Old School Christian Views on Abortion

The following text is taken from a letter sent from the Baptist Press dated January 31, 1973. It was sent to members of Southern Baptist churches regarding a recent Supreme Court ruling in Texas that overturned a law which outlawed abortion except in cases where the life of the mother was at risk. In essence, it made abortion legal.

Excerpt from the Press Release

Excerpt from the Press Release

Towards the end of the letter they shared a “FAQ” type section and this was one of the questions that they must have known would be brought up.

Question: Does the Supreme Court decision on abortion intrude on the religious life of the people?

Answer: No. Religious bodies and religious persons can continue to teach their own particular views to their constituents with all the vigor they desire. People whose conscience forbids abortion are not compelled by law to have abortions. They are free to practice their religion according to the tenets of their personal or corporate faith.

The reverse is also now true since the Supreme Court decision. Those whose conscience or religious convictions are not violated by abortion may not now be forbidden by a religious law to obtain an abortion if they so choose.

In short, if the state laws are now made to conform to the Supreme Court ruling, the decision to obtain an abortion or to bring pregnancy to full term can now be a matter or conscience and deliberate choice rather than one compelled by law.

Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.

THIS. I don’t even have commentary. It speaks for itself. The same question is asked today regarding gay marriage by many conservative Christians, and the same answer can be given.

to my gramps.

Originally posted on gypsies & sinners.:

Hi, Grandpa.

I love you. I miss you. My heart aches to see how you’ve been laid waste in the media by our own family. Everyone talks about you as if you’re already in the grave; I know your heart is still beating & I hope you live up to your stubborn legacy & live for a long while yet.

To the whole world you were only ever the face of an evil entity. But of course to me you were always my Gramps. My kind, sweet, adoring Gramps. I miss you so much. I wish the sisters & I could meet you & Granny for another shake party up in your room (we’ll even bring your favorite strawberry one from McDonald’s).

I’m sorry for every second we’ve been apart this last year and four months. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you more when you were mine. I’m sorry our…

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The Question That Keeps Me Up at Night

Originally posted on thetalkingllama:

the-tree-of-life-2A few weeks ago, a Tennessee youth pastor (Charlie Pittman) was suspended from work after being charged with murdering his girlfriend and staging her suicide.

The people who hired him were baffled.

Their church carefully screens all its employees. Only decent Christians are allowed to work there. He has to be a “nice guy, not on drugs, doesn’t smoke.”

And by that definition, Mr. Pittman was a pretty great guy. He was also, apparently, a murdering sociopath.

And it just makes me wonder. Because our leaders tell us that anyone who confesses Jesus is a born again Christian. But I see an awful lot of born-again Christians who are raping and killing and committing horrible abuses. Hell, I see a lot of *pastors* who do all of those things.

And I think it was Jesus who said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing. You…

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What Arizona’s “Religious Freedom” Bill Really Means

A bill has passed in Arizona to allow a business owner to refuse products or services to anyone due to their deeply held religious beliefs. An example of this bill in action would be a baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. In a state like Oregon, the gay couple could sue the bakery and would probably win on grounds of discrimination (This scenario has already occurred). In Arizona, the bakery has the right to deny their services under this new law. The bill has not been signed into law at the time of this writing, so it may not become a reality. But, I have a major problem with this bill for many reasons and from different perspectives. [UPDATE: Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill on February 26, 2014.]

1. Religious Freedom

The major point of this bill is that business owners will cite their religious freedom as reason for denying products or services. But is this really what religious freedom is? In the United States, the First Amendment states,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

There is no established religion in the United States, and this makes it clear that would be a violation of the Constitution. Likewise, there is no prohibition of the free exercise of whatever religion one chooses to follow. But how does this work in the real world? Clearly, the United States has had to deal with the issue of “free exercise” many times since our country’s founding.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. United States in 1878, the courts were deciding on the issue of polygamy. Does religion supersede the law of the land? Can a man be legally married to multiple women because his religion says it is permitted, even though the law states there are to be only two parties in a legally binding marriage? Ultimately, they decided this was not the case. People are free to religious opinion and belief, but still have to obey the laws. Chief Justice Waite wrote in his opinion on the case,

Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. [...] Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.

There are laws in the United States that protect discrimination, but not always for LGBT people. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Twenty-one states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.” Oregon has laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which is why the bakery lost their case. Arizona, however, has no laws protecting LGBT people. This new bill makes it even harder to protect the rights of LGBT people. 

Is a Christian businessperson serving an openly gay person in a business a violation of religious freedom? I do not believe it is. That gay person is not stopping the Christian businessperson from practicing their faith. That gay person is not telling the Christian businessperson to stop being a Christian. They are simply requesting a product or service. It is the duty of the Christian businessperson to offer their product or service to anyone who walks through their door. If they deny products or services without just cause, it is discrimination.

2. What would Jesus do?

Another thing that baffles me is the fact that these are primarily Christians supporting this law. Why are they supporting it? They feel that people should be free to practice their religion however they choose and if it means denying service to a gay person, then they should be free to do so. But would Jesus do that? It’s very clear from his life that he would not.

When Jesus fed the 5,000, he did not pick and choose who would get fed. He fed everyone who was there. It was his disciples who wanted to send the people away, but Jesus told them “No, we will feed them. They are hungry.”

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan women, he made a statement by interacting with her at all because at the time, Jews refused to have anything to do with Samaritans. He didn’t turn away from her because of who she was; he embraced her.

Jesus had nothing stopping him from giving to anyone who needed anything from him. It was the Pharisees who did that. Simply put, the lawmakers who voted to pass this bill in Arizona are equivalent to the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

3. What does the Bible say?

If the life of Jesus wasn’t convincing enough, what about the Bible in general? Is there anything in the Bible to support this type of action by Arizona lawmakers?

Be hospitable to one another without complaining.

1 Peter 4:9 (HCSB)

How can one be hospitable when one refuses to provide products or services to another? Are they not complaining about the other person in their dismissal of their worthiness to receive products and services?

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

- James 2:1 (NLT)

There is clear favoritism if Christians are giving products and services to some people, but not to others. This is the complete opposite of what Jesus taught his disciples during his life.

(But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?

1 Corinthians 10:28-30 (NLT)

This goes the other way, too. There are plenty of LGBT Christians out there, so why should their freedom be limited by what these Arizona lawmakers think? As my friend Linda pointed out, “Every individual has the right to decide for his/herself what their own conscience gives them the freedom to do. We cannot be another person’s Holy Spirit, deciding for another how they must live their life.”

4. What is the line?

This point is completely hypothetical. But it makes one wonder, what is the line? Who decides what is a “deeply held religious belief” and if it is worthy to use in a discrimination case? Does this apply to anything a religious person deems unacceptable by their beliefs? Would a restaurant refuse service if they found out the couple were adulterous? Can a donut shop refuse to serve their sweet treats to an overweight person? Or is it just LGBT people this law applies to? If so, how far does that go? Can a doctor refuse to administer medicine to a gay person? Can a manager at a fast food joint refuse service to two women who may not be gay but are simply assumed so? Will non-Christian business owners start turning away Christians and get away with it for the same rule?

This entire situation is disheartening. I pray that this bill does not get signed into law. It is a step in the wrong direction, and brings back “separate but equal” style ideals. No one wants to go back there.

Wild Dream on an Ordinary Day

The other day, I fell asleep for about two hours in the middle of the day. I woke up with memories of the strangest dream that I’ve had in a while, and oddly enough, I remembered quite a bit of the details! I’m going to try to retell it the best I can, and I hope you enjoy!

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I am with an older woman. She is not familiar to me, but I follow her. She takes me into a large cafeteria setting and we get some food. She is wearing a long black lace dress and a black pillbox hat with lace. She has short white hair, similar to Halle Berry as Storm in X-Men. She is old, white, and wrinkly, but seems to be nice. She has a warm smile, but something in her eyes just isn’t quite right. I feel uncomfortable. 

While searching for our seats I see two old friends of mine, Cassandra and Stephanie. They are there with their kids and smile when they see me. I put my finger to my lips to tell them not to say anything, all the while glancing at the old woman to make sure she doesn’t see me make that motion. I see Stephanie pull out her cell phone, and I frantically try to wave for them to stop. I run my finger across my neck, then hold out my pinkie and thumb like a phone to my ear, then point to the old woman, and back to my finger across my neck. Cassandra sees this and realizes something must be wrong, but Stephanie has already dialed on her cell phone. The old woman has my phone and sees someone calling. She looks at me very angrily. She asks me why anyone would be calling my cell phone. Cassandra and Stephanie come toward us. Stephanie and the older woman start chatting and I mouth “Help me!” to Cassandra. 

Cassandra’s face shows of understanding when she looks from me to the old woman. She grabs my arm and we start sprinting out of the cafeteria. Stephanie followed us, although I don’t know what she or the old woman were thinking. We keep running and exit the building and go to Stephanie’s house, which is nearby. Her father is home and he is concerned with what’s going on. My friends Bobbie and Jarod are also there, reasons unknown. We all sit together and I explain that the old woman kidnapped me. She’s a witch and has been casting some spell on me, but I have been trying to resist. We hear commotion outside. 

The group splits up throughout the house. I go upstairs. I look out the window and see the old witch in the street. There is a young man in the house next to us looking out the window terrified. I don’t look at him for long because I fear the old witch will hurt him. From another window, I see a ball of what looks like mud that was thrown inside. Then a second. I am standing with Cassandra, Bobbie, and Jarod when we see these balls of mud transform into animals. One turns into a tiger and hurls itself at Bobbie. The second ball turns into a pig. Cassandra runs down the stairs, while Jarod and I run into a nearby room. 

I look out the window again and see the young man, still terrified. This is ridiculous. I think to myself, “I shouldn’t be letting her control me like this.” I muster up all my energy and focus it on peace. I close my eyes and start speaking to the mud animals and to the old witch who is casting spells to stop. It’s almost as if I’m praying, or maybe I’m casting my own spells. I sit on nearby stairs to an attic and see all the mud animals and other spells the old witch has cast spin around the room (Think the end of Jumanji).

The old woman appears in the whirlwind of spells. She tries to tell me she only wanted to be my mother and she’s always loved me. I know she’s lying. She’s not my mother or anyone who cares about me. I stand and face her as I make my final wish for it all to go away and everything disappears out the window. The young man looks shocked, but when he sees my face looking at him, he sighs with relief. 

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Okay, so I definitely dramatized this a bit so it wasn’t like a boring dream, but rather a fictional short story. There are probably a few other details I’m forgetting, but the first thing I remember is the cafeteria, and the last thing is in the house looking at that boy.

Does it have any symbolic meaning? Did I eat something weird before I fell asleep? Am I just watching too much Doctor Who?

What do you guys think? :)

Bad Fruit from the “House of Prayer”

The last few days, I have seen articles pop up about the International House of Prayer (also known as IHOP) in Kansas City. They have been heartbreaking to say the least. The first one I saw was a Rolling Stone article about the death of Bethany Deaton, and the role of her husband Tyler in brainwashing a group of people into unspeakable things. It’s a quite long article, but if you have some time, definitely read it. It’s well-written and very enlightening. The second article was a few days later and a follow up to the Rolling Stone article. That one is also long, but check it out. It gives more to the story of Tyler and the group as well as how much more influence IHOP had on the whole situation.

This whole thing is personal for me because a few years ago, I really followed the teachings of IHOP. Let me say up front though, that I never got as involved as those in the two articles. I thank God that I realized the problems in the church before it got that far. Even so, I ignored so much of my life to immerse myself in the movement. I watched their live streaming 24/7 prayer house and the “revival” that occurred in 2009. I remember being totally intrigued by the whole thing and the passion people had to pray and worship so much. I wasn’t alone either. I had a group of friends that also were fascinated by the movement and really wanted to get involved.

At the end of the year in 2009, and ringing in the New Year in 2010, there was a conference called One Thing. My friends and I decided to go to Kansas City for the conference to experience it all first hand. That’s me at the conference in the photo to the left and below with my husband at the House of Prayer. There were about ten or so of us that went out there, and we met some more people while there. My husband (then he was my boyfriend) was excited to go, but I know he was leery about the whole thing. He seems to have a sense about these things.

I jumped in head first to experience all that was to be experienced. I tried to get up close to the “altar” during worship times, I really wanted to experience that whole shaking about thing that is supposed to happen when the Holy Spirit falls on a person, and I paid so much attention to the teachings so I didn’t miss anything. As it kept going, though, I was disappointed. I didn’t “feel” anything during worship times like I thought I was supposed to. Maybe I was trying too hard? Maybe I didn’t have enough faith? Was I being fake? Was everyone else being fake?

During one of the sessions, Mike Bickle spoke and made a blatant change to scripture to back up something he was talking about. Stan showed me the passage and we both were puzzled as to why he would just lie in front of everyone. We mentioned it to another in the group and he smiled as us like we were children and told us not to question Mr. Bickle’s authority. That made no sense to me! If he is lying up on stage and misleading thousands of people, how can we not question him?

Early on during the conference, my husband came across a homeless man sitting near the conference. He told the man about the conference and to come inside to get warm (it was December after all!). I guess other attendees had already gotten him a wristband for the conference. If I remember correctly, the man thought the whole thing was a little weird. Funny thing was, so did my husband. So my husband skipped most of the rest of the conference and hung out with this homeless man. They ate together, talked about life, and really became friends by the end of the week. Now, if you ask me, that is the most Christ-like thing to do! That’s love right there. But others in our group criticized him for skipping the meetings and not going to the sessions. I think that was the last straw for me.

These people are so bent on blindly following the leaders of IHOP that they don’t see what opportunities are in front of them. They will listen to any teaching because they aren’t supposed to question the leadership’s authority, and they can’t get their hands dirty in the real world for fear of missing out on what those in leadership might have to teach or what might happen in the prayer room. It’s quite disgusting.

That’s the sort of thing that went wrong with Tyler Deaton. His group followed him because he was supposed to be following God and leading his group on the right path. But he, like the leaders of IHOP, are doing far from what is best for their followers.

After coming home from the conference, I stopped watching the live stream and I started researching more about IHOP. I found so many blogs and stories from people who have been abused by IHOP. I read about a young woman who was forced to go on fasts to build her faith, but would get sick from not eating, and then be told to keep fasting to build her faith. Her mother would try to intervene, but the leadership at IHOP convinced the young woman to cut her mom off for not having enough faith. It was a viscous cycle.

I’ve read about people who have psychological issues, but the leadership won’t help them, they just shun them. There have been suicides and deaths (Bethany for example). One woman wrote about not being allowed to get a job because of all the time she had to spend at the IHOP University, but she couldn’t afford food or housing on her own, so she was forced to fast due to not being able to afford food. Another viscous cycle.

Then there’s all the end-times teachings and preparation for the Great Tribulation. I do not believe in any of that any more, and it’s sad that these people will give up their lives to try to bring Jesus back to earth. It’s a mind game if you ask me.

I can’t even begin to describe all that I’ve read about this “House of Prayer” on top of my experiences. The level of control that leaders have over the students and followers is unfathomable. My heart especially goes out to the students who have to be there all the time and are so immersed in this “reality” that they don’t know anything else. I don’t doubt their sincerity, but these poor folks are brainwashed.

I pray all the negative press will make some of these followers and students realize that IHOP is a cult and there is a way out.

I pray that there are families and support systems that will allow these people back into real life and not leave them hanging.

I pray that no one else has to die.

Are You God? No? Then Calm Down.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: Stop speaking on God’s behalf. God is big. God is different depending on the religion. To speak as if one person or a group of people know EXACTLY what God wants is ludicrous. Each person of faith has a different lens they view their faith and their God with. They interpret holy texts and sermons through that lens. 

According to recent statistics, there are roughly 41,000 Christian denominations (differing mainly on doctrine, see flow chart), five major Jewish movements (differing mainly on practices and rituals), four major sects of Islam (although most Muslims are Sunni), four Hindu denominations (differing mainly on how to achieve self-realization), three major branches of Buddhism, and many other smaller religions or non-religious variants.

So, first of all, clearly Christians have more divisive problems than the other major religions of the world. I can’t really even wrap my head around 41,000 different groups and sects of Christianity, but it doesn’t really surprise me. Christians bicker like they have to prove something. But what are they trying to prove and to who? God? Their peers? Themselves? In the end, does it matter if they have all the answers and win every argument?

Personally, I was once one of those Christians. There was a time when I would see a differing viewpoint on some social media and I would have to state my perspective. At the time, I really thought I was right and “correcting” them was what God wanted me to do. I realize now that I was just being arrogant. It’s not my place to tell people what to believe or how to believe it. We all have different journeys and different views and now I see how beautiful that is. I believe that God is big enough to show himself to people in so many more ways than we can imagine.

As for the other religions, there’s really not as much differing between them. With three to five major sects in each group, I don’t see much need for conflict or bickering between them. Not to say that there isn’t, but just that it’s not as prominent. I think all of us can think of a Baptist and a Pentecostal battling it out on a Facebook post, whereas it’s not so common to think of a Reform Jew and an Orthodox Jew battling it out over social media.

Since my experience is with Christianity, I want to go back to focusing on that. Why do so many Christians claim authority over what God says and what The Bible means? If there are 41,000 different variations of Christian doctrine, how can one group have it right? More than that, there have been 450 different translations or versions of the same Bible throughout history! I think Christians have an ego problem.

“I’m right and my church is wrong, so let’s create a new group with a new Bible and we’ll be right and God will love us.”

That’s basically what every founder of a new denomination or new Bible translation has said. They disagreed with the previous way of doing things, so they stood up and changed it. That’s what Martin Luther did. A lot of people praise him for what he did, but that seemed to have started a snowball that turned into an avalanche.

So, what do we do? Well, I don’t claim to know everything, but I’ve got some ideas:

Love People

Stop trying to convince people of what you perceive to be wrong. Just love people. Sacrifice your time to help those less fortunate. Share your home and invite people over for dinner. Send a letter to that certain someone who might need a pick-me-up. Smile at a stranger. Give a hug to someone who you really disapprove of their life choices and don’t even mention your disapproval. God is big enough to handle sin, so stop acting like you have to play God with people you see sinning in your eyes.

 Be Humble

You are not the best thing since sliced bread. There’s millions of people on planet earth and we are all special. Be proud of your faith, but don’t forget to consider other people and their faith. You are one small person and you don’t know everything. Along those same lines…

Be Open

Don’t shut out people who believe differently than you do. Open your heart to their differences. Hear their point of view. Whether it’s two people of the same faith group with differences, or two totally different religions. Like I said, you don’t know everything. Be open to what you may be wrong about. Be open to change.

I think there is a movement of people of faith taking strides to love people, and to be humble, and to be open. I believe that the early Christians were this way. I believe other faiths can be this way. I even believe people of no faith can be this way. There’s no reason to bicker about theological differences, when most of the time we all have the same goals at our core.