The Myth of Bible-based “Family Values”

November 20, 2007 at 6:00 am 54 comments

Way back in the beginnings of d-C (yea, March of this year), The de-Convert posted some troubling examples of what Jesus thinks about family values. Whether it was his youthfully pious mischievousness (Luke 2), his insensitive treatment of a man’s dead father (Luke 9), his over-the-top hyperboles on hate (Luke 14:26), or his inability to reconcile the institution of the family with service to God (Matthew 10:34-36, Luke 18:29-30, Matthew 23:9), Jesus didn’t seem as enthusiastic about family values as Focus on the Family and others lead us to believe.

I feel we should maybe, due to a slightly larger contributor and reader base, revisit that topic a little bit. It does seem awfully important in today’s politics, among other places, to distinguish oneself as a “family-values” proponent. Of course, this isn’t limited to the Christian Right: Muslims, Mormons, Orthodox and Conservative Jews, and other such religious groups all somehow believe their flavour of faith champions family values. I haven’t read too much of the The Book of Mormon yet, but it doesn’t take very long into the Tanakh or Koran to get the head scratching. When it comes to “family values,” it is rather surprising that the topic isn’t swept under the rug in embarrassment.

Of course when Focus on the Family and the Religious Right speaks about “family values,” the focus is rather limited to an oddball arrangement of minor issues that are blown up to make it seem like they are “[affirming] the Bible’s far-reaching impact on religion, culture and history…” What I find interesting is that they talk more about what isn’t really of much concern or even found in the Bible (i.e. homosexuality, gambling, stem-cell research, etc.), but ignore the stuff that is really there. Since I’ve been researching a little bit on the hypothetical “J” author, I figured I would just pick out some examples of good ol’ fashion family values from the beginning, the book of Bereshit (aka Genesis): the acceptance of polygamy and “taking of” random sexual partners (everywhere), the blessing of incestuous marriage/sexual relations (Genesis 12:13, 17:15-16), the acceptance of sexual slavery (Genesis 16:1-4), the offering of daughters’ virginity (Genesis 19:8 – yea, like homosexuality is really the issue here!), the exiling innocent family members (Genesis 21), the acceptance of using deceit to gain divine blessing (Genesis 27:9), and child favouritism (Genesis 37:3-4, also see Gen. 4:8 where God sets the example).

I don’t even need to get into the genocide of Egyptian firstborns in Exodus to show how “family values” hardly holds up in the Tanakh/Old Testament (these examples in Genesis are only a start into a long and painful assault on the family throughout the Judeo-Christian scriptures). But that was back then, right? That was just part of the deal God had with the Hebrews/Israelites, not the new covenant found in Jesus Christ. Right? Well, thanks to The de-Convert, we’ve already outlined just some of Jesus’ own words on family values, how about some other “family values” from the New Testament? Obviously certain “cultural” values had changed over the course of Babylonian exile and Greco-Roman influence (polygamy didn’t have the same sort of favourable outlook, etc.). Yet it doesn’t seem like many of the writers really disagreed with what was going on in the only scripture they knew:

Paul, in Romans 9:13, explicitly endorses the idea of divine favouritism (not to mention God’s ability to hate people), leaves no room for disobedient children under any circumstance in Colossians 3:20, and praises Abraham’s “faith” for willing to murder his son for God in Romans 4:2-3. James, of course, will counter this last idea by praising Abraham’s “works” for acting on the commandment to murder his son (James 2:21). The author of 2 Peter also agrees with some of the most revolting acts of the Old Testament by lauding Lot as a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:8, despite Lot’s treatment of his daughters (i.e. giving them over to the people of Sodom to be raped and then later himself got so drunk that he impregnated both of them – on two different nights). So why doesn’t the Religious Right extrapolate as much as they can from these passages as they do with homosexuality? Paul certainly says more against the institution of marriage (and sexual relations within it) then the combined references to homosexuality (1 Corinthians 7). It also doesn’t take a social historian to see how the many Pauline (or pseudo-Pauline) references to how a man should treat his wife (and vice versa) has constantly changed over the centuries due to cultural shifts: in how many ways have you heard an excuse for the devaluation of women as long as the man “loves” her (Ephesians 5:22ff).

The situation is complicated further by the typical “pop-Christian” arguments that God is “unchanging” or that morals are absolute since they are of divine origin. We already know how the church changes its morals all the time, a phenomenon usually explained by blaming humankind’s imperfection or the misinterpretation of the “absolute-ness” of Scripture. But what does the church have to say about the obvious disregard for what the contemporary church would call “Bible-based family values” in the Bible?

-The Apostate

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54 Comments Add your own

  • 1. athinkingman  |  November 20, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Thanks for gathering all this material in one place. A really useful posting.

  • 2. pastorofdisaster  |  November 20, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Very good. Something that needs to be said over and over about the “family values” crowd. How can one believe in a unified text so strongly and literalism, but become so subjective and selective when it comes to the issues of family? Unfortunately, I think that they still have our culture’s ear and influence. Thanks for a good post.

  • 3. thechaplain  |  November 20, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Thanks for a thought provoking post. As you know, many contemporary Christians pay absolutely no attention to the OT scriptures you cited. But some of the NT scriptures continue to cause difficulty in at least two ways. First, and most importantly, they are often used to justify treating women in despicable ways. And second, they are interpreted in a variety of ways across denominations, thereby creating yet another area in which Christians can’t agree on the allegedly crystal clear guidance that is derived from God’s holy, unimpeachable, binding word.

  • 4. LeoPardus  |  November 20, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Aw! You left out my favorite. 2 Samuel 12: Where the anti-abortion, anti-infanticide God killed a baby for the naughty things his parents did.

  • 5. Justin  |  November 20, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Hey all,
    it’s been a while, I’m in business school so my time is pretty monopolized. Just wanted to clarify the mis-use of the beginning quotes though:

    Luke 9: in first century Palestine, it was common for sons to stay with their father until they passed away, following which he would be buried and given proper ceremony – this was strong tradition and obligation for the son(s). To imply that the father is already dead is quite comical (haha, the visions of a dead man stored in the house awaiting burial). Nonetheless, it is also obvious by Jesus’ statement (the dead burying the dead) that His mind is on the spirit and not the flesh.

    Luke 14:26: Jesus’ teachings had an impact because of the ‘severity’, and heaviness in which he said them. During a time when many of the Jewish society considered themselves religious by merely offering sacrifices, Jesus emphasizes (in a manner meant to be shocking) how one should properly express religious devotion. In today’s terms – it’s not enough to half ass it. Does he literally mean you have to hate your family? No. It’s used as a tool to get a strong message and point across about religious piety.

    Luke 18:29-30: In this passage, Jesus is simply restating the assurances he gave in Luke 12:22-34.

    What’s the point of this reply then? Simply put, it is apparent that just throwing out verses without a deeper understanding of the historical climate is irresponsible. It is pretty easy to make a claim, then go google some bible versus that “back it up” :)

    Naturally, this happens equally between believers and between atheists and believers tho, a sad reality.

    Hope everyone has a great thanksgiving, it’s off to Denver for me!

    God Bless,

    Justin

  • 6. LeoPardus  |  November 20, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Justin:

    in first century Palestine, it was common for sons to stay with their father until they passed away, following which he would be buried and given proper ceremony – this was strong tradition and obligation for the son(s).

    Bunk! Simply false. When you hear something like this from the pulpit, or read it in an apologetics book, go look for the primary (or lowest order) historical sources.

    Children left their homes, and sometimes moved to other towns, then just as they did in any other era. No one waited around for Dad to die. When he died, they’d come back for the memorial.

    To borrow from your phraseology; haha, the visions of a young man waiting around the old homestead for Dad to kick off.

    To imply that the father is already dead is quite comical (haha, the visions of a dead man stored in the house awaiting burial).

    So you have some idea that back then they tossed the dead in the ground before the body was cool?

    There was a process, varying a bit with family wealth, that involved washing the body, anointing it with fragrances, wrapping in grave clothes, and allowing relatives to view the deceased. The process normally got the dead into the ground within a day after he/she died.

    So it’s not at all unreasonable to think of a young man, whose father had died that very day, or the day before, wanting a day to go to the funeral.

  • 7. Thinking Ape  |  November 20, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Leopardus, if I made it to 2 Samuel, this post would have been a small book :).

    Justin, I entirely agree that pulling things out of context is irresponsible and lacks integrity. I am not here to argue that Jesus was necessarily “anti-family,” although the case could definitely be easy to make even within the historical context. The point was that there is little to suggest in the New Testament, as well as the Old, that “family values” belong in the hands of the Biblical literalists/fundamentalists.

    Of course, the danger of arguing from the historical perspective is that foggy area of relativism that I alluded to at the end of my post. The list of values in the Bible that are permanent and unchanging continues to decrease as our society moves beyond ancient traditions.

    As for the specific examples you gave, between the two of us, I would like to hear your sources since it would be useful for my own research. I know Gordon Fee came up with a similar explanation, but was later discredited. I am not doubting anything, but I would like to check up on the reference.

  • 8. QMonkey  |  November 20, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    I sometimes think is a bad idea of lose focus from the fact that the bible is not reliable. So when we start to criticise Jesus attitudes or the slate the things he said we are saying that what it’s reported he said, he actually said. I don’t concede that.

    The bible itself doesn’t even claim to report everything Jesus said – maybe as he walked away from the sermon on the mount… he said to ‘Brian’ ‘I hope they don’t take that son of god stuff too literally’. (prove he didn’t!)

    My point is mainly though – I don’t think it adds much discuss what Jesus meant by this or that, because at best the bible is third party reportage of events decades before by people trying to get a religion off the ground.

  • 9. Thinking Ape  |  November 20, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    I don’t think it adds much discuss what Jesus meant by this or that, because at best the bible is third party reportage of events decades before by people trying to get a religion off the ground.

    I don’t think there are many people here willing to dispute this – the sad fact of the matter is that many religionists do believe just the opposite and are wanting to institutionalize that into not only their own lives, but into a pseudo-theocratic law.

  • 10. Jersey  |  November 20, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Regardless, a child is supposed to be obedient and disciplined whether or not there is religion in the home. (I am not including troubled or seriously dysfunctional families here.) Too many parents today “spare the rod”, i.e. they are no longer disciplining their children, so they are now spoiled, unable to follow common courtesy and rules outside the home, and are a ruckus for too many many people to handle.

    At the very least, even humanists and atheists will tell you the necessity of family values: love, discipline, obedience, etiquette, and praising children should they do something extraordinary.

  • 11. Thinking Ape  |  November 21, 2007 at 12:58 am

    Jersey, I am supposing you are referring to the Colossians passage concerning obedience. While America may be overrun with spoiled undisciplined little tykes, there is also a plague of manipulative and abusive parents. Paul does not say, “children, unless you [or the state] think you are being treated unfairly, you must be obedient.” “Paul” (or whoever the author of Colossians is) is extending the traditional law of “honour thy father and mother” to a stricter unconditional obedience.

    Although I agree with you that there are far too many undisciplined children, the problem with people who take “scripture” far too seriously is that they can always scare their children into submission via the wrath of God. I honestly don’t believe the writer of Colossians meant for that letter to be taken as scripture/inspired/inerrant, nor was it meant to be taken as an extreme.

  • 12. Justin  |  November 21, 2007 at 1:02 am

    LeoPardus:

    Bunk! Simply false. When you hear something like this from the pulpit, or read it in an apologetics book, go look for the primary (or lowest order) historical sources.

    Our contradictions obviously come from the difference in our sources. My information came from (a) my religious studies course at a non-religious affiliated college, and (b) the Harper-Collins Study Bible which contains commentary (per verse) from top religious scholars.

    So a disagreement in sources perhaps, but definately not “bunk” ;)

    any lack of reply from me in the next week is because I shall be out enjoying Thanksgiving. Everyone have a safe and fun holiday…fill up on some turkey!

  • 13. Jon  |  November 21, 2007 at 4:20 am

    Yawn ….
    morons can’t figure out that the traditions of the multiple eras of the bible’s collection of books are very strong on “family values”. You have to dance through the fantasy land of wishful thinking and manipulation of language to say otherwise. Of course there is no discussion of stem cells! Of course homosexuality is spoken against – of course, only an idiot would open up the book and say “look, the words are in the book!!”.
    As far as the idea of the family values challenging the Egyptians, again – morons in motion. Isn’t it funny that the non-religious make such convenient drivel about the religious! Even according to the story, there was every opportunity for the slave owners to give up the slaves to their freedom, but the haters of the slaves and corporate elitist sweat shop owners refused, so they paid with the loss of the evolutionary downline of their corrupt selves. All they had to do was give up the slaves. They made the choice to have their own children killed.

    This site is proof that ignorance is still rampant among those that think they are the enlightened, when they are really just the bigots.

  • 14. Thinking Ape  |  November 21, 2007 at 4:52 am

    Justin & Leopardus,
    The issue concerning the dead father et al. is rather moot – the point of the passage was not so much the grotesque imagery or the callousness of the dead, it was the underlying problem that devout religionists will continue to face: God is more important than family. Period. That is the point of almost every single reference Jesus makes about family (including his own!). It is the point that no one can get away from. It is the point of a very loving mother who believes their child of a mature age is going to hell because he or she does not believe in the right things.

    Throughout the entire canon, the institution of family is under attack from a crazed maniacal selfish deity. Look at Job – lets make an example of him, let the court adversary test his faith at the expense of his family; after all, we can just whip him up a new one! A better one! Does anyone else not realize how insane this is?! Abraham, man of faith in three major world religion, a man who was the epitome of someone who chose God over his family. “Family values”… garbage.

    I’m not going to argue whether this is theologically correct or not. Conservative apologists won’t care what I have to say and atheists… well, care less. The point is, Christianity perpetually manufacturers its image at the expense of its own “truth,” and continues to make it the most watered down religion of them all. For better or worse.

  • 15. Brian  |  November 21, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Couldn’t agree more with the point about selective and creative support for certain issues. Yet hasn’t this always been true? Sure, we can dissect the many disturbing verses to get to the contextual situation, but some will still come off pretty awful. Frankly, I think we just went off script and added some things.

  • 16. Parentsunderground  |  November 21, 2007 at 9:01 am

    I think the problem is with theologians or priests, bible thumping quacks who take verses and writing selections out of context. In the context that the Bible was written, nothing is really contradictory. It is when people try to take the context out of the period in which Jesus lived and try fitting it into today’s modern developed life. Since Jesus came there have been other prophets that have take manking further up the ladder of civilization… there have been Mohammed, the Babm Bahaullah to name a few. The latter prophet is helping manking to create the Kingdom of God on earth. We are eblightened enough to think in larger terms. Bahaullah’s message is the world is one country and mankind it’s citizens. The mantra is God is one, Man is one and Religions are all one. There is what is called the Prophetic line which shows that all these sages are closely related i.e. they are cousins similar to the Royal Family. We mortals make distinctions between the Creator and His/Her messengers but there is none. The message is like different chapters of the same book but we have to be prepared to move on with each message not get stuck in the old. That is where the contradiction lies.
    Thanks you.

  • 17. bipolar2  |  November 22, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    ** Jesus-the-Brat, god-child of lost gospels **

    . . . well, of course, there is that “canonical” incident in the Temple where the boy Jesus “astounds” the “doctors” with his ability to interpret scripture. (Easy for him since he dictated it.)

    When Mom and Dad show up back in Jerusalem to find their missing child, Jesus-the-teen says that he has to be about “my father’s business.”

    Poor Joseph, you gotta feel for the guy, cuckolded by God and dissed by His bratty Son.

    Jesus: the missing years — attracted writers. Among those non-canonical gospels that didn’t make the cut in the 4th and 5th centuries C.E. are so-called “infancy gospels.” In one scene, Jesus-the-Brat changes his little child playmates into real kids, goats that is. (See. W. Barnstone ed. The other bible. Harper. with excerpts from 5 such gospels. It contains 700+ pages of Jesus lore that “should” have been burned.)

    It won’t be too surprising to learn that an early critique of the numerous Jesus cults claimed that he was only a magician who had learned his dark art in Egypt. (Celsus. On the true doctrine. c. 180 C.E. trans. RJ Hoffmann. Oxford Pr. 1987.)

    Those boring xian bishops really left out the fun stuff.

    bipolar2
    copyright asserted 2007

  • 18. Dennis  |  November 25, 2007 at 9:41 am

    I love to mingle with my fellow christains but don’t know how to blog……can anyone help me on how to blog,what to blog??? please!!!! Do so and God will bless you.
    Thanks.
    D_chosen@myway.com

  • 19. locomotivebreath1901  |  November 26, 2007 at 11:15 am

    See: Reactions to Truth.

  • 20. Alex  |  January 8, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher’s interpretation of the story? (here: samsonblinded.org/blog/genesis-37.htm ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I’d like to hear other opinions.

  • 21. Rover  |  August 5, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Apostate,

    You are somewhat of a biblical scholar. It doesn’t seem far that you take teachings out of context to prove your point. When Jesus said we must “hate” our mother and father, he was using a jewish literary device which exaggerrates to make a point. I believe Mathew quotes the same story and Jesus says that we should love him more then our mother and father.

    Also, when the bible records that someone did something that does not mean that God approved of it. When Abraham slept with his “sex slave” the bible doesn’t say that God desired this. He uses things like this to accompish his will, but it is men who are doing them.

    If the bible is full of legitimate errors why seek to create false errors?

  • 22. The Apostate  |  August 5, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Rover,

    When Jesus said we must “hate” our mother and father, he was using a jewish literary device which exaggerrates to make a point.

    I am pretty sure that is what I meant by “his over-the-top hyperboles on hate.” I insinuated, by using the term “hyperbole” that it was a literary device. The problem is, it doesn’t appear to contradict whatsoever Jesus’ teachings on the “importance” of family.

    I believe Mathew quotes the same story and Jesus says that we should love him more then our mother and father.

    Indeed it does – if I were the author of Matthew, I certainly would have left out such a notion as well.

    He uses things like this to accompish his will, but it is men who are doing them.

    Of course morality changes. Surprising, however, that God doesn’t mind a little unethical behaviour every now and then – the means, in these cases, justify then ends. Today’s totalitarian dictators would be proud.

    You can continue to defend the lack of family principles in the Bible or you could try to counteract them with some positive values. They are certainly there, but they are not exactly overwhelming. Of course, this article was not a focus on a Biblical exegesis or on the contradictions of the Bible – it was a social commentary on the religious right obsession with something that isn’t there. It appears that you might be following suit, however – ignoring the perverse and concentrating on the idyllic.

  • 23. Rover  |  August 5, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Apostate,

    No, I was just asking for fairness. Let the perverse stand as perverse, but don’t manipulate text to make your point stronger. There are many seemingly “uncaring” statements made by Christ, but many of these seem to have very good explanations if you allow for the fact that Christ might have been God and had insight into people he spoke to that we don’t have.
    When you were a christian did your interpretaton of the words of Christ cause you to treat your children with anything but love? How about your wife, did you treat her with love as well. Did you see these passages in the same light you see them now? I know I am starting to see the bible differently as I interact with the de converts and perhaps I am being blind on this issue, but I do see a tendency to find something wrong with every teaching when one becomes a de convert. I know these may be toll-like comments, so please feel free to ignore this post.

  • 24. The Apostate  |  August 5, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Rover,
    Your common thread seems to be that we are in complete ignorance about scriptures and we should either leave it at that or just believe whatever we want as long as we believe Jesus was God. If we do not have the insight, then what is the point of following the majority of the Bible if you can’t understand it (you are the believer, not me)? If you can show me where I have perverted the text, please do so. My opinions are backed by many scholars – albeit ones you would certainly disagree with.

    My love for my wife and children have absolutely nothing to do with the Bible or Jesus. My interpretation, at the time of being a believer, was based on what I wanted to believe Jesus was saying. My thirst to know what he was *actually* saying, regardless of my subjective impositions, was what led me down the path of de-conversion – hardly something that I wished for myself.

    De-converts go through many different stages. Sometimes we can see the negative in everything we use to believe. While I have done this from time to time, I am more concerned at this point with what good I can grab from different philosophical and ethical systems. The only way to do this is to take a look and analyze them – the most prevalent in America happens to be a peculiar form of Christianity known as evangelicalism. I believe that the most unbiased account of Christianity’s take on the family, however, is hopelessly vague and utterly selective. There is nothing I cannot take from Christianity that I cannot find in other philosophical or religious systems.

    I don’t believe these are “troll-like” comments at all. You bring up some valid points and you appear to have a genuine concern for where others are coming from. Simply because we disagree doesn’t make you a blogtroll.

  • 25. Rover  |  August 5, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Apostate

    “Your common thread seems to be that we are in complete ignorance about scriptures and we should either leave it at that or just believe whatever we want as long as we believe Jesus was God.”

    I have made no such claim. I think I have shown great respect toward the de cons biblical knowledge, however, it does not mean that I cannot disagree with your point of view or occassional clarify my own. Do you think it is possible that once you no longer hold that scripture is “God breathed” that you may then find fault in places where there may not really be an issue? I think it is possible, just as it is possible that i overlook glaring contradictions because I come at it from a particular point of view.
    Also, why should I assume that all de converts had the same understanding of the Scriptures that I do? From what I understand some of you were biblical scholars and others were not. Should I just assume you all have the exact same knowledge base?

  • 26. The de-Convert  |  August 6, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Rover,

    As a young father, I gave my kids direction that were not clear and caused some confusion. Over time, I learned to be crystal clear and say things exactly in a way they could understand.

    One would think an all-knowing, all-seeing god would not make so many statements that are so difficult to understand and would spawn wars, disunity, most believers condemning another set of believers to hell (who in turn condemn them to hell), etc.

    However, was this intentional?

    Matthew 13:10-15And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

    ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
    And seeing you will see and not perceive;
    For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
    Their ears are hard of hearing,
    And their eyes they have closed,
    Lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears,
    Lest they should understand with their hearts
    and turn,
    So that I should heal them.’

    (I offer no commentary on this since I do not want you to think I was misquoting it but I simply will let it stand on its own)

    How does this make any sense to you?

    Paul

  • 27. Rover  |  August 6, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    The de-Convert,

    (I offer no commentary on this since I do not want you to think I was misquoting it but I simply will let it stand on its own)

    I am not sure the above comment was necessary, but since I started the discussion so be it :)

    I would have appreciated knowing why you think this is a difficult saying so that I could answer it properly. It seems to make sense to me that he was saying that his teachings take some discernment. You have to “put some things together” so to speak. If the religious leaders of his day took everything he said without considering its true meaning their would be no chance they could understand. Basically, he seems to be saying that only those who listen with a desire to understand will understand. those who listen and choose not to understand will not understand. I suppose this teaching is very appropriate for this discussion. Those who want to make him appear to be crazy will say that he taugth cannibalism with the Lord’s Supper. Others may contemplate the teaching and come to the conclusion that we must consume ourselves with Christ in order to truly follow and learn from him.

    I am not trying to pick a fight. I was expressing a frustration that perhaps I had no right to express.

  • 28. The Apostate  |  August 6, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Rover,

    I have made no such claim.

    Sorry, I realize that where I meant to speak emphatically about the universal “we” of the human species. I did not mean to accuse you of accusing us de-cons of ignorance. I meant to say that it appears, to me, that you are concerned about the limit of humanity’s knowledge in general, but especially in accordance to the scriptures.
    Hopefully that clarifies what I meant.

    Do you think it is possible that once you no longer hold that scripture is “God breathed” that you may then find fault in places where there may not really be an issue?

    Of course I think it is possible. However, as a graduate student and future religious studies instructor, I have an academic and professional responsibility to my interpretations. However, what I write on this blog is meant more for “food for thought” than a professional opinion. I think right-wing conservative Christians are out to lunch on the majority of their issues, but there is nothing in this post, in particular, that a liberal Christian would have an issue with (although they do compromise the majority of scripture in the name of cultural relativity – for better or worse).
    Although I do admit it is definitely more than possible (I think it is probable) that their can be biased flaws in a de-cons interpretation, I would like to talk about specifics. For the year or so I have been a contributor I have rarely had a religionist of any sort dismantle or logically refute any of my articles. However, I have had the need to apologize to several people for mistakes in tact and presentation.

    Also, why should I assume that all de converts had the same understanding of the Scriptures that I do?

    Did I make that implication? I checked my last response and I don’t think I did. I do think the majority of contributors on this site have fairly extensive apologetic or theological backgrounds, whether they were laypersons or pastors/ministers. I don’t think, however, that you should ever assume anything simply because of a person’s background. Don’t take my word, or de-Convert’s word, or HeIsSailing’s word for any of it – whether we have more pastoral or religious training than you or not. If something in my post troubles you, tell me. Find the problem and criticize it. Exploit the gap in the logic or the historical flaw I have made. This goes with any post. I am sure you will find many mistakes. In every article I write I have either an explicit or implicit hypothesis – if that doesn’t live up to credible scrutiny, than I must either dismiss it or re-evaluate my premises.

  • 29. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 7, 2008 at 12:56 am

    I definitely don’t have an extensive apologetic or theological background, though I have read the bible front-to-back, many years ago. I have found that most apologetic works I read feel like the authors are really reaching in trying to find a good explanation; the bible is already assumed to be true and inerrant, so they have to find a way to make things fit, when the simpler answer is that the bible is simply a religious text, written by men long ago.

    The fact that Christianity needs apologetics, that God’s supposedly inerrant, divinely inspired book, his very Word, doesn’t make obvious sense to everyone regardless of cultural differences… well, it doesn’t speak very highly of that supposed God, does it?

  • 30. The de-Convert  |  August 7, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Rover,

    I would have appreciated knowing why you think this is a difficult saying so that I could answer it properly.

    Preceding the above passage, Jesus told the parable of the sower. When asked why he spoke in parables, his response leads you to conclude that he does not want certain hearers to understand what he was saying. In other words, his response is that those with dull hearts, whose ears are hard of hearing, and whose eyes have been closed, are intentionally confused. Otherwise, they may see, hear, understand, have a change of heart and be healed. I am missing something here? Did he not want their hearts to change? Did he not come to save the world?

    Jesus’ response does not make sense since he should want his preaching to yield the result of a changed heart. Jesus also said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Why would he now contradict himself by stating that those who are healthy should understand, but the sick should not lest they be healed? Why would he now more or less say that those who are healthy will become more healthy, but those who are sick will become more sick?

    Again, how does that make sense to you?

    I am not trying to pick a fight. I was expressing a frustration that perhaps I had no right to express.

    Actually, you picked the fight (and by fight I mean simply that you will be called out on your statement), when you said to Apostate:

    It doesn’t seem far that you take teachings out of context to prove your point.

    You see, the reality is, we see Christians as taking the “teachings out of context” to prove their point. It is the only way to reconcile the contradictions, inconsistencies, etc. Trust me, I know. I did it for many many years. I now try to let the passage stand on its own merit.

    Paul

    p.s. It’s ok for us to disagree. This is debating not “fighting.”

  • 31. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 9:30 am

    The de-Convert,

    Excelllent response. Let me study the passage a bit. I have never looked at it in the way you have explained it. I sure you can understand that when you are challenged sometimes you (meaning me) become defensive. I thank you for taking the time to be patient with me. Also, sometimes I do’t pick the right word and my intention is not clearly communicated. I will try to be a bit more precise, but its not always easy!

  • 32. The de-Convert  |  August 7, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Don’t worry. You’re in good company. The god-man, Jesus, didn’t do a good job picking his words either. That’s why we’re having this discussion. :)

  • 33. Bobbi Jo  |  August 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

    The de-Convert,

    ” Why would he now more or less say that those who are healthy will become more healthy, but those who are sick will become more sick?”

    Can you expand on this? I have never looked at it how you have said it, and I’m not quite grasping your point here. I would appriciate it. Thanks.

  • 34. The de-Convert  |  August 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    In the passage quoted in Comment#26, Jesus was explaining why he was intentionally confusing his audience.

    He made the following statements:

    1. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him
    2. …lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them (quote from Isaiah)

    In other words, those who are healthy, will be healthier and those who are sick will be confused as to not get healed.

    This is a direct contradiction to another one of his statements and the one we all quote:

    It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…

    Paul

  • 35. Bobbi Jo  |  August 7, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for that. I will have to read up and think this through before I comment further.

  • 36. Larry T.  |  August 7, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I was looking at commentary on line for the above verses Matthew 13:10-15 and saw this posted:

    “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
    Isn’t this from the Republican Party platform?

    I thought it was pretty hilarious actually. I am investigating those verses though—I as a Christian have read them and not really understood them, except in the sense that the word of God hardens the hearts of some, and convicts others–and since Jesus already knew who would respond and who would not (many of the Pharisess being among the ones who would not) he used parables to either draw to him, or repulse from him. It truly is a mystery–only God truly knows the hearts.

  • 37. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    The de-Convert,

    It seems to me, and I have not consulted any commentary, that:
    2. …lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them (quote from Isaiah)
    The text is referring to their dullness being the cause of their blindness, so I think my original interpretation may still hold up. They have not been granted the ability to understand the parables because they did not respond appropriately to what had already been given.

  • 38. The de-Convert  |  August 7, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Rover,

    So you’re saying that God has to grant you the ability to understand truth before you can understand truth?

    Was Saul “responding appropriately” to Jesus when he was intercepted on the road to Damascus? Nope, in fact he was out killing Christians. Why was he chosen to be “granted the ability to understand” when these poor people were not granted that ability and as a result, are condemned to eternal torture in the fires of hell.

    The bottom line is here we can go around in circles here because it’s all very INCONSISTENT beliefs. That’s the ultimate conclusion of this discussion. We can both use scriptures to prove our conflicting points of view. Trust me, I can argue either side of this fence.

    Paul

  • 39. The de-Convert  |  August 7, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Larry T.

    It truly is a mystery–only God truly knows the hearts.

    You are absolutely correct. What you have is a bunch of clues and really do not all add up to solve the mystery so in the end you just have to say only the ‘creator of the mystery’, in this case it’s assigned to god, knows the answer. However, to give us some sort of an ability to believe the mystery is solvable, you have to carefully select with clues you’ll accept as real clues and which ones you’ll just ignore.

    Paul

  • 40. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    The de-Convert,

    good point

  • 41. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    The de-Convert

    I suppose my answer should be that God knows who will respond to him. Some will respond with a small amount of revelation and others need a tremendous amount of revelation. Others will never worship him even if he spoke to them directly, like Satan. Seems like a good answer on paper, but it lacks something doesn’t it? No need to tell me what is lacking, I think I know.

  • 42. john t.  |  August 7, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    The de-Convert

    I like reading many of the scriptures in the Bible. One I always found so relevant is Hebrews 8:10-13…..It pretty much confirms for me how important our “intuition” is. It also says the rest of the scriptures are not needed lol. By the way I am not Christian I just like words and the Bible has plenty of them. Some good, some not.

  • 43. Joel Hansen  |  August 8, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I just want to say, I always thought “family values” was just a loosely-defined phrase used by politicians and leaders to appeal to the faith or morality that every evangelical or fundamentalist seems to have at the moment.

    You are very right that Jesus didn’t have much to say about “family values” (I think the phrase is pretty much meaningless anyway), but he did say to “love one another as I have loved you.” That might cover some of those, or maybe not.

    I am a Christian, but I am a little fed-up with the church at large these days. It seems like most Christians are more concerned with their own “prosperity” than denying themselves and laying down their lives to love others.

  • 44. The Apostate  |  August 8, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Joel Hansen,

    I feel you have gathered the gist of my argument. I think Jesus’ didn’t think much of family because that was a fairly normal response for apocalyptic teachers as well as, excuse the anachronism, spiritual gurus (perhaps Mohammad as a peculiar exemption). Apocalypticists had little need for family values because the world was soon to end anyway. Why waste time developing healthy familial ties when there was much work to be done to further the kingdom of God?

    I wouldn’t allow the church to decide the fate your faith though. Before de-converting, my passion for the gospel combined with my criticism of the contemporary church only wanted me to concentrate on furthering a reformation, or intellectual revival, among evangelical Christians. I definitely wouldn’t allow the Americanization of Christianity to define what you think of the religion. While I am not here to defend Christianity, I hope that you search out the different forms of faith in order not to eventually only de-convert from a strawman faith.

  • 45. furious buddha  |  August 10, 2008 at 5:01 am

    Great post. Keep up the good work.

  • 46. JC  |  August 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Just curious how we would view the book of Proverbs it seems to be saturated with family based values.

  • 47. The Apostate  |  August 11, 2008 at 1:52 am

    JC,
    As I have mentioned in other articles, I believe that despite the obvious patriarchy of the Jewish nation, the Hebrews and Israelites had a far more stable and at time more ethical understanding of the family than the later Christian religion. This, of course, is for obvious reasons due to their radically different traditions (Judaism – a nation, Christianity – an apocalyptic movement).

  • 48. nikki  |  August 14, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    way to take scripture out of context

  • 49. The Apostate  |  August 14, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    way to take scripture out of context

    I would like to see someone give an in depth study, of any sort – sociological, psychological, theological – on how Jesus promotes family -specific values.

  • 50. harry  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Theological you say?????

    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ THE RIVER OF FIRE ///////////////////////////////////
    “Their atheism is not a real disbelief. It is rather an aversion toward somebody we know very well but whom we hate with all our heart, exactly as the demons do.” :o

    “Do you perceive the devil’s slander of our all loving, all kind, and absolutely good God? That is why in Greek the devil was given the name DIABOLOS, “the slanderer”.

    “But what was the instrument of the devil’s slandering of God? What means did he use in order to convince humanity, in order to pervert human thought?”

    “He used “theology”. He first introduced a slight alteration in theology which, once it was accepted, he managed to increase more and more to the degree that Christianity became completely unrecognizable. This is what we call “Western theology”.”

    **********”Did you ever try to pinpoint what is the principal characteristic of Western theology? Well, its principal characteristic is that it considers God as the real cause of all evil.”************

    “What is the cause of this waning of men’s love for God? The answer, certainly, is sin. Sin is the dark cloud which does not permit God’s light to reach our eyes.”

    http://philthompson.net/pages/library/riveroffire.html
    ;)

  • [...] The Myth of Bible-based “Family Values” [...]

  • 52. the gadfly  |  February 23, 2010 at 4:00 am

    social justice has its roots
    in morals which proclaim
    the dignity of every soul
    the sacred Family Name

  • 53. Lois  |  June 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Do you have more great atricels like this one?

  • 54. Anonymous  |  September 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Reputation Management reputation management Found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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