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What Christian Fundamentalism Leaves Behind: An Angry Blog Post

One of the questions that I get quite often is this: Are you angry?

The answer to that question changes. Today the answer is no, I’m not angry. Two days ago the answer would have been eh, maybe a little. And I have days–sometimes just moments–when the answer is yes.

Or YES.

Anger is such a weird word, mostly because it’s sort of limiting. Unlike some, my anger doesn’t reveal itself through crazy amounts of shouting or hitting or any sort of violence. Duh, I’m a Christian! While I’ve known Christians who are free enough to become angry, my Christianity has caused me to rarely feel comfortable showing anger blatantly or truthfully. My anger is emotionally charged. I sometimes yell when I’m angry. I cry on days when I’m angry. My anger sits in my gut. Some days I get diarrhea when I’m angry. Other days I get migraines. Occasionally I take my anger out on my wife, usually passive aggressively.

But again, most days I’m really not angry. I’m not!!! At least, not anymore.

I think most people assume that I’m angry at my past or angry at all of the Independent Fundamental Baptists who taught me about God and Jesus. And while I’m sure that’s true once in a while, the bigger reason is because I was an Independent Fundamental Baptist. For fifteen years. And that’s how I learned how to be angry.

As most of you know, I wrote about my IFB experiences in Churched, but I only shared a small part of the story. Most of the stories I shared were the ones I considered digestible to the common church goer. The fluffier parts of the story.

I steered clear of the darker shades of my church past. I didn’t write about the suicides. I didn’t write about the molestations that occurred. I didn’t write about the lies that the leadership of my church told. I didn’t write about the numerous times I watched my mother and father in meetings arguing and fighting with other Christians over “truth” or “how somebody was being treated” or “abused”. I didn’t write about the racism. I didn’t write about our school’s high pregnancy rate. I didn’t write about the bullying that occurred in our Christian school (from students and teachers). I didn’t write about the horrific corruption we encountered at the Christian colleges my older sisters attended. I didn’t write about the one Christian teacher I had in the fifth grade who, on nearly every single morning, would call students up to his desk and loudly ridicule us at the top of his lungs and verbally abuse us until we cried (all in front of the class).

My friend Willie (name changed) got it the worst. We all experienced it. But Willie got yelled at and belittled nearly every day.

Oh, I told the truth in Churched. Just not all of it.

And I also didn’t write about how angry most of us were. Sure, we had happy days. But our joy was shallow. Anger was just a part of being a fundamental Baptist. We were fighters! We were angry about politics. We were angry about sin. We were angry at the town for not letting us have permits. We were angry about the “idiots” who somehow got voted in as deacons. Most of us were just angry people.

The thing is, most of us didn’t know we were angry. None of us would have called ourselves “angry”.

When my family left that church, we left angry. And we left with seven angry families. And four weeks later, we started another church! I was away at college when this happened.

One Christmas holiday, while I was home on vacation, the church that my family helped start was finally preparing to hire a new pastor. On the Sunday after Christmas, a pastor from Kentucky came and applied for the position. After the service, while a bunch of us ate lunch together, one of the church members asked Pastor Sonny (name changed) what he thought about black people coming to our church.

I will remember his words for as long as I live: “Well, I don’t mind blacks coming to our church and getting saved; but then I’d encourage them to find a new church to attend, you know, a black church.”

Four hours later, during the Sunday night service, Sonny became the pastor.

And Sonny was angry.

Meanwhile, as my family discovered Sonny’s neo-dispensationalism, I was away at college evolving into a Calvinist–an angry one who loved beer, U2, and sovereignty.

Three years later my family was voted out of Sonny’s church. (That’s just a nice way of saying we were kicked out).

For the next four years, my family was lost in many ways. My father was angry and stopped going to church altogether. My mother was angry and bouncing around from church to church to church, trying desperately to fit in. And I was an angry former fundamental Baptist who was trying to become un-angry through Calvinism.

(I explain a lot more of this story in my next book.)

But I tell you all of that for this reason: I was raised on anger. Anger was holy in a way. It was righteous and warranted and just a part of our culture. As long as we stayed in our culture, nobody got hurt and nobody ever realized how angry we were. But whenever we stepped outside of our culture, that’s when our anger revealed its ugly face.

At 26, when I moved to Northern Virginia, I left fundamentalism (physically anyway). And also began walking away from Calvinism. But I was still angry. Anger was just one of the tools I’d learned to use to cope, to live, to express myself. But in the real world, anger didn’t work. Instead, anger was something I had to overcome.

I ended up in therapy. Ever since, I’ve been taking steps (some big and some small) away being angry and learning (and relearning) how to exist without anger.

It a took a lot of therapy before I was able to realize that I wasn’t angry AT my past; I was angry because of it. And it’s hard to let go of anger. But I think that’s especially true when anger is rooted in your faith–you know, the core of who you are (or want to be) and the values you believe in and hold most dear–the recovery process is long, hard, ugly, and full of guilt-inducing setbacks.

And I still get angry. Mostly because I hate Christian fundamentalism. Hate it. I hate it because of my own experiences. I don’t trust it. I hate it because I’ve witnessed hundreds and hundreds of people being hurt by it. I’ve witnessed abuse in the name of God. I’ve witnessed pastors getting away with God knows what (and using God as an excuse or a crutch). And I could go on and on. I have a very hard time seeing the “good” of Christian fundamentalist culture.

And I know that’s because of my own experiences. And it’s not always good and holy to hate something, even when you have reason to.

Still, I don’t trust fundamentalism. I don’t trust it because the people who get caught up in fundamentalist culture are taught to fear challenging fundamentalist culture. And when you don’t have the freedom to challenge, when you’re too afraid to speak up, or people shut up when you finally do voice your thoughts, that’s when fundamentalism is the most dangerous, abusive, and devastating.

But occasionally I allow my distrust of fundamentalist culture to make assumptions about people or ideas or opinions. I know that. I’m not stupid or naive. I look in the mirror. I see myself sometimes.

And I’m working on that. But here’s the thing. When you’re recovering from a fundamentalist lifestyle (like the one I was raised in), the pain and sadness and fear that you experienced can often be triggered by the simplest of things. It’s rarely the big stuff–the loud and the obnoxious stuff don’t bother me. At all. It’s little stuff that can set me off. A scent. An innuendo. A reaction. A judgment. A word. It’s the small stuff, the stuff that goes under people’s radar as innocent and good and holy that I struggle to handle with grace and love and peace. Because at my church, it was always the little stuff that hurt people the most.

And today, it’s the tiny things that can sometimes trigger my anger. Give me diarrhea. Migraines. Thankfully, the angry days or moments are becoming more spread apart. I’m still healing, but I’m moving forward.

Does my anger show up in a blog post from time to time? Sure. But far less than many people assume. I think sometimes people mistake my passion as anger. And I do have a lot of passion. But passion is very different from anger.

Passion is fueled by what and who you love and anger is fueled by what and who you hate.

For instance, yesterday’s post about Dr. Jim Garlow and his stance regarding gay marriage wasn’t because I hate or am angry at Dr. Jim Garlow. I post that because I love gay people. Because God loves gay people. And I believe my gay brothers and sisters should enjoy the same freedoms as I enjoy.

I don’t post videos of evangelists and preachers saying crazy things because I hate those men and women, I post those videos because I’m passionate about the message of the gospel, how it gets communicated, how it gets promoted. I think that’s true for most of the people who visit this blog on a regular basis.

This blog isn’t about me being angry at “The Church” or at “Christians”; it’s about me being passionate about God, Jesus, and a message of hope that I really believe in. But this blog is also about my passion for all people–from the fundamentalist to the Rob Bell lover to the Muslim to the atheist and all those in between–to have a place where they are free to engage God’s story. However they want to engage God’s story. To believe it or trust it or challenge it or not believe it or love it or hate it or…

…even get angry at it.

And hopefully, perhaps in some small way, find a little hope in it.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: Today’s answer is still… no, I’m not angry.



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Hugh Hollowell

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm


Awesome post, Matt. I so hear you. I get accused of being angry all the time, and then get accused of not telling the truth about why I am angry.

In the strand of fundamentalism I experienced growing up, anger was practically a love language.



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Chad Estes

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Thanks for the post. I’m finding many of my emotions merging into gratefulness- even for situations that are unresolved and for people who still suck.



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Alise

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Matthew, I just want to give you a big hug right now.

Thank you for this candid, beautiful post.



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fresh

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm


Best JNNPR post! Thanks for your transparency. It’s good to see your heart here, not just your humor. I too was raised in fear [root, I believe, of hate]. Although my “brand” was Mennonite Bro. [Speaking of which, why do we still have denominations?]
I digress.
My life is now a constant re-programming away from fear, moving towards love. I choose love!



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    RobM

    posted April 2, 2011 at 9:03 am


    Just want to second this sentiment. I’m always late commenting, cause I only check here every few days (a lot of the posts don’t mean anything to me — the art stuff, and only some of the videos).

    Very naked & honest, best post ever.

    Came from a fundy background, although without much anger, was a really eye opening thing to attend PCC for 4 years, and experiences afterwards. It is very shocking how much anger is generated and utilized in fundydom. It’s destructive to everyone involved, and the ones that don’t realize it, or are enabled by it, or capitalize on it are the scariest. IMO Fundamentalism needs to go away, although that’s unlikely, and all I feel I can do about it is to hope the fundamentalists in my life come to their senses, and don’t address it with them.

    Anyway, just wanted to say excellent excellent writing, and am very much looking forward to the new book. Churched was the fastest book I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it down.



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kevin

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm


This was splendid. I appreciate your perspective – and even your approach – regardless of the times that I disagree with you (or maybe the better way to put it would be the times that I am challenged by you).

Good stuff MPT.



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Shaun McDonnell

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm


Why does it always have to be MPT vs. Fundamentalism as though because one doesn’t agree with Rob Bell that makes them a fundamentalist?

Everything you write about, post about, tweet about has something to do with ‘them’ – those ‘fundamentalists’ that you are not very fond of.

There is no hope here, in my opinion – just rants about other people having rants and how no matter what happens there will always be rants.

Interestingly enough, you’re desire to be the anti-fundamentalist is slowly becoming fundamentalist anti-fundamentalism.

Finally, anger is healthy. Jesus got angry plenty of times.

-Shaun



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    Luke

    posted March 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm


    Correct me if I am wrong but I think there is a fine line between being angry at times (Jesus) and living a lifestyle that is saturated in anger (the lifestyle MPT described). One may be healthy but the other is not.

    No?



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      Shaun McDonnell

      posted March 31, 2011 at 1:02 pm


      Yes, you are correct for sure.

      -Shaun



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    Adam Ellis

    posted March 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm


    Shaun,
    If you get a chance, you might want to check into the concepts of self-awareness and self-reflection. In the future, these things may keep you from illustrating the point you are attempting to argue against.



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      Shaun McDonnell

      posted March 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm


      Thanks, Adam, but I’m good in that area – atleast, I think I am. Or am I? Who am I? :)

      -Shaun



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    Anna

    posted March 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm


    I mean, did you actually read the post? This is the issue he’s approaching — he knows he has carried anger because of his fundamentalist background and he seems as if he’s taken large steps in his adult life to reconcile that. I think it’s important to be sensitive to that, no matter where you fall on the fundamentalist spectrum.

    Sometimes anger is an excellent barometer in our lives for the things we need to change — either in ourselves, or our circumstances.

    Finally, there IS hope here: what I see in this blog post is someone trying to reconcile who they are with where they came from. It’s not an easy path to take, but it’s a hopeful one. Our roots give us wings — don’t forget that.

    Great post, MPT. God’s doing a good work in you.



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    cindyc

    posted April 1, 2011 at 8:48 am


    “you’re desire to be the anti-fundamentalist is slowly becoming fundamentalist anti-fundamentalism.”

    I see this as well. I have been following this blog for well over a year, and it does seem to be that it is slowly evolving into just what MPT has been trying to get away from–people who tell you what to believe, and if you don’t believe them, you are wrong. There is only one way to believe. Isn’t that a beef MPT has with the fundy church? Clearly there are other very painful issues that he hasn’t been comfortable to share–I haven’t walked in his shoes and can’t speak for that. I think others who may have been in similar situations fill in the blanks with their own experiences, and people flock to what they are comfortable with. No one is 100% right or 100% wrong in any debate about God, and I’ve been wondering lately who is the real focus here? Jesus’ PR has been consumed by Rob Bell’s PR.



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Adam Whitley

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:47 pm


Thanks Matt,

I’ll say again, your story is SO much like mine. It’s a huge blessing for me to be able to get insights from someone dealing with my problems who is further down the road than I am.

I’m not unfriending you.

Even if you turn back into a Calvinist. :)

//AW



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Robin

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:55 pm


Sometimes I’m awfully glad I didn’t grow up in a church. :)



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Gina

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm


Great post. Thanks for the honesty.



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Ringo

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm


Great blog, and lots that I identify with. It is a bit of an irony for me that you have adverts for World Vision on your page. I have met lots of great people in that organisation, but too many fundamentalists, including those (many quite senior) who want to box others in, restrict debate and insist on a straightjacket approach to belief. Those very things you write against.



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    TH

    posted April 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm


    I, too, have met far too many fundamentalists at World Vision. But knowing that Matthew is associated with them actually gives some hope. Go Matthew!



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Tim

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm


Well said, man. I appreciate your honesty and passion.



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James Williams

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:10 pm


Matthew, my church upbringing was very similar, and I hear you, sympathize with you, and, like Alise, I’d like to give you a hug.

I think it’s interesting how so many can come out of that church experience and go so many different directions. Some end up loving Jesus, some want nothing to do with Christianity, Jesus, or any church. Some still are in fundamentalism by choice.

Some, like me, are in between. I still embrace Jesus, still believe the bible to be true and to be the final answer on all questions it addresses, still believe hell is real and permanent, still believe homosexual activity is sin, still believe abortion is a travesty. And yet we still are far different from that angry, hateful, judgmental mindset. That way of thinking that is based as much in politics as theology, if not more.

The sadness for me is that so many will read this and think one cannot think like I still do without still being fundamentalist, judgmental, and angry. It’s so much more convenient to lump people who think like me in with the kind of people you grew up in church and school with, but ultimately, all that matters is that I see the difference, and it’s a huge one.

Thanks for explaining all of this, for pouring your heart out, Matt. And thanks for interacting with the likes of me via email, twitter, and this blog in a respectful way like you do. Those who stopped following you because of your Driscoll post the other day have no idea what they lost out on.



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Nate

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm


thanks for writing/sharing.



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James Williams

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm


On a light note, if I had time today, which I don’t, I’d draw up a flow chart of the various theological perspectives you have embraced over your life. My prediction: you’ll become a Benny Hinn disciple (with your own short-lived Daystar program), then a Catholic, then a Mormon, then come full-circle and end up a deacon is Pastor Sonny’s church.



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lindsay

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm


I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist church. In fact, I didn’t really grow up in the church at all. But I did grow up at a private Southern Baptist school that employed a particular fundamentalist teacher. The things she “taught” me and my classmates, both directly and indirectly, about God, Jesus, and the whole nine yards still resonates strongly with me today. I’m still dealing with her 12 years later. (Point in case: She once told us not to study for finals because the end of the world was going to happen before then.)

So, thanks. I understand and appreciate your mission. I didn’t have it anything like you did, but I can definitely relate. (Although I wish I couldn’t, haha.) Your writing, both here and in print, have helped me come forward with some of my unfounded fears and seek some much-needed resolution. It is comforting to know that there are others out there for whom Christianity can be an unjustly terrifying concept at times.



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Sherry

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:17 pm


Matthew – you do my heart good. (‘nuf said)



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Scott

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm


Matt,

I can identify with you so much… but I also think we are people who tend to swerve into the “ditches” of life.

I grew up in an oppressive, judgmental, Baptist school and had horribly traumatic experiences and that caused me to hate Fundamentalism too, so I swerved over into the ditch of doing anything and everything I wanted in the name of my “freedom in Christ,” but that ditch wasn’t much better.

Just like you, I’ve tried to correct those moments of over doing it and losing control of my emotions and tried to gain perspective.

My concern for the season our generation is in is the tendency to push truth out of the way so that we can make sense of or create fairness in the Kingdom of God. God’s ways are not our ways and ultimately none of us is the Judge, but I don’t see – or at least hear – people talking about truth revealed through the Holy Spirit very much from the “non-fundamentalists” and Rob Bell types. It’s all about intellect.

I’m a Rob Bell fan, but I have deep concern for him and people like you who seem to try to reason things out and make sure God is “fair” to everyone under the sun. God is more just and righteous than any of us can imagine, but we continually measure His “fairness” against our standards.

I don’t know you personally Matt, I am not trying to judge you, I just pray that you are sensitive and listening to the Holy Spirit. He is our guide to the Truth.

God Bless.

Scott



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    Elemenope

    posted March 31, 2011 at 1:36 pm


    Here’s something I’ve been meaning to ask, and this comment was the first clear opportunity to do so.

    My concern for the season our generation is in is the tendency to push truth out of the way so that we can make sense of or create fairness in the Kingdom of God. God’s ways are not our ways…[...]I have deep concern for him and people like you who seem to try to reason things out and make sure God is “fair” to everyone under the sun. God is more just and righteous than any of us can imagine, but we continually measure His “fairness” against our standards.

    I hear often how words used to describe qualities of God (like good, just, fair, loving, etc.) do not match the concepts that humans are generally communicating when using those same words. My question is…

    …why use those words? If the concepts of a sovereign God are so alien (and they must be, given the normal definitions of those words), how is it appropriate to use them to describe deific qualities at all? What does a person mean when they say: “God is Just, but God’s Justice is *nothing like* human justice”?
    ———–

    Everything else (and my impertinent questions) aside, great post. Also, despite how serious the overall post was, this line:

    Meanwhile, as my family discovered Sonny’s neo-dispensationalism, I was away at college evolving into a Calvinist–an angry one who loved beer, U2, and sovereignty.

    …made me LOL.



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      Green Eggs and Ham

      posted March 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm


      If God is so utterly different than us that we cannot describe him in ways that are intelligible, then in what way can God even exist?

      Existence is a attribute of material things and God is not material, so God does not exist.

      If the language of God is to be intelligible, then the predicates attached to Him (just, good, etc.) must have more than a passing, evocative or metaphorical association with what the words mean.



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Chad

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:25 pm


Right on.

I used to believe people when they told me an angry person. I used to get frustrated with myself over it.

It wasnt until recently that I learned the difference between anger and passion. I wasn’t angry most of the time- I cared a great deal about what was happening.

This is a great articulation of that difference. Thank you.

“I’m passionate about the message of the gospel, how it gets communicated, how it gets promoted. I think that’s true for most of the people who visit this blog on a regular basis.” Yup, that is why I read your blog.



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm


I’m with you MPT. My guess as to why people assume you are angry is because you often post videos of fundamentalists doing/saying ridiculous things – and you often just post the video and no commentary. So people fill in the blanks.

I think you are onto something that fundamentalists are raised to be angry – they are taught to think it is them versus the world in every way – so they are disgruntled at how EVERY little thing is not how they’d like it. I think it’s perfectly healthy to be discontent with how things are, the status-quo, but to translate that into anger and how anger manifests itself is quite contrary to how Jesus taught us to live.



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Thom sfo

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:38 pm


As a gay, raised-Oneness Pentecostal-turned-Catholic, who experiences this same anger… Thank you for this post. It’s good to know I’m not alone.



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Scott

posted March 31, 2011 at 1:48 pm


Elemenope:

It seems to me your question proves my point. I’m not saying don’t think and to swallow everything that’s shoveled our way, but just because God’s holiness doesn’t fit into our cultural understanding doesn’t mean we disregard it.

God is perfect in every way, just like His Son, Jesus Christ, so obviously our understanding of the concepts of being fully just and holy and sinless are hard to compare to our standards.

Again, I’m not trying to judge, but where does the Holy Spirit fit into all these questions and answers? I’m certainly not the Author of Truth. I’m not the Judge.

We’re all guilty of over intellectualizing the Gospel… maybe we should work on that.



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Elemenope

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm


…just because God’s holiness doesn’t fit into our cultural understanding doesn’t mean we disregard it.

Well, I’m with you that far, but what I’m not understanding is how a sentence like the one I pointed out above communicates anything meaningful. If God’s justice is nothing like human justice, or God’s love is nothing like human love, and we only have the human concepts of justice and love to work with (being as we are all, putatively, human), what is being conveyed, and is what is being conveyed meaningful?

We’re all guilty of over intellectualizing the Gospel… maybe we should work on that.

I am of the opinion that one cannot over-intellectualize anything. On some level everything we come to understand passes through our brains, and if one believes in God then that brain is meant to be a gift. What do you mean by this?



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Travis Mamone

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm


That. Was. AWESOME!!!!!!



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Sparrow

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm


I, too, am in recovery from fundamentalism, though it didn’t teach me to be angry – it taught me to be ashamed – ashamed of everything. And it probably wasn’t fundamentalism so much as it was a broken culture, a broken family, a broken, immature religiosity and a childish heart all coming together to make the perfect storm. Everyone has probably got one of those, whether it develop on the shores of fundamentalist Christianity or agnosticism, though in the counseling profession we note the identical cultures of the alcoholic family system and the fundamentalist Christian one, while agnosticism is comparatively benign. Anyway, I can very much relate to your account of the fundamentalist triggers; they happen in the must unexpected places, don’t they? The messages about the value of women, about women in ministry, and about divorce are the most nuanced for me; I almost need a support group just to read Paul, scripture is so colored by my reactions to the fundamentalist filter sometimes. And I’m in seminary, so imagine the minefield that is a simple Core Relationships for Christian Ministry class!

I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability here. I don’t agree with a lot of the things you say but I value your invitation to engage God with whatever it is that we have to bring to Him. May we both find sanity in our recovery from our fundamentalist scars, friend.

Sparrow



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Suzie Lind

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm


It’s important for us to recognize how angry Jesus got at pharisees, at those who were misusing the name of God who were without love in all that they thought they were doing for “good.” Anger at times is completely appropriate and in some cases like those mentioned in your posts, can even projects the image of God. One who is Just, Loving and contending for His people.

I enjoyed hearing a bit of your heart on this. I haven’t read your book yet, but look forward to reading it sometime soon.



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Mitch

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:15 pm


Thanks for the post. I love reading things like this because then I don’t feel like I am so far out there. I went threw some of those feelings yesterday. I am a Social Worker currently providing services at a Community Mental Health Center and at a Free Health Clinic. I was doing some research for a project and stumbled upon the belief statement of a Christian Counseling degree at a prominent seminary. Reading it infuriated me. Their statements go against almost everything that is clinically acceptable in the field. Even to the point of saying “we don’t adhere to professional counseling licencesure standards because they are not acceptable in a Christian Counseling setting.”

I had to stop and think about why this and all those little things you talk about make me so angry. Is it because they are wrong? Is it because I am right? Is it because they what they teach can potentially hurt a number of people? (Try having a “Christian Counselor” tell a severe schizophrenic that he doesn’t need medication, he just needs to be right with God) Or is it because I place my expectation on people too high or are my expectations of God too low?

I can’t answer any of these questions for myself today and probably not tomorrow. But I do thank you for sharing a bit of yourself through this blog. Maybe one day I will not be so angry.



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David N.

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm


This is the best thing I’ve ever read on your blog, Matt. Fantastic.



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Scott

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm


Elemenope:

There’s another thing we leave out of the conversation a lot when we talk about our “understanding,” faith.

Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

So obviously there is nothing wrong with seeking to understand God, but faith is crucial to who we are as followers of Christ. Sometimes we just have to believe without fully understanding everything about God. Believing in things we can’t see or understand.

Again, where does faith and the Holy Spirit fit into all this? I really would love to hear your thoughts.

Not trying to be argumentative at all. Thanks for sharing/discussing this with me.



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    Elemenope

    posted March 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm


    There’s another thing we leave out of the conversation a lot when we talk about our “understanding,” faith.

    OK, but then how is a person who does not share that faith supposed to understand those statements as meaningful? Put another way, Christianity is supposed to be evangelical in nature–sharing the Good News of Christ’s victory over sin and death et al. with humanity–which means on some level the claims of the religion need to translate into something meaningful for those who are not Christian, do not possess the guidance and facility of the Holy Spirit and so forth.

    And this is a very practical concern, since oftentimes people who are not Christian will criticize Christianity on the basis of the seeming incompatibility of certain features and attitudes of God (or His actions) with pretty much all human definitions of love, justice, and other qualities. The response is generally akin to the one you gave, e.g. God’s love/justice/etc. is not like human justice. To the person confronted with this counterclaim, what are they supposed to get out of it? What meaning is being conveyed other than “Christians have special meanings for common words that don’t match how everyone else uses them”?

    I’d also like to hear more about what you meant by over-intellectualizing. Did you mean only that understanding must be supplemented by faith, or did you mean something else?

    Not trying to be argumentative at all. Thanks for sharing/discussing this with me.

    There is nothing wrong with respectfully hashing out sticky and difficult issues. :) I appreciate your engagement.



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      Scott

      posted March 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm


      Elemenope:

      On the “over intellectualizing” comment, I did mean that our understanding must involve faith.

      You’re also completely correct on the point that people that are not in Christ cannot understand things that are part of Christianity many times… sometimes because we’re idiots and religious fanatics :)

      By no means am I trying to say that if you don’t have Christ as your Savior and Lord will you be able to understand this stuff either. That again brings up the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We’re in agreement on that point too.

      I guess more than anything, I’m just trying to figure out when and how we live like Christ without questioning everything about our faith… I’m really struggling with that now more than ever. Because of that, I am finding myself trying to get back to the basics and fundamentals of our faith.

      Just want to be sure I don’t miss out on something God has for me…



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        Grace

        posted March 31, 2011 at 6:19 pm


        But the question of what love and justice mean with respect to God seem to me to be a point on which there ought to be some sort of language/definition that Christians and non-Christians can partially agree on. Part of the difficulty for me with the reformed notion of a “loving” God is the idea that God loves us infinitely more than a parent loves a child, but is willing to condemn us to eternal torment (or eternal separation) for being fallible beings who didn’t manage to figure out which way to worship in the short time we have to live. I’m a parent. I don’t know a single loving and responsible parent who thinks that’s a loving way to treat a child. And the explanation that God is perfect and can’t stand even the smallest sin makes even less sense to me – if God is perfect, and we are not, and God knows that, any notion of justice we have would seem to demand that God be more tolerant of our mistakes, given that we’re inherently fallible.



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Dianna

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm


Thanks for this post. A lot of people mistake my passion for anger (and there are times I’m genuinely angry, but not most of the time when people accuse me of being angry) and it’s very hard to make people understand that there’s a difference.

Here’s how I explain it: passion is outward focused. The things that raise my passion are those which hurt other people. Anger is inward focused. The things that raise my anger are often direct insults or things that are affecting me directly. Sometimes, my passion and anger align. For instance, right now I’m unemployed, and my parents’ insurance, which I should be allowed to be on, is being stubborn and refusing to put me on their insurance for another 3 months. I can’t afford 3 months on an individual plan. I’m angry about my personal situation, and my passion aligns with that when I realize that there are people around who are in worse situations, and people who go without insurance for years simply because they cannot afford a $300/month premium. And that brings my anger at my own situation to a level of anger about the whole system.

So, there are times anger and passion align, but for the most part they are separated. Anger can be a great tool, but living in anger as you described (and as I likewise lived for years as a conservative Christian) is never good.

Thanks for being open about this. It’s helpful.



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Sisterlisa

posted March 31, 2011 at 2:46 pm


It always amazes me when people in the IFB think these things are rare. This wild stuff happens in LOTS of IFB churches. I was in the IFB for 15 years and when we left, I studied it to it’s core and traced it back and connected all the dots of those the popular preachers in the IFB were connected to. So many of them know what’s going on and they keep on in denial. I’m truly sad for them, because when they finally have had enough and want to leave, they’ll have a war on their hands. It’s not easy to leave because of the way you’re treated when you do leave. I understand what you mean by the little things. Totally understand! and it’ sonly a matter of time before the others from my old IFB church wake up and go to Google to find my comments on many articles just like yours..they’ll see my face. I hope they’ll give me a call because the exit is quite difficult.



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CraigKubz

posted March 31, 2011 at 3:02 pm


I just want to see funny video’s and pictures of ridiculous things Christians have done in the past.

IMO there are enough Christian debate sites that people can find.

Posts like this I don’t really have the patience nor the desire to read. I’d like to see this site be focused more on Christian humor and less on theological differences.

I guess all I’m trying to say is:

Bring on more funny Jesus pictures.



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    Adam Ellis

    posted March 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm


    CraigKubz,
    Dude. Seriously? Somebody writes something that transparent and personal and your response is “bring on more funny Jesus pictures” because you don’t have the “patience nor the desire” to read things like that? Here’s a thought: then don’t read those posts, and don’t bother commenting on things that you aren’t interested in. By all means, keep coming back for the Jesus pictures, humor, etc. Seriously though, if you ever open yourself up about something that you really care about, while making yourself vulnerable by sharing painful things about your past, I sincerely hope that no one responds to you with the kind of flippant condescending dismissiveness that you displayed in your comment.



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Sean R Reid

posted March 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm


Oh how I struggle with this. I’ve nearly destroyed my life, wrecked my (very young) marriage and completely isolated myself because of my problems with anger.

Even more recently I had to post something on my blog to publicly call myself out out in the hopes of preventing a slide toward those ends again. I used to have the market corned on anger. Hell, my first website was the directive: “Quit Breathing!”

Anger can become a frighteningly comfortable place. It makes you feel bold, strong and like your life has meaning. However, it will eat you away inside if you let it. And ultimately, all you would have stood for was being angry for anger’s sake.

There is passion and there is righteous fury. Anger is more self-serving whereas the others are usually done for the betterment of others (not in all cases, but I believe in many).

The saddest part is that anger often becomes so large that it leaves no room for honest dialogue. It becomes an echo chamber; a lonely empty room where you’re haunted by your own words.

That’s not living regardless if you’re Christian/atheist/gay/straight/etc…



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davepettengill

posted March 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm


Hey MPT
I just want to say I appreciate your honesty so much! What you write, the videos you post, even the funny pictures you put up make me laugh, make me upset, make me think, and challenge me to really look to see who Jesus is. Do I agree with things you post? Yes I definitely do. Do I sometimes disagree? Yes I definitely do. But in the midst of all that it doesn’t matter because whether I agree or disagree I enjoy the conversations people can have on the topics and questions you post. I did not grow up going to the church other than as punishment a couple times, “Wow I can’t believe you did that!?! I am so taking you to church this morning.” and I didn’t really go back until the end of my freshmen year in high school when I went to an American Baptist church. It was then that I decided to follow Jesus. After that I went to a conservative Wesleyan-Armenian college. In ministry I have pretty much served at United Methodist Churches so I have definitely been a part of a wide range of Christianity so I appreciate the experiences you share.



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Bradley

posted March 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm


I was raised a baptist by a child of the 60’s. My mom taught me to question everything. I have. Any church that has formal membership loses. Any church that has a financial minister loses. My time is too precious to be involved in the bureaucracy of church. Fundamentalism is not concerned with what Jesus says, but what they believe. I attended their schools, had their short haircuts, wore their ugly ass american flag ties. I never fit in. I was never satisified with their answer because God wants it that way. Neither was my mom. These people are too busy trying to put people in a tidy little box than caring about Jesus message. I too am passionate about Jesus. I know my Saviors rule is John 3:16 gay, no hell, transgender, wine drinker just doesn’t matter.



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Douglas Young

posted March 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm


I found so many points of connection here with my own story that it is scary. But I think that just goes to show that while we all have our little bubble/tribal church history that we grew up in, outside of that bubble is a whole lot of crap that others were going through, as well. We just couldn’t see it in such isolation.

Thanks for this.



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kanaloanui

posted March 31, 2011 at 3:42 pm


Long-time lurker here, but I wanted to thank you for the post. The churches I grew up in taught us that anger was a sin (especially for women), so everyone bottled it up and acted nice. As a result, nonconformists weren’t kicked out, but rather frozen out. Yet the fallout, for me anyway, was similar to your own.



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shellie (baylormum)

posted March 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm


Although we’ve never met, I have always felt your passion. vs the anger. Just like the naysayers have an opinion they feel strongly about, so do you. Along with many others, as evidenced in the comments!
It is my opinion that in healing, writing about it (the “root” of the healing) is one of the best ways to give it up. It no longer hides in the darkest places in my mind & life. It is cleansing. I would compare it to what most 12-step programs recommend, too. It helps bring my soul & spirit back into the here & now. It helps me be strong against what has (does) hold me back from being all that I believe God meant for me to be.
We all have demons (sorry if that’s scary sounding) that need to see the light. Whether the sun or the fires of hell (or is that what hell is really like??). It isn’t me against him (the enemy, not God). It should be a united “we” against him.
Keep on writing, mpt, because I think a lot of people in the world agree with your passion & don’t know how best to utilize it so they, too, can heal. And not continue with anger vs passion. To be able to live life free from all of those dark places!



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John Tucci

posted March 31, 2011 at 4:01 pm


Matthew,
Great stuff, as usual. I grew up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist church, and have recently come face to face with a lot of my anger also. But my church was much different than your church. My Pastor and his wife loved the Lord, started the church, pastored it for 40 years, and retired recently. Really great people. We need to be careful to not lump all “IFB” churches and Pastors into the same child molesting, loud preaching, church splitting group. Although I don’t consider myself an IFB any more, to suggest that ALL of them are wrong and angry is false, unprovable, and deceptive.

But the fact that you have enough courage to speak out about this, and how you are personally dealing with it is very brave. Kudos. My respect for you keeps growing.



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kathy

posted March 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm


wow….I loved your post! I am so happy to have found your website and your blog post! And guess how i found it? I was searching for a place that had at least something positive to say about Rob Bell and ‘Love Wins.’. Rob just isn’t someone who wrote a book people hate. He is the pastor of my church, and I happen to be someone who loves Rob Bell! I can honestly say that he loves Jesus, and truly cares about all people and believes that we need to be like Jesus in a hurting world. I can’t say that I agree with everything in his book, I don’t. But, I do think the church needs to be a place of love, not just judgement. All people need that kind of place. (and,yes I do know what the bible says.)



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MainlineMom

posted March 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm


I appreciate this post. One thing though, I’m not entirely sure I agree with your different evaluations of passion verses anger. I have seen (and felt) plenty of anger that was rooted in a passionate love for someone or some idea and resulted in emotional defensiveness. It’s still anger and generally not healthy or positive or helpful. I immediately think of my husband, who listens to political talk radio on his long commute home from work and walks in the door grumpy and fired up. I say he’s angry, and I don’t like it even when it’s not directed at me. He says he’s passionate and concerned and engaged and will defend his need to be informed till he’s blue in the face.



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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted March 31, 2011 at 4:59 pm


    I definitely see your point. I suppose what I failed to communicate is that anger fueled by something or someone you hate is almost always unhealthy and often a sign of a bigger issue happening in your life or a deep bitterness that you’re ignoring. Does that make sense? :)



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Josephine

posted March 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm


Thanks MPT! I can empathise, (although to be honest I think I still get caught on some of the bigger things…maybe have a wee way more to go)!! I loved that you said you are not angry AT your past but BECAUSE of it. I think this is the first time I have heard that, and its a good thing for me to realize and take take on board! Thanks for your honesty!! :-)



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Lorelei

posted March 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm


Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing your heart so openly. I can relate very well to your story, having grown up in a quite conservative (and rigid and exclusive) evangelical denomination.

I can always rely on this site to stimulate thought and discussion, and I SO appreciate that! Thank you – and keep it up!



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JB

posted March 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm


Fantastic post, my friend. Fantastic.



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Chris Loach

posted March 31, 2011 at 5:46 pm


when does this new book come out???



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Sarah Mae

posted March 31, 2011 at 5:55 pm


Love this. Thank you for sharing your gut with us. :)



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jan owen

posted March 31, 2011 at 7:00 pm


I could write the same thing about when I – rarely – dare to share my experiences and convictions as a woman in ministry. I have found that I most often get lectured for “living in the past” or “not forgiving”. Neither one is true. What is true is that I am passionate about the church NOT being a place where sexism is – many times – applauded and pain ignored. I am passionate about TRUE community within the body of Christ – not authoritarianism run amuck based on gender alone. I am passionate about the reputation of the church – and of my Savior. And I think that the way many women are treated in some church circles disfigures people’s perception of the God I love.

And on some days – yes – the abuse and mean words and attitudes and lack of many people that will address these issues makes me mad. But mostly it makes me sad. It grieves me.

So I do understand a bit. And I am sorry for what you went through.



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Wezlo

posted March 31, 2011 at 7:31 pm


Absolutely wonderful post, thank you.



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Randall Weiss

posted March 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm


I can relate to much of this. Thanks for sharing.



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Sandy

posted March 31, 2011 at 8:15 pm


Loved hearing your heart here.
I think that anger is often the first emotion that we feel and that what is underneath it is great sadness and brokenness. Anger is the protective emotion. The great horror of fundamentalist religion of any sort is that it breaks people’s hearts and souls. That is worth being angry about.



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Sarah Markley

posted March 31, 2011 at 9:09 pm


i loved this matthew. loved it. and i loved how you defined passion and anger.

btw, had a lovely time with your gorgeous wife on monday.



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Cindy Foster

posted March 31, 2011 at 9:46 pm


I read your book and found it so refreshing to laugh about the silly but common antics fundamentalists invent as attempts to pass on their beliefs to their children.

I know the anger and the various manifestations of it you describe. It is real. It is appropriate. It is dishonest to try to deny, mask or hide it.

I share the reasoning you give for some of your anger being the way others have been hurt. In my 20 year experience with extremists fundamentalism, the ones who were hurt the most were the children…namely the ones who grew up in it….particularly, my own 8 children. A different level of anger altogether. We are still picking up the pieces.

But I have to say now, 11 years later, it is sooo good to be reminded of the funny stuff and even better to be able to laugh about them.

Cindy@Baptist Taliban Memoirs



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Mariah

posted March 31, 2011 at 10:46 pm


Very powerful words. So glad you aren’t leaving us hanging with the rest of the story! Really looking forward to your new book.

So, I have a stupid question (or two) for all of you: Is it possible to be angry and still forgive? Is there such a thing as unforgivable hurt?

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve all been conditioned by the *church’s* interpretation of scripture, which says we must choose to be “joyful” and “peaceful” because if we don’t (i.e., stop being angry) our Heavenly Father won’t forgive us. Huh. I dunno.

Nevertheless, anger is a struggle for me too. Appreciate your candidness mpt.



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Charlie Chang

posted April 1, 2011 at 6:06 am


Thanks.

nicodemusatnite.com



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Noelle

posted April 1, 2011 at 6:33 am


We all have our blood boiling triggers. I have enough distance from my childhood triggers, they don’t get a chance to bother me much. You threw yourself into the thick of yours. Therapy? Masochist? Trying some desensitization? Gaining perspective using your adult defenses? If you can do it so often and only truly get angry occasionally, then maybe it’s worth the migraines. I’d like to hear more of the darker stories.



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Bobby

posted April 1, 2011 at 8:30 am


I couldn’t agree more. For many of the reasons you cite in your post- I am slowly getting over my anger and starting to think about considering looking for a new church…



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UUXn

posted April 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm


Dr. Cornel West says that you need to take your anger and turn it into righteous indignation. I have found that this is easier said than done. Perhaps you have accomplished this through this blog. Keep going. I think you are doing God’s work.



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Carole Turner

posted April 1, 2011 at 5:56 pm


I can totally relate in so many ways. Excellent post.



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gymmie

posted April 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm


Thank you so much for sharing <3.

Yes the funny pictures/videos are good but I also love posts like this. Thanks for being honest & open. I get angry reading about your experiences. I've never had to deal with things like this in the church but know others have had various experiences. Some have turned Atheist, some still have faith but won't attend church.

<3 you



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Will Hunsucker

posted April 2, 2011 at 1:53 am


Thank you.

Passion is needed when the general approach toward confronting spiritual abuse (or any other kind) within American Conservative-Fundamental-Evangelical Christian circles is “Touch Not The Anointed of The Lord” or something in that vein.

Great post. We need to hear this. The American church needs to hear this. Keep on writing about it…

Repetition is good for the soul. =)



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LRA

posted April 2, 2011 at 8:41 am


I can totally relate to this.

I hate fundamentalism, too. Fundamentalism of *any* kind. It is because fundamentalism is (1) anti-intellectualism (2) blind faith in the face of facts to the contrary (3) about control, not love (4) about hatred of the other and condemnation of that other (5)a political problem in the US

I’m angry/ righteously indignant because fundamentalists are pernicious and harmful, not only to themselves, but to the rest of us. They use their votes in our democracy as a weapon of enforcement of their “values”. They promote anti-science misinformation to the harm of people who would benefit from scientific progress otherwise. They meddle in the lives of people who want and deserve equal treatment under the law, and then cry persecution when they are rebuked for it. They get special privileges in this society that other people don’t get because they are in the majority (in pockets of concentration in places in the South mostly– but overall white, protestant people are the majority just about everywhere).

My personal anger stems from the fact that I grew up with fundamentalists, and I know first hand just how screwed up and hurtful their “faith” can be to others.

I’m not going to apologize or feel guilty for my anger. These folks deserve it. Neither am I going to let that anger go toward destructive ends… I’m working toward an academic career in science and society studies so that I can constructively do my part to help end the fundamentalist, anti-intellectual, anti-science tyranny (and I’m looking at you, Republican Religious Right) in America.

I believe that the best course of action is to stand up to these people and call them on their bullsh*t. Focusing attention on the problem in a myriad of ways (like a blog called “Jesus Needs New PR,” for instance) can only help demonstrate the inherent flaws and problems with fundamentalism. Sometimes patience and dialog is called for. Sometimes harsh criticism is called for. Sometimes mockery is called for.

I’m sick and tired of hearing fundamentalists demand respect. When you promote false information and you institutionalize discrimination, you don’t deserve respect. You deserve mockery at the very least, and more rightfully, anger and scorn. When you can gain some humility and realize that (1) no, you do not have the “absolute truth” (2) no, you do not have a right to form “opinions” about things with are factually demonstrable and (3) no, this is *NOT* a Christian nation as per the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, then you *might* take some steps forward to deserving respect.

“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.”

-Thomas Jefferson



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    Melody

    posted April 2, 2011 at 10:30 am


    Very well stated, LRA. This is why I have such immense respect for you. Keep fighting the good fight.



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      LRA

      posted April 2, 2011 at 10:45 am


      Thank you, girl! *hugs*

      I’m still up for hanging out if you wanna. :D



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Jeremy @ confessionsofalegalist

posted April 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm


Looking forward to reading more of the stories in a new book. I think it is important to tell the stories because they are true. It is better for everyone when lies are uncovered.



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Ethan

posted April 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm


this post got me chocked up. i was actually feeling a bit angry today, which isn’t a regular thing for me. thank you for putting to words how i feel



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Jennifer

posted April 3, 2011 at 6:48 am


Wow. Alise (bigmama247) directed me here. Thank you. While I did not experience that same thing, I love how you juxtapose anger and passion. And the idea that it’s the little things that hurt the most is a profound truth I have experienced. A word carelessly spoken can do years of damage. Thank you for sharing this.



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CD Celebrate

posted April 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm


I knew I liked you!



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Jess

posted April 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm


Thanks for sharing. I’m learning the balance between expressing anger and passion, and your explanation helps clarify what that looks like for me.

I love the funny posts, but your serious posts always resonate with me and get me thinking. Much appreciate the honesty. :)



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