’t really mean to say things that way. This is the manner in which it fulfills argumentum ad hominem. You basically said that I identify with with people who kick one another out of their special little groups, therefore it is no wonder me and my friends make up whatever we want. That’s not exactly robust academic thinking.

        Then you say: “There is also no generalization fallacy since you cannot show I’m wrong in my point about Christians.”

        As I already noted above, you used the word “all”. I’m sorry but this is the cheapest trick in the book. You basically said, ‘Christians have church divisions. You can’t prove me wrong. So I am correct.” But your argument is in actuality, ‘all Christians are party to the same divisiveness as seen in the historic church.’ If we go by that reasoning, then we should also all be party to any good things that have been accomplished by the church, not just the bad things. Similarly, you should be held responsible for the tragedies atheism through Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao has visited upon the 20th century. But just as I should not make that argument, you should not make your fallacious attribution of historical errors something every Christian is in some small way guilty of.

        You said: “I do enjoy when someone tries to make up what they think are impressive sounding terms like “Theology Proper”.”

        At least you could do a simple Google search before you accuse me of making up terms: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theology_proper

        I’ll skip past the presuppositions about not being calm or kind, or that I somehow consider myself superior.

        You said: “For example, hedonism is defined as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life”. Most Christians are entirely against this. So do you consider this an acceptable and beneficial worldview or not? Heresy is defined as “an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards”, so do you consider that acceptable/beneficial or not?”

        There are two main points against this section I will note in closing. 1) neither of these is placed into a context, and the question is therefore like a childish trap. Did you know that there is a school of theology called Christian Hedonism? I suggested that you read the other notes on this post. Clearly you didn’t, because I mentioned this in another place. Where you familiar with the fact that it is generally recognized that Jesus was treated as a heretic? Therefore contextually these questions are more complex that your simple little questions. 2) Here’s the real problem with these questions you ask: If I say that these things are not beneficial, you will accuse me of some kind of hypocrisy, when in fact, my disagreement would only prove my point––that I can be kind and caring toward people whether I think they live and speak in a positive and beneficial manner or not. How could you possibly come to this full circle, where you are still insisting on reading into this, things I have not said.

        I will put one last quote of yours in here and comment briefly: “You wrote what you wanted to write and now it seems you are hoping that you can retcon what you said. The contrast of calmness and claiming that people are heretics and hedonists does not seem to be against how other people are faced with these things, but how you are when faced with these things. In context, you are accusing others of being upset with “heresy” and “hedonism”. Why would they be upset, again, if these words aren’t being used by you in a derogatory meaning?”

        I will try to comment correctly to this, I may get it wrong, because it is a confusing sentence you have written. If I understand it wrongly, please correct me. You seem to saying saying that I am not upset by these words. but others are, and well, why would they be upset unless I was truly using the words derogatorily. Is that what you meant?

        If so, this is the crux of the matter. I do not use the words in a derogatory manner, but many people do. Consequently, much of the work I do is redefining misunderstood terms, so that people who radically disagree with one another can learn to dialogue peacefully across great gaps of misunderstanding. Hedonists and heretics who I talk to and use these words about themselves do not feel judged by me. Hopefully the person who is judgmental can learn not to jump to conclusions (which I would say you have done) by my use of the words, or in the discovery that another person self-identifies with these terms.

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      7. And since you can’t show I’m wrong, now you declare things “off topic”. How nice. Your appeals to popularity and authority are also an added touch.

        And you’ve made up more things, including your “subcategory”. This is unsurprising. Since Christians do and have kicked out each other of their sects and continue to create more, disagree on the most basic things of what you believe, and contradict, there is no guilt by association. There is undeniable action by Christians.

        No, because there are Chrsitians who kick each other out of their sects, leave and make up their own sects, etc, we see that you all have your own versions. It is evident that you make up what you believe since each of you claims to have the one “right” version and not one of you can demonstrate this. And again, you have no idea what an ad hominem argument is, despite me telling you. There is also no “hasty generalization” since I can support my point with facts and you have yet to refute them. I pointed out that Christians are all “special little groups” that have their own truths, and yes, you are part of that. I did not say “I identify with with people who kick one another out of their special little groups, therefore it is no wonder me and my friends make up whatever we want.” That is incoherent, with your addition of cause and effect that I never mentioned. You are part of a religion that has fractured into many “special little groups”, each insistent that what they have made up is the “truth” and not one of you can demonstrate that.

        As for “robust academic thinking”, you have yet to demonstrate you do that at all, and are simply trying to appeal to authority by trying to claim that “experts” agree with you and thus that makes your nonsense true.

        Again, your grasp of logical fallacies fails. You still cannot show I’m wrong in my point about Christians, and yes *all* Christians. One can have a generalization that is quite true.

        Then you say: “There is also no generalization fallacy since you cannot show I’m wrong in my point about Christians.” And yep, Christians have church divisions, and yep, you can’t prove me wrong. My argument isn’t what you’ve invented since you can’t address the real one. Quite an attempt at deceit there. You also have a problem since there are no good things that Christianity has been responsible for as a unit, since there is no one Christianity. However, I can point to the fact that theists do things that are horrible exactly because of their beliefs, that some god approves of them only and that everyone else deserves death and worse. Your bible repeatedly says that is the case. That is the cause and effect of religion and horrible acts. If you declare the bible correct, you are indeed responsible for what it literally says.

        Alas, you try the common failed lie that the reason that Stalin, Pol Pot, etc did what they did was because they were atheists. Since I am an atheist, and am not interested in killing everyone who disagrees with me, and most atheists are the same thing, your argument fails. What I am not, and what most atheists are not, are megalomaniacs like Stalin and Pol Pot, Mao, etc. That is what the common denominator is for people like them, not atheism. You fail again.

        There is indeed a Wikipedia entry for the term “theology proper” and when I said that someone makes up impressive sounding terms, I wasn’t talking about only you. It’s even more amusing in that article where things like “pneumatology” are mentioned, a study of the imaginary. The idea of “systematic theology” is just as ridiculous since there is no one version that Christians agree on: “Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the doctrines of the Christian faith.” Since you all disagree, one has to wonder where any of those descriptors fit in. Each claims their version to be the only “orderly, rational and coherent account”.

        You will of course skip past what you cannot refute. How convenient.

        Then you try the false claims that somehow my points are “not in context”. How so? Of course, you can’t show that and you find you must lie and claim some “childish trap”. No trap at all for someone who can show I’m wrong. You can’t.

        And yep, there is “chrsitian hedonism” which is a rather hilarious attempt to claim that whatever version of Christianity there is, is the source of “happiness” and “pleasure”, which is yet one more baseless claim. Just reading the Wikipedia entry, and yep, there is one, I can see that yet again Christians just make up nonsense, and reinterpret what they want. It has a great quote from C.S. Lewis demonstrating yet again how Christians can’t agree. The article also does a great job showing that the term “hedonism” was chosen to be provocative and not accurate. “By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy, you cannot love man or please God” – John Piper. As is very common, Christians try to change the meaning of words when their ignorance is revealed.

        So, we have you evidently saying that you disagree that heresy and hedonism are acceptable and beneficial worldviews. Your disagreement with these things shows that yet again, you consider both things wrong, and use the terms in a derogatory manner. You are not kind and caring at all. You are judgmental and ignorant based on your religion. That’s not love. It’s just one more Christian insisting how much better they are and piously telling everyone that they deserve death and eternal torture because they dare disagree with your baseless nonsense.

        Yep, you quote me a lot and your attempts to claim me wrong have still failed. The sentence isn’t confusing.

        ““You wrote what you wanted to write and now it seems you are hoping that you can retcon what you said. The contrast of calmness and claiming that people are heretics and hedonists does not seem to be against how other people are faced with these things, but how you are when faced with these things. In context, you are accusing others of being upset with “heresy” and “hedonism”. Why would they be upset, again, if these words aren’t being used by you in a derogatory meaning?””

        You wrote that you were calm around “heresey” and “hedonism”. You tried to claim you weren’t using these terms in a derogatory manner, but I have shown that you have as above. You are the one who evidently feels that others should feel the opposite of calm when faced with “heresy” and “hedonism” and it is a special thing that you don’t. Again, if you aren’t using the terms heresy and hedonism negatively, why would anyone not be “calm” when faced with them? What would makes them not calm (antonyms to calm: agitated, disturbed, upset) about heresy and hedonism?

        Derogatory: expressive of a low opinion; detracting from the character or standing of something – merriam webster

        What words people use to describe themselves has no impact on what you mean by the same words. Redefining words is an intent to confuse the issues and is often used by Christian to try to win an argument. You also have no evidence at all that these supposed “hedonists” and “heretics” you supposedly speak to even exist. I have jumped to no conclusions, having supported my points, which notably, you have done your best to ignore in various ways.

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      8. I’ll make a just a few comments since I am beginning to feel like this is going nowhere.

        1. Just like I showed you that Theology Proper was an actual category of theology and not something I made up, I suppose I have to do the same thing for Argumentum ad Hominem. Please note on the wiki page on the topic. Even something as simple as the wiki categorizes “guilt by association” under the overall fallacy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem Please do your homework. If you can’t do this minimum of research, your arguments fail.

        2. You said, ““There is also no generalization fallacy since you cannot show I’m wrong in my point about Christians.” And yep, Christians have church divisions, and yep, you can’t prove me wrong. My argument isn’t what you’ve invented since you can’t address the real one. Quite an attempt at deceit there. You also have a problem since there are no good things that Christianity has been responsible for as a unit…”

        Wow. The fact that you can write the first part of that paragraph, and make that closing comment with a straight face is remarkable. “…there are no good things that Christianity has been responsible for as a unit….” That is a remarkably absurd generalization! Of course, no Christian groups have ever fed the poor, started hospitals, developed beautiful architecture, or spent their efforts digging wells in the deserts of Africa. Have they? They certainly couldn’t have been involved at the very foundation of the micro-lending movement, nor been foundational to nuclear disarmament protest movements. Could they? A simple search will find that Christians movements, from ancient groups to modern groups have been involved in all of the above things (nuclear disarmament obviously being a modern topic). It is interesting that you make such a huge deal about all the Christians and all our dividing, when in fact, one group is over a billion in number, some are in the hundreds of millions, and many are in the tens of millions. That makes Christianity about as stable as nation states. Which isn’t saying much, but it disproves your assertion that Christians are more divisive than other peoples. There are some sets of facts for you. Look them up if you want an honest debate. Most of those things are such a common part of history that restating them feels mundane, and it is embarrassing that I should have to state them for you. It’s time you got off the Dawkins/Harris bandwagon. It hasn’t served you well.

        3. I will respond to this last point, because this is where we disagree the most, and where I believe that your opinion is tragically detrimental to the cause of peace with our fellow human beings. You said, “So, we have you evidently saying that you disagree that heresy and hedonism are acceptable and beneficial worldviews. Your disagreement with these things shows that yet again, you consider both things wrong, and use the terms in a derogatory manner. You are not kind and caring at all.”

        I can see why you come across so aggressive in your responses. It seems that you are unable to be kind and caring, or make friends with people who disagree with you. The fact that you assume I am the same is your blindness. I am not like you, and I sure hope I never become like that. I can be at peace with people I disagree with. I can be their friends. I have thirty years of experience in this kind of work.

        Front Page Wall Street Journal October 31, 2006 is just one piece of evidence – https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB116225928137808417
        A group I am part of that works across religious and non-religious boundaries – https://www.multifaithmatters.org/leadershipteam
        Here is just one of my peaceful dialogues with an atheist friend, Kile Jones – https://youtu.be/gHIGxhOS1Sw

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      9. A few comments? Snicker. Again, you have yet to show any ad hominem fallacy. I’m still waiting.

        You also have yet to show that my supposed generalization is a fallacy. Again, we have many many sects of Christianity all claiming contradictory things and yep, those sects all do various things, hospitals, etc and again not as a single Christianity. You still fail.

        Christianity hasn’t developed architecture. Humans have. Humans dig wells, not some religion. The microlending movement wasn’t only Christians, and funny how peace hasn’t been a Christian thing either. This is the same set of lies when Christians want to claim that they were the only abolitionists, when their bible directly supports slavery.

        Yep, I do make a huge deal about Christains and their many contradictory sects since that shows your nosense to be entirely made up. Of course, you then try to claim “but but, one version has a billion followers” when I know quite well that those followers don’t agree within Catholicism even with in the religion. And gee, Christianity is indeed as stable as nation states, entirely human inventions.

        my point isn’t that Christians are more divisive than other humans. My point is that Christians lie about their numbers since they don’t consider each other Christian. Those numbers you cite are meaningless since each sect is sure the others are wrong. Catholics are sure that everyone but them has, at best, a part of the supposed “truth”. Evangelicals are sure that Catholics are heretics, if not out and out satan worshippers. Both think that Mormons and JWs aren’t Christian at all. And it goes on and on. Your claims of “facts” are displayed as false.
        Happily, my opinion isn’t detrimental to anyone but people like you who try to make false claims. You have claimed that you are special since you are “calm” when dealing with people who are hedonistic and heretical. Again, if these aren’t bad things, you wouldn’t need to be calm at all. I am calm and caring and kind, and none of those things make me have to agree with your false claims or not point them out. It is no surprise that you find you must bear false witness against me since you have nothing else. Claiming people are derogatory terms like heretic and hedonist isn’t being someone’s friend.

        The WSJ article is behind a paywall. But it does a great job anyway to show that you only want converts for your team, not friends. “In 1999, Mr. Wyman, his wife and two friends set out to minister to them (the Wicca community), hoping to convert some to Christianity.” This isn’t friendship, it is predation like any cult does “come with us, we have the only truth and if you don’t accept it our god will destroy you”. It’s the same with your desperation to convert others rather than just be friends. And I don’t call my friends “wackos” either.

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      10. Thanks for being a part of this discussion. It is clear that you actually do not read what I send with anything more than a “I’ll prove you wrong, you stupid Christian!” approach. As for evidence: Even when I have given you evidence, you simply say that it is not evidence. Like saying, it’s not Christianity, but the Christians in it that do good. Thanks for changing the argument to fit your narrow argument. I mean, come on, that’s just insensible. It can be easily deduced that the influence of one’s religion, or lack thereof, is directly correlated to the behavior of the individual. Therefore, if Christianity has a history of benevolence and doing-good, then the correlation is at the very least fair evidence.

        If your point is that Christians “lie about their numbers”, well that’s a new piece of argument to me. That has not been a highlight of your arguments until now. Is that like atheists lying about their numbers? I’ve seen Dawkins do that in person at the Hay Literary Festival. So, there ya go. Lying is a human condition too. This is the point I made about similarity between the division of churches and nations. You cannot prove one is a bigger trouble maker than the other. Therefore your arguments are invalidated.

        Too bad you couldn’t read the whole WSJ article, and were forced to make your argument off of one comment by the writer early in the piece, which would later be redefined, both by myself, and by a friend who is one of the most famous/successful witches in the world. But of course, you’ve already proven that your arguments are based on small sound-bites by me that you define and refuse to allow me (the actual writer of the quotes) to define. Perhaps I’ll call you in the future to redefine what I mean by what I say for me.

        I have defined the statement about hedonism and heresy more than once. Yet, you keep repeating the same thing about that comment. You realize that this does not make me believe that you actually are reading what I say with anything more than a grotesque prejudice. Thanks for being a Gargoyle staring down at my words by gritted teeth. All I can say is that if you can’t understand what I mean by how I’ve defined it for you, instead of reinterpreting it in the obscene manner that you have, then you are calling me a liar, and we are at a stalemate. If this were a face to face conversation and you told me that you did not believe me, I would have just walked away far earlier.

        Something you should remember when commenting on future posts with other Christian bloggers. These are our blogs. When I tell you that I am defining the parameters of what I mean by the blog post, and that I am not interested in expanding it into a generic, and quite frankly, old-hat atheist/Christian debate points, it would be wise to learn how debate more than the broad over-used arguments, and then try and pound them home by saying I didn’t prove anything. Neener! neener! isn’t a way to debate. That’s child’s play.

        SchadyFreud, Thanks for participating. May you have a fulfilling life that grows in a circle of kind friends.

        P.S. I do call my friends “wackos”, because I call myself one, and I am looking for people who are as crazy as me to go crazy places and do crazy things with me. And you know what, they understand that and embrace it. If you don’t like that, so what, I’m not interested in living a boring little life, either in my actions or in my thoughts, and I’m not looking at spending my days with people who are.

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      11. You are nothing but one more colonizer who wants to spread his nonsense in the false claim that he is helping someone. Amazing how colonizers and missionaries go hand in hand, claiming to “save” people from nothing at all.

        And thanks for further false claims about me. I do wonder how you think I respond to your comments if I don’t read them.

        Do show that atheists lie about their numbers. I’ll be waiting like I am for so many other things.

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      12. “I do wonder how you think I respond to your comments if I don’t read them.”

        I actually said, “It is clear that you actually do not read what I send with anything more than a “I’ll prove you wrong, you stupid Christian!” approach.” Thanks for proving my point, and thanks for participating.

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  1. I was struck a few years ago by the notion that a good dose of Atheism is a vital part of faith. The Christian gospel, as I understand it, emphasizes the “death” of the believer to their former self and to the conforming power of the world. And then their “resurrection” to a new life in Christ. With that in mind it becomes necessary to to constantly rid oneself of the lazy conforming faith which constructs a God that makes oneself comfortable where and how one is. But the Christian is called to put to death that version of self that they find and seek God afresh every day.

    I have learned more about my faith and my God from Atheists (and those often falsely believed by Christians to be Atheists) than from many years of sitting through sermons in a Church building.

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    1. In the late 50s, the Death of God Theology made a pretty serious impact in Christian academic circles. It spanned a full spectrum of beliefs. Vahanian believed that we needed to allow the growing immanent views of God die to reimagine the transcendence of God and return to orthodoxy. Personally, I disagree with Gabriel Vahanian’s view, and believe there is a place for both/and embrace of transcendence and immanence (very Pentecostal of me, isn’t it!?). But, his thesis that we needed to allow certain aspects of our faith and theology die and be resurrected into something new is a classic and beautiful insight. He later rejected the growing school of belief that he was an early leader in, because it trended toward an actual atheism, or at least a deepening liberalism, which the conservative Vahanian was uncomfortable with. Recently, Christian philosopher Peter Rollins has embraced Death of God theology, mostly tracking it through Žižek who embodies this concept, but doing so by coming from the atheist perspective.

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  2. I would add that your critic seems to think that you cannot view something as heretical and hedonistic and yet still extend unconditional love. I see no contradiction in the two activities. I would think the commenter would be happy that you brought atheists in to share their views. Thanks, Phil.

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    1. Adding to this tension is the fact that the terms heretical and hedonism are used in a variety of ways, which includes people who embrace the terms for themselves. John Piper used the term “Christian Hedonism”, which I disagree with, both in terminology and theological respects. Then there are Christian leaders who have embraced the term heresy. Some have done so because they believe that the ancient heretics helped define the church for the better, which is sometimes true, and sometimes not.

      Clearly, when someone like you and I use the terms, we have an academic definition in mind, whereas others have a loose and derogatory definition in mind, and they want to avoid said heretics and hedonists.

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