Thinking Out Loud

May 20, 2019

The Colorization of Your Bible

On the weekend I realized that several articles we’ve done here at Thinking Out Loud and at Christian Book Shop Talk have a common theme: The progressively increasing use of color in Bibles. By this I don’t mean the addition of illustrations, such as is found in Children’s Bibles such as The Picture Bible or The Action Bible,

but rather the use of color in otherwise unedited, full-text editions.

There also isn’t time to talk about Biblezines, such as these three (lower right of photo) produced by The Gideons in Canada, with beautiful photography running through every page. Besides, they aren’t full Bible editions either, but contain selected themed text, with the Gospel of John complete at the back…

I’m sure it began with covers. I can’t imagine that black was always the cover color of choice. Evangelist Bob Harrington used a cherry red Bible which apparently some found offensive. He countered with, “The Bible should be read;” a homonym pun he repeated (and repeated) at successive appearances in the same churches.

Red letter Bibles are not that old. Wikipedia tells us:

The inspiration for rubricating the Dominical words comes from Luke, 22:20: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you.” On 19 June 1899, Louis Klopsch, then editor of The Christian Herald magazine, conceived the idea while working on an editorial. Klopsch asked his mentor Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage what he thought of a testament with the Dominical words rubricated and Dr. Talmage replied, “It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good.”

Klopsch published the first modern red letter edition New Testament later in 1899. The first modern, fully rubricated bible was published in 1901. The rubricated bible instantly became popular, and is sometimes favored by Protestant Christians in the United States. Especially in King James Version editions, this format is useful because quotation marks are absent.

But we want to look at more recent developments.

Even as early as 2010, I noted the following Bibles that were offered for sale by a prominent online Christian retailer, and asked readers to reader decide if we are really so excited about Bible engagement that we needed all these permutations, or if the marketers had gone a little crazy on us (and no, I am not making these up):

  • The Veggie Tales Bible
  • The Soldier’s Bible
  • The Grandmother’s Bible
  • The Duct Tape Bible
  • The Busy Life Bible (“Inspiration even if you have only a minute a day”)
  • The Chunky Bible
  • The God Girl Bible (only in “snow white”)
  • The Wisdom and Grace Bible for Young Women of Color
  • The Waterproof Bible (useful in frequently flooded U.S. states)
  • The Pray for a Cure Bible (in pink)
  • The Divine Health Bible
  • The Wild About Horses Bible
  • The Fire Bible

The cover colors offered were just as varied:

  • Raspberry
  • Melon
  • Razzleberry
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Caramel
  • Espresso
  • Toffee
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Glittery Grape Butterfly
  • Plum
  • Lavender (with flowers!)
  • Black Cherry
  • Distressed Umber (?)
  • Mocha/aqua

and remember this was before the “duo-tone” type of Bibles became more entrenched, ultimately exceeding the traditional “bonded leather” editions in terms of popularity.

In January of 2017, we reported on the trend that developed out of a convergence of adult coloring books and scrap-booking. People were apparently coloring the text pages of their Bibles and not everyone was happy with the results.

Bible Journaling 2

Bible Journaling 1

In 2017, Tyndale Publishing House decided to help some aspiring artists kickstart their personalization projects by creating The Inspire Bible, available now in a half dozen different editions.

The primary market for these is women, so I don’t actually own one. This page sample was captured online, and then I darkened it considerably so you would see the graphic art material which is actually printed in a much lighter tone.

They will disagree, but rival publisher Zondervan has never come with anything quite as striking in terms of color, print process (including the page edges) and overall aesthetics for the NIV. Meanwhile Tyndale is about to issue a girls version of Inspire.

Then last week, I discovered that even Bible tabs had joined the party. You can’t buy the ones pictured at Christian bookstores or major Christian online vendors, but through independent sources.

Of course, not every innovation pleases everyone. Just last week someone reacted to the NRSV Pride Bible which we had noted in a past edition of Wednesday Connect:

This, they felt went too far, though minus its appellation, with its primary colors it would make a nice Bible for kids.

Finally, all this is nothing new; people having been been marking their Bibles according to theme for decades. Perhaps this well-marked copy was the inspiration for the various color-coded Bibles on the market today…

…such as the Rainbow Study Bible, pictured here:


May 17, 2019

Charles Colson Quotation

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:33 am

May 16, 2019

A Captcha We’d Like to See

Filed under: Humor — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:57 am

May 15, 2019

Wednesday Connect


So once again, we find ourselves with a link list where the lead items all concern the conservative church knee-jerking about a woman in ministry. I am so glad I follow a different God than theirs. There. I said it. And I’m not even a fan of this week’s featured target. But she deserves better.

■ Woman “A” doesn’t think Woman “B” (as in ‘B is for Beth Moore’) should preach, even on Mother’s Day. “When a pastor invites a woman to sin by taking over the pulpit, he drags her and the women of his church right back to post-Fall Eden.” …

■ … and then Woman “B” (as in ‘B is for Beth Moore’) had a few things to say about it herself. “…Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin. It was over power. It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses and misses of power. Shepherds guarding other shepherds instead of guarding the sheep.” …

■ …Or appropriately, this summary of the events: “Beth Moore preaching on Mother’s Day in the SBC, and men are losing their minds.” (Right now, as I type this, probably many a complementarian is pulling out his hair or dealing with elevated blood pressure. As for me, I’m making myself a sandwich. This is not a hill to be on.)

■ Going about it the right way: “Even though the Roman Catholic Church teaches that all life has dignity and abortion is a moral evil, a Catholic college in Montana is dictating to its Students For Life group how they should criticize Planned Parenthood, both on campus and online.”

■ Months later, the botched adoption story continues. The Canadian government simply refuses to move for this couple who now alternate between their home in Canada and, most recently, Ghana. Click the link, and be sure to read the whole thing. A travesty for which Canada should be ashamed… 

■ …and while we’re talking Canada, sadly, the movie Unplanned will not be playing in Canadian theaters. The two largest film distributors in the country said ‘content’ as the issue, “not lack of consumer demand.

■ Persecution Watch: “In a blow to the country’s Christian and other minorities, the military council in control of Sudan has affirmed that future legislation should continue to be based on sharia law.”

■ Donald Lawrence, a Gospel music artist claims to be doing more than just singing: “‘Spiritual Song Psychotherapy (and) Spiritual Lyric Psychotherapy Is a concept I’ve toyed around with for the last 8-12 years,’ he revealed. ‘It’s the idea of delivering spiritual psychology/ psychotherapy to (the) listener in song form knowing that repeating a healing phrase over and over will have a certain neurological effect, changing the way the listener speaks and thinks while also changing the way the subconscious reacts to a past challenge…'”

■ Quotation of the Week: Garrison Keillor in an article on Julian of Norwich (14th Century): “In 1351, Pope Clement VI himself railed against his own highest-ranking clergy: ‘What can you preach to the people? If on humility, you yourselves are the proudest of the world, puffed up, pompous and sumptuous in luxuries. If on poverty, you are so covetous that all the benefices in the world are not enough for you. If on chastity — but we will be silent on this, for God knoweth what each man does and how many of you satisfy your lusts.'”

■ We saved the best RHE tribute for last: Ed Cyzewski’s tribute to Rachel Held Evans. “She showed so many of us that we could do the heavy lifting of theology and still share compelling stories and narratives…One pastor noted that she had created a work of pastoral performance art that resembled the prophetic tradition…I cannot fathom the scope of this tragedy for her family at this time. Everything about this feels wrong and unfair for her children and husband…”

■ Essay of the Week: The Housechurch Movement Ruined My Life. “People who have written books and lead conferences will volunteer to come and teach your group how have a meeting with no one leading, but often the “model” of how to do housechurch often is restrictive and strangles things that would bring life to the group…Also, there are some house church experts who ban musicial instruments during singing because anyone playing a guitar would be “too much of a leader” in a fiercely leaderless movement. As a result, singing worship songs often loses something that only an instrument can provide, and its not a small thing that gets lost.” This is a longer piece, and while it’s subjective, it’s thoroughly considered and worth the time.

■ Warren Throckmorton points out that Gospel for Asia is saying to those entitled to receive funds out of the class lawsuit filed against it, essentially something like, ‘Once you get your money back, consider donating back to Gospel for Asia.’ A mass mailing reads, “I have submitted our claim in this settlement for 100% of what we are eligible to claim. I plan to take all the money I can from my claim, minus an amount I will need to set aside for taxes, and donate it back to GFA to their general fund to help cover the 11 million dollars it has to raise for the settlement.” Writers such as that one are presented as believing they are in disagreement with the lawsuit. Others might feel, ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’

■ Burning sage to rid your house of evil spirits? Charisma first reported on this in December, but it’s becoming more widespread: “This practice of saging a house is common among followers of New Age and shamanistic beliefs, and sadly, is becoming increasingly popular in Christian homes. Why would this practice go against Christian beliefs?” Read more here. Or this answer at

■ How the church widely deals with people with a porn problem: “For instance, in many church communities over the last several decades, sins like pornography use have essentially become earners of scarlet letters. Porn is seen by many as the unpardonable sin. But if we continue preaching, discipling, and counseling this way, we will soon find that we’ve excommunicated our church into oblivion!” (Read that last phrase again.)

■ Comparing my religion: Comparing our Christianity with our Jewish counterparts, even as, in this article, American Jews compare their rate of engagement with their Canadian counterparts. Relatively speaking Canadians are all in. (My guess is the same isn’t true for Christianity, but then again, if we’re measuring engagement as opposed to raw attendance numbers, I am willing to be proved wrong.)

■ Arizona pastor banned in Ireland: “Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan signed an order under the Immigration Act 1999 forbidding the entry of Steven L. Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, ahead of a visit to Dublin that Anderson said he had scheduled for May 26. His visit’s purpose was to preach to an unspecified congregation, according to the newspaper. It was the first exclusion order signed since the law was enacted.”

■ Nepotism is alive and well at New Destiny Christian Center, as televangelist Paula White (spiritual advisor to one Donald J. Trump) turns the lead pastorate of the church over to her son Brad. “Does it seem like favoritism to elevate an associate pastor and donor relations coordinator as senior pastors when, seemingly, there are more qualified church members on staff? To me, yes. But I can also understand that it is probably challenging to build a church or parachurch ministry and not want to choose your child, who you trust, as successor.”

■ Debriefing Mother’s Day: “When we expect others to fulfill our need for affirmation, a root of idolatry is revealed. God sees you. God loves you. God rewards those who faithfully serve Him. You will only find yourself fulfilled when you are working to please your Creator.”

■ Noteworthy here for its excellent portrayal of a large American Roman Catholic family in the 1970s, ABC-TV has cancelled The Kids Are Alright. This “gem of a show” isn’t getting to see a second season.

■ Group Publishing is back this year with WonderFull World, another VBS for adults. Actually they’re women’s retreats in a box, but since we started calling them adult VBS, it kinda stuck here at Wednesday Connect Central. This one has a travel theme.

■ Lev Bure, the 19-year-old son of actress Candice Cameron Bure, and nephew of Kirk Cameron was one of five younger leaders who got to preach this week at Shepherd Church, a non-denominational church in Los Angeles. Lev spoke on “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

■ We linked to this guy’s video when he toured a Greek Orthodox Church, so we thought we’d check out his discovery of Anglicanism. However, this “Ten Minute Bible Hour” does run 53 minutes, so we didn’t quite finish. Really good though; he picks good churches/pastors to film/interview.

■ Finally, for me, the punchline was in the last paragraph. The man standing through his car sunroof with his hands raised at speeds up to 100 mph while the car was on a cruise control “thought it would be a nice way to praise God for a minute.”

May 14, 2019

Even if a Miracle Happens…

I was really struck by this passage last week listening to the podcast we linked to last week concerning the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. I spent a fair bit of time updating the language of Matthew Henry for our devotional blog, Christianity 201, and decided that having put all that work into it I would share it here as well. Everything that follows is from him except for items in square brackets and lighter typeface which are added by myself.

Signs and Wonders: A Note of Caution

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,”you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. – Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NIV

So how could this happen?

A Strange Premise

How is it possible that any who had so much knowledge of the methods of divine revelation as to be able to impersonate a prophet should yet have so little knowledge of the divine nature and will as to go himself and entice his neighbours after other gods? Could an Israelite ever be guilty of such impiety? Could a man of sense ever be guilty of such absurdity?

We see it in our own day, and therefore may think it the less strange; multitudes that profess both learning and religion yet exciting both themselves and others, not only to worship God by images, but to give divine honor to saints and angels, which is no better than going after other gods to serve them; such is the power of strong delusions.

It is yet more strange that the sign or wonder given for the confirmation of this false doctrine should come to pass. [i.e. that the prayer is answered, or the miracle takes place.] Can it be thought that God himself should give any countenance to such a vile proceeding? Did ever a false prophet work a true miracle?

It is only supposed here for two reasons:

1. To strengthen [could he mean exaggerate?] the warning here given against following such a person. “Though it were possible that he should work a true miracle, yet you must not believe him if he tell you that you must serve other gods, for the divine law against that is certainly perpetual and unalterable.’’ The supposition is like that in Gal. 1:8 , If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you —which does not prove it possible that an angel should preach another gospel, but strongly expresses the certainty and perpetuity of that which we have received.

2. It is to fortify them against the danger of impostures and lying wonders (2 Th. 2:9 ): “Suppose the credentials he produces be so artfully counterfeited that you cannot discern the cheat, nor disprove them, yet, if they are intended to draw you to the service of other gods, that alone is sufficient to disprove them; no evidence can be admitted against so clear a truth as that of the unity of the Godhead, and so plain a law as that of worshipping the one only living and true God.’’ We cannot suppose that the God of truth should set his seal of miracles to a lie, to so gross a lie as is supposed in that temptation, Let us go after other gods.

But if it be asked [and it must be asked]: Why is this false prophet permitted to counterfeit this sign/wonder? [why did the miracle work?] then it is answered here (v. 3): The Lord you God is testing you. He allows you to be faced by such a temptation to test the quality of your faith, that both those that are perfect and those that are false and corrupt may be made made obvious. It is to test [and shape] you; therefore see that you pass the test, and stand your ground.’’

A Necessary Warning

1. Not to yield to the temptation: you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.

Not only must you not do the thing he [or she] tempts you to, but you should not so much as patiently hear the temptation, but reject it with the utmost disdain and detestation. [i.e. walk away before they are finished talking!] Such a suggestion as this is not open to negotiation, but you should cover your ears! “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Some temptations are so grossly vile that they will not bear a debate, nor may we so much as give them the hearing. What follows (v. 4),

Some temptations are so grossly vile that a discussion isn’t necessary, nor may we so much as give them the time of day. What follows (v. 4), You shall walk after the Lord, may be looked upon,

(a) As prescribing a preservative from the temptation: “Stay focused on your work [sacred and secular], and you keep out of harm’s way. God never leaves us till we leave him.’’ Or,

(b) As providing us with answer to the temptation; by responding, “It is written, Thou shalt walk after the Lord, and cleave unto him; and therefore what have I to do with idols?’’

2. Not to spare the tempter, v. 5. That prophet shall be put to death, both to punish him for the attempt he has made (the seducer must die, though none were seduced by him—a design upon the crown is treason) and to prevent them from doing further mischief. This is called putting away the evil. There is no way of removing the guilt but by removing the guilty; if such a criminal be not punished, those that should punish him make themselves responsible. And you must purge the evil from among you [KJV: “mischief must be put away”] the infection must be kept from spreading by cutting off the gangrened limb, and putting away the mischief-makers. Such dangerous diseases as these must be taken in time.

Matthew Henry as sourced at

May 13, 2019

Excerpt from Inspired by Rachel Held Evans: If Love Can Look Like Genocide

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:26 am

In the past year, Rachel Held Evans was not as prolific on her blog as she had been in the past, preferring  more interactive social media forms. So this book excerpt was actually among her final half dozen posts…

As always, it found her wrestling with the tougher aspects of scripture; this time in a book about the book, Inspired.

“If Love Can Look Like Genocide, Then Love Can Look Like Anything”: An Excerpt from “Inspired”

From Chapter 3: “War Stories” in Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking On Water, and Loving the Bible Again: 

“…The question of God’s character haunted every scene and every act and every drama of the Bible. It wasn’t just the story of Noah’s flood or Joshua’s conquests that unsettled me. The book of Judges recounts several horrific war stories in which women’s bodies are used as weapons, barter, or plunder, without so much as a peep of objection from the God in whose name these atrocities are committed. One woman, a concubine of a Levite man, is thrown to a mob, gang-raped, and dismembered as part of an intertribal dispute (Judges 19). Another young girl is ceremonially sacrificed to God after God grants a military victory to her father, Jephthah, who promised to offer as a burnt offering “whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites” (Judges 11:31). Earlier, in the book of Numbers, God assists the Israelites in an attack against the Midianites, and tells the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child from the community. They kill all except the young virgin girls whom the soldiers divide up as spoils of war. Feminist scholar Phyllis Trible aptly named these narratives “texts of terror.”

“If art imitates life,” she wrote, “scripture likewise reflects it in both holiness and horror.”

Rereading the texts of terror as a young woman, I kept anticipating some sort of postscript or epilogue chastising the major players for their sins, a sort of Arrested Development–style “lesson” to wrap it all up—“And that’s why you should always challenge the patriarchy!” But no such epilogue exists. While women are raped, killed, and divided as plunder, God stands by, mute as clay.

I waited for a word from God, but no word came.

It was as though I lived suspended in the tension of two apparently competing convictions: that every human being is of infinite worth and value, and that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. These beliefs pulled at me with the gravitational forces of large planets. I couldn’t get rid of them, and yet I couldn’t seem to resolve them either. The tension was compounded by a growing confluence of mis- givings I had about the absence of women in leadership in my church, the shaming of young women perceived to be immodest or “impure,” and the insistence that God is most pleased when women are submissive and quiet. My home had always been a place of refuge, where the voices of women were valued and honored, but as I graduated from high school and entered college, I began to wonder if the same was true for the broader Christian community to which I belonged.

When I turned to pastors and professors for help, they urged me to set aside my objections, to simply trust that God is good and that the Bible’s war stories happened as told, for reasons beyond my comprehension.

“God’s ways are higher than our ways,” they insisted. “Stop trying to know the mind of God.”

It’s an understandable approach. Human beings are finite and fallible, prone to self-delusion and sentimentality. If we rely exclusively on our feelings to guide us to truth, we are bound to get lost.

When asked in 2010 about Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, Reformed pastor and theologian John Piper declared, without hesitation, “It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.” Piper’s dispassionate acceptance represented pure, committed faith, I was told, while mine had been infected by humanism and emotion—“a good example of why women should be kept from church leadership,” one acquaintance said.

And for a moment, I believed it. For a moment, I felt silly for responding so emotionally to a bunch of old war stories that left the rest of the faithful seemingly unfazed. But this is the deleterious snare of fundamentalism: It claims that the heart is so corrupted by sin, it simply cannot be trusted to sort right from wrong, good from evil, divine from depraved. Instinct, intuition, conscience, critical thinking—these impulses must be set aside whenever they appear to contradict the biblical text, because the good Christian never questions the “clear teachings of Scripture”; the good Christian listens to God, not her gut.

I’ve watched people get so entangled in this snare they contort into shapes unrecognizable. When you can’t trust your own God- given conscience to tell you what’s right, or your own God-given mind to tell you what’s true, you lose the capacity to engage the world in any meaningful, authentic way, and you become an easy target for authoritarian movements eager to exploit that vacuity for their gain. I tried reading Scripture with my conscience and curiosity suspended, and I felt, quite literally, disintegrated. I felt fractured and fake.

Brené Brown warned us we can’t selectively numb our emotions, and no doubt this applies to the emotions we have about our faith.

If the slaughter of Canaanite children elicits only a shrug, then why not the slaughter of Pequots? Of Syrians? Of Jews? If we train ourselves not to ask hard questions about the Bible, and to emotionally distance ourselves from any potential conflicts or doubts, then where will we find the courage to challenge interpretations that justify injustice? How will we know when we’ve got it wrong?

“Belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man,” Thomas Paine said.  If the Bible teaches that God is love, and love can look like genocide and violence and rape, then love can look like . . . anything. It’s as much an invitation to moral relativism as you’ll find anywhere.

I figured if God was real, then God didn’t want the empty devotion of some shadow version of Rachel, but rather my whole, integrated self. So I decided to face the Bible’s war stories head-on, mind and heart fully engaged, willing to risk the loss of faith if that’s where the search led…

Read the rest in Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking On Water, and Loving the Bible Again. 

May 10, 2019

How to Accuse Someone of Heresy

Before you say:

  • He’s not a Christian
  • She doesn’t know the Lord
  • He’s probably in hell today

make sure you’ve worked your way through the normal method of drawing such conclusion.


You simply must quote the name of the work in question and page number. Include the quotation. If you can’t honestly bring yourself to purchase a copy of the author’s book, while I admire you for standing on your principles and not spending money on someone you don’t think you can support, know that you have forfeited the right to critique their writing. There is no need to read further.


Make clear what it is in the quotation that you feel is worthy of examination. Everyone else may be reading this and seeing “A” but if you feel “B” is present, note both the impact and implications of the authors words. State what you see the author saying. At this stage avoid citing third parties. This is about what you want to express concerning the author.

Verify (1)

Make sure you’re not ‘proof-texting’ the author. Don’t use pull-quotes to deliberately be provocative if the body of the larger paragraph doesn’t support your thesis. Is the author using sarcasm, humor, etc.? Jesus himself used hyperbole on several occasions in his teaching. (People who feel they have been called to defend the faith against heresy are, for reasons that escape me, generally lacking a sense of humor.) I know one particular author who is not known as a humorist, but did one title totally tongue-in-cheek. And certain people will always miss that sort of thing.

Verify (2)

Do the research for yourself. Don’t quote someone else. And make sure that person has followed these steps. (The propagation of the KJV-Only movement happened only because people built a foundation on ‘so-and-so says.’ In fact the whole thing can be traced back to two individuals, with very little primary research done by others.)


Now that you’ve followed those steps, compare what the author says verse-by-verse with scripture and make the case that there is definitely a conflict.

Avoid Generalization

Just because an author can be faulted on an individual point does not mean that their ministry has a whole deserves to be labelled heretical. (I would be greatly hurt if you called me a heretic just because I have views on eschatology that are different from yours. Which, by the way, I do.) For more on this, Google the phrase ‘logical fallacies.’ 


Avoid name calling at all costs. Even if the person is a ___________________, it diminishes your argument. I would go so far to say it completely undermines your argument.


If the tide of public opinion on a particular author is positive and your view is negative, ask yourself why you are the lone prophet in the wilderness. Look for the fruit. If there’s fruit, and it’s good fruit, God is using them. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” – Romans 14:4


I would want to avoid the actual charge, “Heresy!” Sufficient to say you have concerns. And don’t even begin to express opinions about the eternal destiny of someone based on what you’ve written. Even if every charge you make about doctrinal aberration is correct, you don’t know that.

May 9, 2019

The Contagion of Mass Violence

Despite what these nuns may think, the gun issue in the United States is no laughing matter.

School shootings have now been with us for a generation; two decades. Or so some news media would have us think, preferring to use the Columbine (Littleton) event as a game changer. In fact, a look at the School Shootings List on Wikipedia shows that incidents so classified go back to the 1800s.

A close look at the list shows that Columbine had been preceded by just eleven months by an event in Springfield, Oregon where four people were killed but 25 were injured.

There are also two other significant outliers: In August, 1966, 18 people were killed at the University of Texas (Austin) tower shooting; and in May, 1986 there was an event in Cokeville, Wyoming involving a bomb which injured 79, though only one death, other than the perpetrators’, involved gunfire.

When you scroll through the whole list however, events since the year 2000 take up far more than half the page, so the Columbine thesis has some validity.

I’ve written about this subject before and it has often brought accusations that I, writing outside the United States, should not be meddling in the gun control issue, since that is a political issue that Americans need to work out on their own. So I won’t state the obvious here and suggest that maybe, just maybe, civilian access to the AR-15 is a bad idea.

But when I’ve written before, I’ve talked about the idea that the killer(s) had no regard for human life.

While I believe that there is a contagion of gun violence — not dissimilar to other things which have swept through U.S. culture, such as the contagion of divorce — I think we need to dig a little deeper and try to figure what has fostered the disregard for human life.

Hang on, this is going to sound very 1950-ish or 60-ish.

I believe American television has played a role. A big role.

Last week I was watching a situation comedy on a U.S. network. Lighthearted fare. Watched by families and children.

During the second commercial break, which included promotions for upcoming shows, I watched three people get killed.

I found it interesting that here was broadcast content advertising programs which probably aren’t allowed to be shown before 9:00 PM, and yet at 8:17 they can air scenes depicting the very violence which causes those programs to be designated for later viewing.

How many shootings have American kids watched on television compared to their UK counterparts?

I think the answer would be significant because UK adventures/suspense/mystery programs wouldn’t broadcast people pulling out guns and committing murder if in fact the weapons are not in the average citizen’s possession in real life.

Up to this very day, it is widely agreed that the focus of censorship in the U.S. has always been on sexual content not violent content, whereas in parts of Europe violence is censored and the treatment of sexual scenes is more liberal. Do American television networks have complicity in the gun violence we’ve been seeing since 1991? Or the actors themselves? When I wrote about this on Twitter, I received this comment “The irony is Hollywood actors who speak out about gun violence but make millions of dollars wielding and shooting guns in their movies.”

Do British children have a higher regard for human life?

I don’t think that television is the only factor at work; furthermore if there is a contagion of violence, those germs are capable of crossing the ocean through social media and the export of U.S. film industry products around the world.

Children are imitative. If that’s what we show them, that’s what they grow up thinking is normal behavior. We’re telling them that life is cheap.

So to my American friends, yes by all means look at gun control and even the Second Amendment itself.

But also look at media control, broadcast control, film industry control.


May 8, 2019

Wednesday Connect

This is my new cover image on Twitter, Delivery of the Keys, or Entrega de las llaves a San Pedro by 15th Century artist Perugino. Just between you and me, I don’t think what is pictured ever happened; that there were literal keys, or that Peter was the beginning of a Papal succession. However, the version I cropped fit the Twitter image requirements perfectly, and in the end, that was all that mattered. More about the painting at this Wikipedia page.

Welcome back! Again, my hope is you see something here you might have missed elsewhere. Really, there was only one story this week of significance,* so we’ll move on, as hard as it is to imagine the Christian internet world (and Twitter) without Rachel Held Evans. If you missed it, see the three previous blog posts here.

■ Warner Sallman: The guy whose picture of Jesus was once found in more churches and hospitals than any other image. “What changed in the 20th century with Sallman, was that Jesus images met American advertising and mass production. Prayer met plastic… Despite his beard, the “Head of Christ” is anything but hipster irony…Apparently, Sallman was attempting to create a more masculine Jesus than earlier portrayals. Ironically, many now find his Jesus effeminate — demonstrating the extent to which definitions of “masculine” are cultural and fluid rather than biological. In Jesus’ own day, and as a Jew in the Roman Empire, masculinity was as contested then as it is now.”

■ Former Templeton Prize winner Jean Vanier passed away in Paris yesterday, May 7th. The author of many, many books (published in several languages) some would know him better as a one-time mentor to Henri Nouwen. Vanier was 90 and died after spending just a few weeks in palliative care.

■ The Chabad of Poway synagogue shooter: “He attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His parents seem to be faithful believers. His father is an elder at the church. His pastor preaches the Gospel. Yet he was infected with vile and murderous anti-Semitism and white nationalism…The shooting in Poway is a terrifying reminder that the church isn’t immune to any moral malady that stalks our land. It may land within the church with varying degrees of intensity and frequency, but it will land in the church.”

■ The downside of personality tests. “It’s no secret that the science behind personality tests is shady. Mainly because we typically view ourselves in the best light. Personality tests are often just as solid an indication of our self-idolatry intricacies as our God-given intricacies.”

■ A response to last week’s sweeping endorsement of cannabis by founder Craig Gross: “[M]y marijuana use ended as I yielded to the Holy Spirit’s guidance… The adventure of experiencing God’s presence and loving pursuit has displaced the need for so many things I’d previously used to manage life and to meet my own needs.”

■ If you’re keeping slaves, you don’t want them owning Bibles containing Israel’s exodus from Egypt.

■ Just when a bunch of boomers are getting ready to die, the funeral industry is being shaken. “…Somber, embalmed-body funerals, with their $9,000 industry average price tag, are, for many families, a relic. Instead, end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized: golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less “Ave Maria,” more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the “fun” in funerals…The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger…” The Washington Post reports on “thinking outside the box. (With fewer weddings and funerals, what will provide extra cash for pastors a decade from now?)

■ ‘James MacDonald, you stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks, so you get nothing.’

■ The lead story yesterday at CBN News was a report on “hundreds of poor Christian girls [as young as 13] who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year… Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters. Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither…”

■ Exposing the dangers of Bethel Church: Apologia Studios posted this 50-minute video podcast “explosive and compelling story of Lindsay Davis who defected from Bethel.”

■ Missionary Matters (1): When you’re an overseas missionary, and the government in the country where you’re serving announces that there will be rotating power cuts for 72 days, you need to put into place a “Power’s Out Protocol.” There are seven principles here which do export well back to us in North American and Western Europe, but I think for myself at least, it would be called an “Internet’s Out Protocol.”

■ Missionary Matters (2): When your grandchildren will never see the place you currently call home, and all your once-treasured possessions back in the States have been given away, leaving a legacy, even if that means something as simple as planting a walnut tree, may seem pointless until you learn to think about it differently

■ Roger Olson on the Jesus People movement: “In short, I think the Jesus movement of the 1970s was a mixed blessing. It was a true revival, but it came at the cost of anti-intellectualism and anti-tradition in churches where at least some appreciation of theology and serious biblical study and traditional theologically-rich hymns had been present.” He attempts the argument that the movement is responsible for the watering down of the modern church. (But solely responsible? C’mon, Roger.)

■ A sad headline: “A Christian Mom’s Worst Nightmare: Her Son Converted to Islam and Died for ISIS, Now She’s on a Mission.”

■ The Twitter curiosity known as Dave Gass, “who after being a devout Christian for 40 years and a pastor for 20 years has decided that the religion is a hoax and only a means to control people and culture and not an actual direct path to God or a spiritual being.” [Source: Ann Brock.] He writes, “ After 40 years of being a devout follower, 20 of those being an evangelical pastor, I am walking away from faith.” However, there’s another element to the story, and after that is revealed, one reader correctly notes, “[The] problem is you implied you left active ministry due to your loss of faith and not the loss of credibility in your conduct required in Christian circles. Much of what you said was true regarding Christianity, the lack of disclosure throws all of your motives into doubt.” [Also, atheist and humanist bloggers are having a field day with this guy’s story.]

■ Frightening: Children’s Church when I grew up was never like this. Video has surfaced of kids as young as 5 at a Philadelphia Islamic Center singing, “We will chop off their heads…and we will subject them to eternal torture.

■ Unexpected source, much wisdom: “As for those of us who are still in the land of the living, if we can’t be civil and gracious when a 37-year-old wife and mother passes away, we had better to do some serious questioning of our own faith.”

■ Parenting Place (1): To spank or not to spank? A balanced article on the subject, with a ten point guide on how to — or how not to — administer loving correction.

■ Parenting Place (2): Exposing your kids to other cultures. “On one of those first trips, when my youngest was only four years old, we walked past a group of women, covered head-to-toe in solid black burkas with only small slits for their eyes visible and she tugged on my arm. I leaned down and she asked in her tiny innocent voice if the “black angels” were good or bad. Her heart was pure but her question still broke my heart because she asked it in fear of what she didn’t understand. I whispered that they were good.” [Warning: This is obviously a recommended article, but my AdBlock was blocking no less than 36 elements, and there was pop-up that popped up three times. This was truly the worst of anything I’ve ever seen online, and you might want to visit just on that basis alone.]

■ New Music from 🇬🇧 – Iron Lung by Martin Smith (of Delirious) (Title song from the new album)

■ New Music from 🇺🇸 – House on a Hill (Acoustic) by Amanda Cook (of Bethel Music)

■ New Music from 🇨🇦 – Into the Wild by Manic Drive (Winner of the 2019 Juno Award for Gospel/Christian Album of the Year; the Junos are Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards.) 

■ Mini Podcast of the Week: A Catholic take on whether or not we should work on Sundays. (It’s not about money changing hands, so you can still go out for brunch after mass.)

■ Watch your scripture citations. Double check the references.

■ Finally — Back to the Bee: Basics for Bassists from the Fender Guitar people (as pictured below). All you really need for today’s worship music.

*There were a number of other articles about Rachel that we didn’t get to yesterday that were posted at the Tuesday link list at Phoenix Preacher. I’ve have read some but not all of these:

Response to P& P on the death of Rachel Held Evans

RIP Rachel Held Evans…

Four gifts RHE gave us…

Jesus Creed on RHE…

Relevant on RHE…

RHE and the democratization of theology…

May 7, 2019

A Sampling of the Tributes for Rachel Held Evans

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:30 am

This picture of Rachel, now widely circulating, was taken by her husband Dan.

At one point I found myself simply re-Tweeting so many things.

We didn’t have social media or even the internet itself when Keith Green died, but I think this will end up ranking on a similar level of impact for people who knew and love Rachel Held Evans. In a similar way, there were those who didn’t know Keith Green’s music until he died, and I see something similar happening with Rachel: People wondering who this woman is whose words so captivated so many; someone passing at such a young age with so much more to share… 

If you are interested in offering tangible support to Rachel’s family, the GoFundMe page is now over $200,000; but the needs — particularly of raising two very small children — will continue in the years to come. Click here to learn more.

First: less than 60 days ago Rachel herself posted this on Twitter:

Over the past few weeks I’ve received several very kind messages from people who confessed they had been suspicious or critical of my work for years, but when circumstances pushed them to pick up one of my books, they realized they had me wrong and they wanted to apologize. I’m not sharing this to toot my own horn or anything. I’ve written similar messages myself, to other authors/pastors/thinkers, and I’m certain I could write more considering how much my own perspectives have evolved, stretched, and changed over the last decade. I’m just sharing because it’s nice to be reminded that people change, and that some are kind and humble enough to apologize to someone they’ve never met for something I likely don’t even remember. We’re all in process. Myself included.

Also, if you want to read further, one of her final Tweets was a link to this 2014 blog post. I think it really reflects her heart.

I also found this video, posted on the weekend to YouTube; not many have seen it:

Rachel’s sister Amanda has not been active on Twitter, but posted this shortly after Rachel entered the hospital:

And this was one of Rachel’s final Tweets: 

Now on to just a small sampling of general tributes: 

Peter Enns adapted this from The Book of Common Prayer:

Finally, this drawing from David Hayward:

This is the third of three posts regarding Rachel Held Evans. If you are a subscriber, you missed some content in the post from late Saturday night and there were some formatting issues. I was quite shaken up by the news. That post contained a quote from Rachel’s husband Dan, given to Ruth Graham at Slate. Click here to read.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at