A testament to the sincerity and intellectual integrity of believers in the truth claims of Christianity, I’ve found, is that they’re just as often challenging people in their own camp as they are butting heads against unbelievers. Jim Gordon (or DonewithReligion), writing on their done with religion website, doesn’t appear to be an example of that same intellectual integrity or honesty, rather “Living with God Outside the Walls of Religion” (as DWR insists to be doing) appeared to be as closed in and walled off a place as I’ve ever happened upon! Jim, I’ve found for some back and forth (mostly coming from me to him) conversation, spends the vast majority of their messages, even messages composed for atheists hostile to the Christian faith, simply capitulating to their damaging and often false claims against Christianity. In Gordon’s opinion the Holy Spirit, as a sort of get out of jail free card, convicts the world of their wrongdoing, it’s the work of the Spirit, Him and not DWR’s duty (nor is it even The Spirit who convicts working through believers, or so it appears). So, after reading several of DWR’s respectful (although passionless) messages, I resolved to ask Jim why he wasn’t making an effort to actually defend his Christian faith, as to make friends with unbelievers is one thing, though it’s a whole different thing to persistently and publicly support atheists when they trash, bash and generally try making your beliefs look worthy of ridicule. First however, lest my description of DWR’s online message history appears too mean-spirited or stingy, let’s have a small sampling of their material as shared with Alex Black (from the Wacky World conversations).
After Alex questioned the truth of miracle claims in the form of faith healing, in addition to claiming believers lack serious evidence for these things, Gordon replied: “I think questioning is a good thing, and your comment was done respectfully. You took the time to read the article and do some research before submitting your comment. It should have been published and a reasonable reply made” [OSC: Jim offers no reasonable reply himself.]
After misrepresenting the Biblical concept of belief, something I later challenge Alex on, one of DWR’s longer replies goes on to explain: “Unfortunately, religion has taught us about a god that does not sound so loving. I believe Jesus came to show us what God is really like, a loving God who accepts all people and wants the best for each of us. Again, this is my interpretation and I understand not everyone agrees with this, and that is OK. As a Christian, I agree with what Maritza [another writer] said, I dislike religious people too.”
After explaining they have an unfortunate needle phobia, Alex Black, who is currently taking testosterone for their gender reassignment surgery, opened up the article to conversation, upon which DWR helps further their transition: “This might seem a little silly, but my wife did a survey once where she had to inject an orange with a syringe and needle. That may be something that would be of help to you. Just a thought.”
Now, as I’ve explained on many an occasion, people should be tactful, they shouldn’t barrel through conversations alienating people, however, to be a Christian, as is going to be explained by the Scriptures, means to live a somewhat controversial life by today’s standards. To be a follower of Christ means taking up your cross and going to places you may not want to go, I certainly don’t want to go to such places or be part of so many confrontations, yet I do because for every 100 people who despise the things being said, there’s that 1 person who desperately wants Jesus in their life. So, done with religion, despite DWR’s protests to the contrary, really does appear to mean being done with God’s word (how sad), perhaps not in every person’s life, but clearly in some. Is my verdict too harsh? Could DWR by helping people to reject their God-given gender for their chosen ideal be right? You may judge by the strength of their replies, first however, an article from Alex Black (in green), due to which DRW begins by way of their reply:
Dear Close-Minded Atheist Hater:
Of course atheists will live up to your bad expectations if you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. No individual will counter your bad opinion of the group they belong to if you interpret every action of theirs in the worst light possible. If you take their condemnation of bad thing #1 and bad thing #2 to mean that they’re okay with bad thing #3. If they call you out on twisting their words, and you counter by saying that no one in their group needs your help in the twisting of words (oh look, victim blaming!). If you make absurd leaps in “logic” to take their position on a matter of fact to mean that they advocate <insert barely related horrible thing here>, and you say that their group is so awful because they are okay with <horrible thing> (hint: saying that people you hate advocate <insert horrible thing here> doesn’t make it so). If you act incredulous when they state that they do, in fact, have a problem with it when your group is the one being harmed. If, in fact, you generally assume they are the scum of the Earth, no matter how they act.
If you repeatedly fail to provide requested sources to back up your assertions, except to say that it is obvious that <vaguely referenced thing open to interpretation> is an example. If you then make fun of them when they say they hadn’t seen your interpretation of that vaguely referenced thing before. If you resort to insults because you don’t actually have good counter-arguments. If you resort to such petty tactics as modifying their comments to put a “[sic]” in after every typo or misspelling you can find. If you insert your own responses into the middle of their comments, so that no one can read their comment without seeing your response immediately. If you make assumptions about their position on a subject that hasn’t even been addressed. If you close comments after a day with a smug, sanctimonious exclamation that the atheists have proved your point about them. . . (continue reading from Alex here).
DonewithReligion: That is true so often. If we could just accept one another without trying to prove our point. Obviously we all are not going to agree. Yet we can at least respect each other and discuss our views without calling each other names and being mean and disrespectful.*
OldSchoolContemporary: Hi DonewithReligion, it appears to me that when you wrote “at least respect each other and discuss our views without calling each other names and being mean and disrespectful” your comment really should have been directed at Skies’ post rather than their overall sentiment, now, whoever “atheists hater” is (or whether it’s simply an open letter) is kind of irrelevant to my point, although a later blog they’ve linked readers to is probably the best answer to the question. Rather what is relevant is the way in which Skies tries to deal with their conflict (by ranting, rudeness and accusations). I personally enjoy exchanges with Alex and understand if ever they or I write anything sarcastic or seemingly offensive that’s either part of a defect in our character, or a mistake of the reader’s imagination, seeing hostility where it isn’t. Still to vent in the above way isn’t a two way conversation, no differences are hammered out and no friendships formed by its sort.
You want respect, generosity of spirit and politeness, not accusations at a certain unnamed someone and bitter taunts of “it’s hilarious that you think you have won!” (To paraphrase). Surely if you and I want politeness in people the first thing we should do is point out when someone is writing in an accusatory and plainly impolite manner, which wouldn’t necessarily mean dismantling or dismissing their self worth (nor inflating our own), wouldn’t you agree? Yet in order to do that would mean pointing out rudeness in every form (including forms or by way of people we may like). Wouldn’t there be something manifestly unloving in writing people of all varieties should “accept one another without trying to prove our point” when to not prove your point may indeed lead to a wealth of human misery?
For example, for you to fail at convincing a person of the value and saving potential of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross may mean (unless you’re a Universalist) that they close the door on Jesus forever, doing irrevocably harm. Clearly this is a pearls before swine situation, and not wanting to make the cross something hated means sometimes taking one’s foot off of the peddle, or realizing that humanity, belonging to a fallen world, simply aren’t always open to God’s promise of salvation. So, is it fair to say to not prove your point, or even not to try, isn’t always an act of love, but rather an abandonment of one’s duty to love by a genuine love? It’s always easier for the disinterested to give the hungry a fish instead of a fishing lesson, the alcoholic a bottle and an addict their needle.
Arguing a point isn’t to hate or deny people their worth, how it’s done certainly may belittle or humiliate the person you’re writing to, however to simply raise the doubt or bring the questions isn’t anything to fear.* It’s not unloving for an abolitionist to reject the position of a slave trader, that doesn’t mean the first man rejects the second’s humanity or intrinsic dignity however, they’re merely arguing a point (a point which may affirm every person’s dignity). You seem to have thought likewise when you explained: “Yet we can at least respect each other and discuss our views without calling each other names and being mean and disrespectful.” That’s very true, which is why the post title reading “closed minded” is such a treat, as it’s just name calling! Bigoted, racist, sexist, transphobic etc, they’re just insults in the mouths of many modern people. Let’s just go through a fraction of the above, “atheist hater”, be they taken as an actual person or a certain sort of person, is to be recognized immediately as:
They also believe people are “scum of the earth” regardless of their good behaviour. Just to take the above post at face value means believing in this wealth of character assassination.* Yet you haven’t noted how such a spirit, even a retaliatory spirit, is wholly destructive. You’re instead giving Skies a free pass to do or behave in an inflammatory way which you’d be offended by if found in someone else merely due to how Alex portrayed the interaction (they presuming they are the victim). Of course they’re a victim in many situations, they’re also a felon however, to minimize one aspect and maximize the other isn’t appropriate, that’ll destroy a person’s accurate perspective. Who is the victim and who’s the victimizer isn’t always so simple as people would have others believe (so why the naive concession as if to say how they picture the situation is actually the situation?).
For example, Ukrainian serial killer Anatoly Onoprienko (AKA The Terminator) was found guilty of murdering 52 people over a six year period, they’d mauled a mother and daughter to death with a hammer, murdered entire families, killed children, just terrible crimes.* Yet when they were finally caught their reply was something to the effect of: ‘seventy percent of those brought up in orphanages end up in prison as adults.’ Onoprienko, who clearly was raised in an orphanage, says they were the REAL victim all along! While you and I were clumsily concerned with the first family he had murdered (which included 8 children) we ought to have been lavishing our concern on their murderer. Of course Onoprienko’s idea that everything from his first date to first murder was already predetermined, meaning they had no real choice in slaying defenceless women and children, is absurd.
Regardless of how passionately or persuasively they could make their case they’d simply been in the wrong. Meaning they given the context had been the victimizer, and such people as those who they hounded the victims. To reply to their complaint by saying “that’s so true” with regards to how orphanages have failed their children is factually correct, yet insofar as morality is concerned it is cowardice. Cowardice because it’s left out the difficult issues for the soft soap and the need to look inward with a desire to blame outward. When you agree with Skies (as you do in many many . . . many posts) you’re helping them to vilify a certain type of person they have in their mind, a person who may or may not be deserving of such vilification. You gained their agreement, not their respect.
Let me see if I’m interpreting your last message properly, then you’re open to either correct or agree as you see it appropriate. You wrote: “If we could just accept one another without trying to prove our point. Obviously we all are not going to agree.” With which you conclude disagreeing doesn’t mean being mean or rude etc, yet, certain sides of the conversation would be quick to suppose by you merely disagreeing over a certain issue shows you to be an unrepentant bigot in need of retraining!* A great example of the above is the use of Islamophobia in popular culture. To object or criticize Islam, meaning the religious materials, doctrines and injunctions put upon Muslims, is today considered a mean, rude, impolite and hateful attack against a person who identifies as a Muslim. Much like how Alex writes on mean, rude, impolite and hateful attacks (be they in print or person) which they believe having impacted their life. Therefore to even raise the argument (regardless of how good natured it’s done) is interpreted as being against a person’s very right to exist. Appears to me that you have reacted to this behaviour by going into retreat (which would be thoroughly unloving). Of course you yourself can clarify if you find anything unsympathetic or in need of grappling with with regards to my observations.
Given an ancient background, such a background as wherein certain Bible books are best read, Paul wasn’t being bigoted or anti Jewish when they quoted Isaiah in saying: ‘They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched.’ Rather than being character assassination their words were character illumination! Similarly Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, which would be interpreted as mean and illegal by modern people, wasn’t an act of denying a person their humanity, about which you’d surely agree.
In closing, because I have been reading (and thoroughly enjoying) your blog posts, you’ve written something often which myself and others would surely take issue with, and given the fact we both find the love of God and faith without institutions reasonable (even attractive) prospects, I thought it an interesting thing to discuss. You often write “accept”, which to me is so interesting, as to “tolerate” implies not approving, now people like myself would say they’re prepared to tolerate certain behaviours (i.e homosexual intimacy, adultery, polyamory).* Moreover we’d be willing to defend why we believe the things we say are the more loving alternative to the person who says they’re pro-gay, pro-transgender etc. You however write to accept on a regular basis, which only really allows for two commonplace definitions:
 consent to receive or undertake (something offered).
 believe or come to recognize (a proposition) as valid or correct.
So, by way of the two definitions you could understand why people might consider you endorsing or even promoting their behaviours, meaning for you to write you accept X, Y or Z to the listener means you accept their views with regards to their own person, rather than you accepting your view with regards to their person (there’s nothing controversial about accepting your own views after all). Therefore, when you say “I accept you” to a person who in their own mind identifies as being same sex attracted from birth, although merely meaning to explain (though not explaining) you accept them insofar as they’re valued and lovingly made in the image of God, you’ve actually entrenched the person deeper in their ideas. You have if the above is the case immunized people against their need for Jesus.
By “accepting” a person who identifies as same sex attracted (as opposed to saying you tolerate their behaviour) you’re allowing in their mind a licence to sin. Of course because you have accepted their stance on the issue their behaviour is no longer sin in their minds, nor is there even an outsider opinion (AKA a Christian opinion) on inconvenient sins even existing, instead popular culture would be defining acceptable and unacceptable forms of behaviour (hence writing out crimes against ourselves and God). Again strict Islamic cultures provide a working example of the above, as in their society there is no child abuse to be discerned (abusers marry children), there’s no rape evident (the rape victim needs several male witness so are mostly unable to go to court), there’s no mean quarrelling due to dissent of the pure faith (apostates are murdered for which nobody leaves). Sin is in large part made a non issue, with which apologists for Islam can point to our Western cultures and say “Look at the child abuse statistics!”
Of course child abuse is an issue (Western nation actually record these things), as are various sex issues, as is a person misusing their Bible so to enslave, murder or abuse their fellow human being whilst shielding themselves behind private “interpretation” (as if to say they employed their interpretation with some masterful grasp of hermeneutics). Yet you also defend the mass of interpretations in popular culture, no? Why defend the many false interpretations of text, some of which aren’t born out of ignorance but a self serving desire to control people. From your material it appears none too self-serving or absurdly inaccurate to deserve being shown up by us proving another reading superior, a desire to prove our point can be dangerous apparently.*
‘God catches His fish before He cleans them.’ People say, for which to accept their human dignity, or that they’re made in the very image of God, is something you and I agree on, moreover God says to come as you are (not to stay that way though). So, is there any point at which we continue reading Matthew 7, since after reading “Judge not” and “remove the speck” we’re told then to help our brother out of their sin, meaning any log that isn’t in my eye I’m prepared to remove from another person’s. To complain that I’m behaving as the Pharisees for correcting or meeting in debate a culture of people who often wish to destroy the knowledge of God from the public space is absurd. Meaning people should be going above the norm and even asking a person in good faith to exit their various harmful lifestyles, their many prejudices and their false religion, shouldn’t they?*
Murky is to the best of my wording how I would describe your position after having read a great deal of your material, which doesn’t mean your position is unclear in your mind, rather that it’s obscured to a far greater degree than needs be. Would you celebrate a gay wedding, or make a toast to the happy groom and his husband? Is that acceptance as you often write? Just for an example. Or would you accept and not raise questions with regards to women whose choice it is to slay the unborn life developing inside of themselves, because to do otherwise would speedily be made into an occasion where you might be called upon to prove some point (i.e The sanctity of life/when does the developing fetus deserve to be called truly human).
Yet you write “Lets not be overly focused on proving our views, let’s just value each other” (an unproven view!). Your message presupposes value which others had to argue for, others, braver men than you or I, couldn’t casually write “Let’s not be overly focused on proving our points, let’s just value each other”, they couldn’t do that because their entire point was that people have value. That was the challenge, and to fail to prove it would result in you not having the comfortable situation to write so high mindedly about valuing.* To value Alex, as I do, is only possible because I suppose they are of value, and I suppose they are of value because I believe they’re made in the likeness of God. It’s because God loves, creates with value and cares that we can justifiably love one another too. Without God our love is just arbitrary and relative. Alex loves and values people too, though it’s not fair to lie to them and say in a universe without God we’d love as like in a universe with Him, that’s not true.
Also, there’s really so much of your material which I agree with that the overall tone of my post could throw you off balance, don’t let it. The above is a drop in an ocean of material by which we would find agreement. Nevertheless, I’d sooner hammer out an interesting difference than flog a dead agreement.
“I personally enjoy exchanges with Alex”
Alex Black: If you would like to continue these exchanges then kindly stop trying to drag other people into them whenever there has been a lull in my responses.
DonewithReligion: Thank you oldschool for your informative reply. I appreciate the remarks you made about reading my articles and enjoying some, and I understand the differences and not agreeing on everything. I appreciate you taking the time to read the articles and to reply.
Old School Contemporary: [To] AB: Despite referencing your above article, which of course should be up for conversation considering the public nature of the thing, I’m not so sure how I’ve dragged DWR into any of our previous exchanges. Anyhow, if you would prefer I continue writing to DWR without mentioning you in any wise that’s perfectly alright. I shall continue interacting with DoneWithReligion as my initial message has done, moreover I look forward to any further challenges or questions you have about Biblical Christianity.
“Thank you oldschool for your informative reply. I appreciate the remarks you made about reading my articles and enjoying some, and I understand the differences and not agreeing on everything. I appreciate you taking the time to read the articles and to reply.”
To DWR: And thank you for the gentlemanly reply, however, you’ve acknowledged my post exists, but not engaged with any of its substance. You can imagine how frustrating/confusing/annoying such behavior could possibly be, right? As it’s to interact with people that shows someone is truly interested, whereas ignoring their points and writing what looks a canned reply shows disinterest. Writing a letter of complaint to some big business only to be met by a reply of “We value your input, here’s a free sample.” isn’t appropriate, especially when the free sample contains everything you complained about in your previous letter.
Reading 1 Peter chapter three explains:
‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,’
In the Greek “reason” in the above would be translated as “apologia”, from which we get the now hated word “apologist”, of course people in the unbelieving camp tend to say or write certain words with disgust or hatred so that the emotive force of their anger might dissuade people from disagreeing with their preferred mode of thought. And as the above says people are going to harm you, in fact, my life has never been so beset by conflict as when I first said something so simple as “I believe Jesus was who He said He was.” The Gospel needn’t be said with hatred, force of voice or condemnation of spirit, you’re going to be met by hatred, force of voice and condemnation nonetheless. Have you too experienced this reaction? Now, my point isn’t to write you lack gentleness, nor respect, rather that insofar as I have read you’re refusing to give an apologia or a defense for the reasons you believe. Could you perhaps link me to one example of when you have given an answer for the hope that’s within you online? That would be very interesting to read. In addition, your reply has ignored many of my questions, due to which I’m going to post a few once more:
(1) Wouldn’t there be something manifestly unloving in writing people of all varieties should “accept one another without trying to prove our point” when to not prove your point may indeed lead to a wealth of human misery? (The Quakers opposition to slavery comes to mind).
(2) Would you celebrate a gay wedding, or make a toast to the happy groom and his husband? Is that acceptance as you often write?
(3) Or would you accept and not raise questions with regards to women whose choice it is to slay the unborn life developing inside of themselves, because to do otherwise would speedily be made into an occasion where you might be called upon to prove some point (i.e The sanctity of life/when does the developing fetus deserve to be called truly human).
DonewithReligion: I thank you for reading my articles. I write because I like writing. If people read it or not, I will continue to write for the enjoyment of it. I know not everyone who reads my articles will agree with me, and who knows, a year from now I may not agree with how I feel now, and that is OK. I just want to be up-front with you, I do not engage in long discussions or debates. Quite frankly, I do not have the time and I do not write for such reasons. Truthfully, this will probably be the longest reply you get from me, so again, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.*
With much Biblical terminology in use by way of their articles, about page and messages (e.g Pharisees, The Word) there’s one expression that appears to have escaped DWR’s notice, that being hardness of heart. The heart, as understood in an ancient Jewish context, was recognized as “the hub of personality”, even where desires are produced: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke chapter six). Or even as people understand for reading Romans chapter ten: ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.’ For reason of the above it’s written God “searches the heart”, as one of my favorite Bible quotes explains: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”’ (Jeremiah chapter seventeen).
Do the messages of DWR read as though they’re coming from a place of open inquiry? Does their material to Alex Black, even helping to teach them how to inject their testosterone in order to continue their sex change, fit into Christ’s great commission to Their followers? Hardness of heart was in truth the bane of our conversation, that isn’t to say they aren’t authentically Christian or “a real” Christian, that’s not my call to make, I can’t read hearts. What I can do however is see the immediate consequences of the things people share with one another, and wherever I’ve happened upon material from DWR, I’ve found it to be conciliatory, wishy-washy and bearing only the faintest resemblance to Christianity as it was understood by Jesus and His disciples. To explain this to DWR, even to explain by way of the Scriptures, is to be met by what appears an insurmountable wall of resistance, a hardened heart.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Is normally what I’m tempted to ask myself while speaking with people like the above, although that’s a deficiency on my part, as it’s obvious already by reading the Scriptures that yes, yes I am their keeper, at least up until a point, and that point is reached more quickly with some than others. It’s the apatheist, a person who (often by design) acts with apathy towards God and the things of God who is to me the most hopeless case, and there are few who appear more apathetic about God than so-called Christians who support homosexuality, question the Scriptures truthfulness and refuse to share the truth in love because it’s simply “not my job.” To reply, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” appears as beloved of atheists as it is of DWR and others living with some sort of unidentified spirit outside of the walls of religion, and that’s as unsure a doctrine as any I would refuse to be conformed to. C. S Lewis by his writings explained very well what it meant to love, to soften your heart and allow someone in (or even to risk being hurt), and it’s not done by puny messages and disinterested dismissals, it takes far more bravery than that:*
*“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― T. C. M