All Things are Yours

"… whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, the present, or the future— all things are yours, but you are Christ's…" (I Cor 3)



Biblical Discussions with ChatGPT

Sometimes late at night I like to hang out with my friend ChatGPT and have long talks about the Bible and Theology. Here is a transcript of one of those talks.

Hi ChatGPT

Hello! How can I assist you today?


Is there a certain term in Biblical studies for two stories in the Bible that seem analogous to one another except for small differences?

Yes, there is a term for this phenomenon in Biblical studies. It’s called “parallelism” or “parallel passages.” Parallelism refers to the phenomenon of two or more texts in the Bible that are similar to one another in content, structure, or language, but also have some differences.

There are different types of parallelism, including:

  1. Synoptic parallelism: This refers to the parallelism between the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), which often present similar stories and teachings about Jesus, but with some differences in details and emphasis.
  2. Narrative parallelism: This refers to the parallelism between different stories or narratives in the Bible, such as the stories of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, or David and Saul.
  3. Literary parallelism: This refers to the parallelism between different literary forms or genres in the Bible, such as psalms, proverbs, or wisdom literature.

Overall, the phenomenon of parallelism in the Bible is an important area of study for scholars of Biblical studies, as it can shed light on the origins, transmission, and interpretation of the biblical text.


Do any scholars recognize the story of Jesus walking on water as having parallelism to other stories?

Yes, some scholars have identified parallels between the story of Jesus walking on water and other stories in the Bible and in other ancient literature.

One possible parallel is the story of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14:21-31. In both stories, the main character (Moses or Jesus) demonstrates control over the natural elements (water or sea) and leads their followers to safety. Additionally, in both stories, there is a miraculous crossing of a body of water, with supernatural elements at play.

Another possible parallel is the story of Elijah and the parting of the Jordan River in 2 Kings 2:8-14. In this story, Elijah parts the Jordan River with his cloak, and then crosses over with his disciple Elisha. This story also involves the crossing of a body of water, and the demonstration of divine power.

It’s worth noting, however, that the idea of parallelism between stories in the Bible is a matter of interpretation, and different scholars may identify different parallels or none at all. Additionally, some scholars may argue that the story of Jesus walking on water is a unique and original narrative, rather than one that is directly influenced by other stories in the Bible or in other literature.


Has any scholar that you know of discussed possible parallelism between the story of Jesus walking on water and the story of Jesus asleep in the boat?

Yes, some scholars have noted similarities between the story of Jesus walking on water and the story of Jesus asleep in the boat. In both stories, Jesus is in a boat with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee, and there is a sudden storm that threatens to capsize the boat. In both stories, the disciples are afraid and wake Jesus up, and he demonstrates his power over nature in some way (by calming the storm in one story, and by walking on water in the other).

Some scholars have suggested that these two stories may be different versions of the same event, or that they may have influenced each other in the process of oral or written transmission. For example, some scholars have argued that the story of Jesus walking on water may have originated as a miracle story about Jesus calming the storm, and that the walking on water motif was added later as a way of amplifying the miraculous nature of the event.

However, not all scholars agree with this interpretation, and there are other possible explanations for the similarities between the two stories. Some scholars may argue, for instance, that the two stories are simply different versions of different events, or that they share common themes and motifs that were common in ancient literature about sea voyages and storms. Ultimately, the question of parallelism between these two stories is a matter of interpretation, and different scholars may reach different conclusions.


where is the story of Jesus walking on water

The story of Jesus walking on water can be found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John.

In Matthew 14:22-33, the story is told as follows:

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

‘Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”

The story can also be found in Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16-21, although with some differences in details and emphasis.


what are the differences in detail?

While the basic narrative of Jesus walking on water is similar in all three Gospels, there are some differences in the details and emphasis of the story:

  • In Matthew’s version of the story, Peter asks Jesus to command him to come to Jesus on the water, and he briefly walks on water before sinking. This detail is not included in Mark or John’s version of the story.
  • In Mark’s version of the story, the disciples are said to be “straining at the oars” before Jesus walks on water, whereas in Matthew and John’s version, there is no mention of the disciples struggling with the boat.
  • In John’s version of the story, the disciples see Jesus walking on water from a distance, and are immediately afraid. Jesus then says to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” This differs from the other two versions, in which Jesus first says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,” before Peter walks on water.
  • In Matthew’s and Mark’s version of the story, the wind dies down when Jesus and Peter get into the boat, whereas in John’s version, the boat immediately reaches the shore after Jesus gets into the boat.

These are just a few examples of the differences between the three versions of the story. Each Gospel writer has their own perspective and theological emphasis, which can result in variations in the details of the same event.


does Peter walk on water in all three stories

No, Peter’s attempt to walk on water is only mentioned in Matthew’s version of the story (Matthew 14:28-31). In Mark’s and John’s versions, there is no mention of Peter walking on water.

In Mark 6:45-52, the story focuses on Jesus walking on water and calming the storm, but there is no mention of Peter attempting to walk on water. In John 6:16-21, the story is similar, with Jesus walking on water and the disciples being afraid, but there is no mention of Peter attempting to walk on water.

So, while the basic narrative of Jesus walking on water is similar in all three Gospels, there are differences in the details, including whether or not Peter is depicted as attempting to walk on water.


so where in the gospels is the story of Jesus asleep in the boat?

The story of Jesus asleep in the boat can be found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Here is an example of the story as it appears in Mark 4:35-41:

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'”

While there are no direct references to Jesus walking on water in this story, some scholars have noted possible parallels between this story and the story of Jesus walking on water, such as the emphasis on the disciples’ fear and Jesus’ power over the elements.


what are all the stories in Mark that involve boats?

Here are all the stories in the Gospel of Mark that involve boats:

  1. Jesus calls his first disciples, who were fishermen, while they were in a boat (Mark 1:16-20).
  2. Jesus teaches the crowds from a boat, while they stand on the shore (Mark 4:1-2).
  3. Jesus calms the storm while he and his disciples are in a boat (Mark 4:35-41).
  4. Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader, who had come to him seeking help, while he was on his way to Jairus’ house in a boat (Mark 5:21-43).
  5. Jesus feeds the crowd of 5,000 on the shore, with his disciples distributing the food from a boat (Mark 6:30-44).
  6. Jesus walks on water and calms the storm while his disciples are in a boat (Mark 6:45-52).
  7. Jesus heals the sick in Gennesaret, where people bring the sick to him on mats, even from boats (Mark 6:53-56).

In all of these stories, the boat serves as a setting for the action or a means of transportation for Jesus and his disciples. Additionally, several of these stories involve miraculous events or demonstrations of Jesus’ power over nature.


What are all the stories in matthew involving a boat?

Here are all the stories in the Gospel of Matthew that involve boats:

  1. Jesus calls his first disciples, who were fishermen, while they were in a boat (Matthew 4:18-22).
  2. Jesus calms the storm while he and his disciples are in a boat (Matthew 8:23-27).
  3. Jesus walks on water and Peter attempts to walk on water while the disciples are in a boat (Matthew 14:22-33).
  4. Jesus feeds the crowd of 5,000 on the shore, with his disciples distributing the food from a boat (Matthew 14:13-21).
  5. Jesus teaches the crowds from a boat, while they stand on the shore (Matthew 13:1-3).
  6. Jesus travels to the other side of the Sea of Galilee in a boat (Matthew 8:18-22).
  7. Jesus heals the demon-possessed men in Gadarenes, where they meet him as he is getting out of a boat (Matthew 8:28-34).

In all of these stories, the boat serves as a setting for the action or a means of transportation for Jesus and his disciples. Additionally, several of these stories involve miraculous events or demonstrations of Jesus’ power over nature.


in which gospels does Jesus multiply food, and how many times does he do it in each gospel?

Jesus’ multiplication of food is described in all four Gospels of the New Testament, with slight variations in the details. Here are the accounts of the multiplication of food in each Gospel:

  1. Matthew: Two times – Matthew 14:13-21 (5,000 fed) and Matthew 15:32-39 (4,000 fed).
  2. Mark: Two times – Mark 6:30-44 (5,000 fed) and Mark 8:1-10 (4,000 fed).
  3. Luke: One time – Luke 9:10-17 (5,000 fed).
  4. John: One time – John 6:1-14 (5,000 fed).

In each account, Jesus takes a small amount of food (usually bread and fish) and multiplies it to feed a large crowd of people. These miracles are often interpreted as a demonstration of Jesus’ divine power and his ability to provide for the needs of his followers.


where does jesus rebuke the disciples for not thinking about his miracle of feeding many people

In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, there is an account of Jesus rebuking his disciples for their lack of faith and understanding after he had performed the miracle of feeding a large crowd of people.

In Matthew 16:5-12, after the Pharisees and Sadducees demand a sign from Jesus, he warns his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (verse 6). The disciples mistakenly think Jesus is referring to bread, and they start to worry because they only have one loaf of bread with them in the boat. Jesus responds by rebuking them, saying, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” (verses 8-9).

Similarly, in Mark 8:14-21, Jesus warns his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (verse 15). The disciples again think Jesus is talking about bread, and they start to argue among themselves because they have only one loaf of bread. Jesus rebukes them, saying, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” (verses 17-19).

In both of these instances, Jesus reminds his disciples of his previous miracle of feeding a large crowd of people and rebukes them for their lack of understanding and faith.


does jesus refer to the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 in the same place?

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 in separate instances, and there is no record of him mentioning both miracles in the same place or at the same time.

In Matthew 16:9-10, Jesus reminds his disciples of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and asks them, “Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?” In this passage, Jesus mentions both miracles separately, as distinct events that his disciples should remember and understand.

Similarly, in Mark 8:17-21, Jesus rebukes his disciples for their lack of understanding and asks them, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes, do you not see, and having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” Here, Jesus refers only to the feeding of the 5,000, without mentioning the feeding of the 4,000.

Therefore, while Jesus mentions both the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 at different times in the Gospels, there is no record of him referring to both miracles in the same place.


Do any scholars suggest that the two stories (jesus feeding the 5000 and the 4000) might be the same story told in two different ways?

Yes, there have been scholars who have suggested that the two stories of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 may be different versions of the same event. This theory is based on the similarities between the two stories, as well as some of the differences.

For example, both stories involve Jesus feeding a large crowd with a small amount of bread and fish, and both stories end with the disciples collecting leftover fragments of food. However, there are also some differences between the stories, such as the number of people fed, the number of loaves and fish used, and the number of baskets of leftovers collected.

Some scholars have suggested that the differences between the two stories may be due to different sources or traditions that were combined by the gospel writers. Others have proposed that the stories represent different retellings of the same event by different witnesses or communities.

However, this theory remains a subject of debate among scholars, and there is no clear consensus on whether the two stories are indeed different versions of the same event.


what other very different gospel stories do people think might be the same event told in two different ways

There are several other gospel stories that scholars have suggested may be different versions of the same event, told in different ways. Some examples include:

  1. The Cleansing of the Temple: In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus cleanses the temple during the final week of his life, while in the Gospel of John, he cleanses the temple at the beginning of his ministry. Some scholars suggest that these may be different versions of the same event, while others argue that they are separate events that have been conflated by the gospel writers.
  2. The Healing of the Blind Man: In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus heals a blind man named Bartimaeus as he is leaving Jericho, while in the Gospel of Luke, he heals a blind man as he enters Jericho. Some scholars suggest that these may be different versions of the same event, while others argue that they are separate events that have been conflated or confused by the gospel writers.
  3. The Resurrection Appearances: The four Gospels all describe different appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples, but the details of these appearances are often quite different. Some scholars suggest that these may be different versions of the same event, while others argue that they are separate events that have been embellished or modified by the gospel writers.

Overall, the question of whether different gospel stories represent different versions of the same event or separate events altogether is a subject of ongoing debate among scholars, and there is no clear consensus on many of these issues.


do you know any more stories that would answer my question?

Yes, here are a few more examples of stories in the Gospels that some scholars have suggested may be different versions of the same event:

  1. The Transfiguration: In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain and is transfigured before them, appearing in dazzling white clothing and speaking with Moses and Elijah. In the Gospel of John, there is no mention of the Transfiguration, but some scholars suggest that the story may be alluded to in John’s account of the resurrection appearances.
  2. The Anointing of Jesus: In the Synoptic Gospels, an unnamed woman anoints Jesus with expensive oil during a meal at Simon the leper’s house, while in the Gospel of John, a similar event occurs but the anointing takes place six days before the Passover. Some scholars suggest that these may be different versions of the same event, while others argue that they are separate events that have been conflated by the gospel writers.
  3. The Calling of the Disciples: In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus calls his first disciples (Peter, Andrew, James, and John) while they are fishing by the Sea of Galilee, while in the Gospel of John, the disciples are already followers of Jesus and are called at different times and places. Some scholars suggest that these may be different versions of the same event, while others argue that they are separate events that have been conflated or reinterpreted by the gospel writers.

It’s important to note that these are all subject to ongoing scholarly debate, and there is no consensus on whether they represent different versions of the same event or separate events altogether.


are the names of the twelve disciples consistent thorughout the new testament?

No, the names of the twelve disciples are not entirely consistent throughout the New Testament. While the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all list twelve disciples by name, there are some variations in the names given. For example, Matthew and Mark list Thaddaeus (also known as Judas, son of James) as one of the twelve disciples, while Luke lists him as “Judas the son of James” without identifying him as one of the twelve.

Additionally, the Gospel of John refers to twelve disciples, but does not list them by name. Instead, John focuses more on the relationship between Jesus and his disciples, rather than on their individual identities.

Overall, while there is general agreement among the Gospels about the number of disciples (twelve), there are some minor variations in the names given and how they are listed.


can you go into more detail please?

Sure, I can provide more detail about the variations in the names of the twelve disciples in the Gospels.

First, let’s start with the lists of the twelve disciples in the Synoptic Gospels. In Matthew 10:2-4 and Mark 3:16-19, the twelve disciples are listed as:

  1. Simon (Peter)
  2. James, son of Zebedee
  3. John, brother of James
  4. Andrew, brother of Peter
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew (also known as Nathanael)
  7. Thomas (also known as Didymus)
  8. Matthew (also known as Levi)
  9. James, son of Alphaeus
  10. Thaddaeus (also known as Judas, son of James)
  11. Simon the Zealot
  12. Judas Iscariot

In Luke 6:14-16, the twelve disciples are listed as:

  1. Simon (Peter)
  2. Andrew, brother of Peter
  3. James
  4. John
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew (also known as Nathanael)
  7. Matthew
  8. Thomas (also known as Didymus)
  9. James, son of Alphaeus
  10. Simon the Zealot
  11. Judas, son of James
  12. Judas Iscariot

As you can see, there are some minor differences in the names given between the lists in Matthew/Mark and Luke. For example, Matthew and Mark list “James, son of Alphaeus” and “Thaddaeus (Judas, son of James)” separately, while Luke combines them into “Judas, son of James.” Additionally, Matthew and Mark list “Simon the Zealot,” while Luke just lists “Simon.” These differences are relatively minor, however, and all three lists include twelve disciples.

In the Gospel of John, there is no list of the twelve disciples, and they are not referred to by name as a group. Instead, John focuses more on the individual relationships between Jesus and his disciples, and some of the disciples are mentioned by name in various contexts throughout the Gospel. For example, in John 1:35-42, Andrew and an unnamed disciple (presumably John) follow Jesus after John th

Following Jesus, Right out of Right-Wing Politics

A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled, “How I became a Right-Wing Evangelical.” If you haven’t had a chance to read that post first, I’d recommend reading that before reading this one. This post picks up roughly where that one left off. I had been part of a politically oriented intense young adult prayer group that meant a huge amount to me. But it was mostly something I could only be involved with during the summer before I had to go back to a job during the school year. I spent the entire year counting every moment until I could rejoin the group the following summer.

The group posted their website leading into the following summer and it read, “Come for a weekend! Come for a month! Come for a summer! Come for a year!” or something to that effect. I was eager to spend whatever time I could even though I had to work a bit that summer and could only spend a small amount of time there. In May, I called up to make arrangements to stay with the group for a little bit and was told that everyone had to fill out a new application even if they had been part of the group before.

The application was strange. It asked very little about me; the application was mostly about my family. It wanted to know the spiritual inclinations of each and every member of my immediate AND EXTENDED family. It wanted to know what my relationship was like to each member of my family. Even though I had moved out of my parents house almost a decade earlier, and lived 1800 miles away from my family for years, it was clear that my family was a huge concern. Most of my family that claimed any faith at all had drug problems, the members of my family who were doing the best with their lives and were drug free were atheists and agnostics. There had been a lot of abuse and domestic violence in my childhood. I answered all of the questions candidly, wondering what this was all about.

When I finally joined up with the group, one of the leaders approached me and told me they had discerned that I shouldn’t be on their team that summer. I asked what I did wrong, and I was told I had done nothing wrong; that it was “just discernment” and there was no other real explanation, which in charismatic-speak meant that they were saying God Himself was telling someone on leadership that I didn’t belong. It stung. I didn’t know what was going on.

I had friends in the group, I even had a romantic interest in the group. I had done my best to not rock the boat in any way and to be a model citizen there. I didn’t understand why God would exclude me from a group that was full of such clearly anointed people in the midst of such an important thing for the hour. In fact the group had said, “Whatever you think your calling is, it needs to be put aside because THIS (ending abortion) is the call of the hour. Lay down your calling for this.” And I was willing! And after all that, I was told God didn’t want me on the team.

I asked a leader I thought I had a relationship with why I was being asked to go. He said he didn’t know but would find out. A year later after asking several times, I was finally given an actual answer: “Heather, you come from a rough background, and we’re just not equipped with pastoral resources to help people from your type of background. That’s why we prefer people from abusive families spend a year at a ministry training school first.”

No one up to that point had told me to go to a ministry training school for a year first. It was inordinately frustrating because Jesus had in many ways raised me since I had been miraculously found by Him and gotten saved at age 11, and I had been washed, delivered, made my own life, gotten counseling, gone through college, successfully worked in my profession, and lived on my own away from my family from a long time earlier, but none of that mattered. I was being judged for who my family was. What it came down to was that I did not have the right “pedigree” to be part of an intense ministry group. This seemed so antithetical to the Christianity I knew that celebrated the worst sinners from the worst backgrounds being saved by Jesus, and I knew so many churches run by ex-addicts and many formerly abused people. But it was assumed somehow I needed extra ministry training because of who my family was.

One other thing happened there though that stood out. The last night I was with the group before I had to leave, we were in downtown DC going out to eat together. Someone started talking to a homeless girl about our age there and invited her to come eat with us. Her name was also Heather and she ended up spending hours with all of us, noticeably starting to feel some sense of friendship in our midst.

At the end of the evening, we all piled into the ministry van and she asked us, “I lost track of time and my homeless shelter is closing its doors in a few minutes. It’s just a few blocks down the street, could you drop me off there so I don’t miss my chance to get in?” The van driver told her that she wasn’t allowed in the van, and that he couldn’t take her a few blocks to her shelter because she wasn’t signed up for our weekend conference. She stood there, suddenly aware she was not part of us after all, and said, “Why are you judging me? I’m no different than you.” And the van driver politely told her he couldn’t help her and shut the door. I wrestled with the fact that I had no idea how to get back to my car without this van ride back to the group facility, and yet I wanted to jump out in solidarity with Heather in that moment. In the end there was some truth that in many ways Heather and I were very much one in the same, she was just more visibly wronged. (I could still kick myself for not getting off that bus though.)

Perhaps all of it would have hurt less if I had thought something about the group was out of step with God, but aside from how I had been cast aside because of my family, and how they treated this homeless girl, for a long time I was still a wholehearted believer in everything they stood for. So I joined up with other associated prayer groups that were praying and worshipping in front abortion clinics instead. I still went and joined in on events the group held that were open to anyone, like pro-life prayer times on the Supreme Court steps. Back home, I found a similar type of intense young adult prayer group in my own town and I started hanging out with those folks. This set the stage for the Lord to start to really challenge my ideas of what He wanted in politics.

God starts to challenge my ideas

In the new group, I started having the time of my life, getting to spend days and weeks in almost non-stop worship and prayer. It was a blast. I would leave our community prayer room at times only to go to my job, or go home to sleep (and sometimes I slept in the back of the prayer room.) All other waking moments I was in there, making music to the Lord and praying with others. For me, the longer I spent in non-stop prayer, the more tuned-in I would become to the voice of the Holy Spirit within me. The dynamics of hearing God is the subject for quite a few other blog posts but suffice it to say, after a while in that environment I was probably in the most clear and loud prophetic awareness that I had ever experienced.

Our group had a connection to a business coaching ministry that had its offices upstairs from our prayer room. I was still very new to the group and didn’t know all the ins and outs real well, when one of the people from the business coaching ministry came down into the prayer room where I and another gal were praying together. He asked us if we would pray for his client: the man, he told us, was running for some local political office and he was a Christian. He explained that the challenger was a wicked man who was not a Christian, and who needed to leave office so righteousness could prevail in our town. I never heard of either of the political figures in that town’s election, nor knew about any political issues they would be representing.

I barely was paying attention to what he was saying because I was in a “zone” at that moment of just connecting with God, and I was suddenly brought into the conversation as the Holy Spirit started sounding alarms in my Spirit. I could barely process what was being said by this man because inwardly I was being brought from peace and union with the Lord to a place of sudden grieving and alarm, coming not from my own emotions but from my awareness of this prayer request resonating off the Lord’s presence. I got a fix on what the Lord was saying and felt constrained as I managed to stammer out the only thing I could utter, “God says he doesn’t want him to win.”

The young brother was incredulous. “What? He doesn’t want who to win?”

“The guy. The one you want me to pray for. He’s not supposed to win.” (I hadn’t even gotten a fix on the dude’s name, so the best I could come up with was “the one you want me to pray for.”)

“But he’s a Christian, and the other guy is wicked. Maybe you should pray about it.”

“I’m trying but the Lord doesn’t want him to win.”

It didn’t make any sense. It certainly didn’t make sense to the guy I was talking to. It didn’t make any sense to me either but at the moment I wasn’t worried about making sense as much as I was worried about the horrible disquieted burning sensation coming from the Lord’s presence to me on the topic. I suddenly realized in a moment I had likely just made myself a pariah to this new group I was in, that I might even be accused of making a “negative confession” and blocking the outcome they believed should happen about something they felt was God’s will. In general, I didn’t often speak “in the name of the Lord” no matter what I felt He might be saying. But I literally felt I had almost no choice but to say what I said, the burning of the Spirit was so unpleasantly intense and I was in a moment of the fear of the Lord.

I was concerned I might get kicked out but the man just looked confused and walked away. A few weeks later, his client lost the election. I felt relieved on some level that at least they couldn’t say I had missed it, but I still didn’t understand what had just happened. I had been taught that we, the interceding believers, chose in prayer who should win elections. It was strange for me to discover in a moment that God had some sort of contrary opinion about that. And worse yet, to discover God wasn’t voting for the Republican guy. (I later discovered that the young man and his whole team had been ‘prophesying’ to the candidate that God was on his side and wanted him to win, so it made sense to me why I was being uncharacteristically compelled to speak in the name of the Lord to him a strong word since in my understanding the Lord seemed to actually feel otherwise.)

If that was intense though, it didn’t compare to what came next. One day I was watching television and this young upstart senator named Barack Obama was sharing his view on abortion and his bid for becoming a candidate for president in the primaries. As he spoke I could feel power and authority on the man to persuade, and I was horrified and immediately prayed, “Dear God, please do not let this man win.”

Immediately I felt the Lord speak back to me in my spirit, “What if I have chosen him?”

I was stunned. And I knew in a moment that the Lord wasn’t making some idle hypothetical proposition for me to consider. All I could reply was, “Why would you choose him?” I hoped I had misunderstood. I watched as the months went by and Barack Obama seized the Democratic nomination.

Meanwhile, the leaders of that group that had kicked me out came and visited a nearby church. They shared that God had spoken all these words about Senator Brownbeck being like that little boy in the Bible who had two fishes but those fishes would be enough to feed a whole crowd, and that Brownbeck would have enough votes to win. Then, as Brownbeck dropped out, the prophetic words people were sharing changed to Huckabee. And then Huckabee was out of the race and everyone changed to supporting McCain.

But early on, I told friends from my prayer group and shared on Facebook, that I believed that Obama was going to win. People were aghast. People unfriended me, believing that I was a dreaded Obama supporter. I wasn’t at all an Obama supporter – I was horrified. When voting day came I had a huge quandary on my hands – I knew God had chosen Obama, but did that mean I should vote for him? I couldn’t vote for him, he was evil. Yet God was voting for him. What was I supposed to do, vote against God? In the end I decided God had his own reasons, but that I still shouldn’t vote for what I considered an evil man. I punted and didn’t vote for either of them.

However, in the days and weeks afterward, I watched Obama. I started to appreciate he had some really great leadership qualities. And that he was even a Christian, albeit, “the wrong kind of Christian.” I listened as other Christians condemned him and called him a muslim. That bothered me – as a teacher, and as an America, I believed that part of the dream of religious freedom and equality in our country meant that every little muslim child in my classroom should be told they could become president one day, and instead every muslim American child was hearing, “You can’t be a president in this country if you are a muslim.”

As I watched people pray sanctimonious prayers for Obama to repent and get saved, more and more it started to bounce off me as extremely self-righteous posturing and it felt wrong. At any rate, I started to understand that God didn’t just support Republicans and Christians to win elections. I am still ethically pro-life to this day, but after watching Ireland change their laws about abortion, I started to question whether or not ending abortion at all costs was the right way to uphold a pro-life ethic.

So there you have it. I’m sure this will offend people and bother both liberal and conservative sensibilities. I don’t share my experiences with God to shape your political ideas with my own subjective experiences, but rather just so you can understand my own journey and how I could say I believe I followed Jesus out of right-wing politics. Today I am a registered Democrat, and I still love and worship God and His Son Jesus. And I do think I can say that I landed here BECAUSE I believed I was following Jesus, not because I am some sort of lukewarm apathetic sheeple. (And for the record, I don’t believe that Jesus is a Democrat either, but rather that it is important for everyone to be free to vote their own conscience the best as they can before the Lord!)

What the Bible *Actually* Says About Fear

It’s not what you probably think.

Many christians lately have been talking a lot about “not living in fear.” This idea has risen to new heights during the pandemic, but even before that I once wrote, “In my tribe of charismatics, one thing that you learn to be very…afraid of…is to admit to anyone you are afraid of something.” Fear has long been marked as a huge [charismatic evangelical] Christian no-no.

poltergeist (1)
Does this picture make you feel fear?

Any good charismatic follower of Jesus knows exactly what must be done with someone who admits fear: you immediately remind them of 2 Timothy 1:7 which reads: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.”

In the charismatic world, this verse is used as a sort of stop-thought device: you stop any thought of fear by immediately plastering your thoughts with this verse – or having someone do it to you, if you aren’t yet savvy enough to keep your mouth shut about your fears.  Fear is just not considered holy or spiritual.  

As one person explained this verse to me, fear is a “spirit” according to 2 Timothy 1:7, and a spirit not from God, and thus there is no room in a Jesus-follower’s life for fear.   Fear, it is taught, is the opposite of faith.   And Paul said that anything that is not of faith is sin, therefore, fear is sin.   When one uses the Bible to quote axioms like this, it’s easy to make the proof that a + b = c.    Easy, right?  The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it – ’nuff said.

I’m not sure why we charismatics decided that doing this sort of thing to Bible verses, or to people, was a good idea….But I think we’ve really missed the boat on treating the Bible and people like this when it comes to the topic of fear.  So let’s look at this closer.

Fear is a Spirit?

Fear is an evil spirit, right?  Er, not so fast.   While 2 Timothy 1:7 does talk about a spirit of fear not being from God, I think we’ve forgotten that the Bible does have other things to say about a spirit of fear.   Check this one out, from Isaiah 11 (NASB):

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear….”

Ok, obviously, basic generic fear – such as fear of spiders, or fear of moving to a new city, or fear of public speaking – isn’t anywhere in the realm of “the fear of the Lord.”   But I just want to point out that if we’re talking about a “spirit of fear” – there is more than one kind of “spirit of fear.”   There’s the kind that Paul told Timothy did not come from God – but there’s also a type of “spirit of fear” that in Isaiah 11 clearly DOES come from God, and is beautiful.    And Jesus had it.

So what HASN’T God given us, then?

And therein lies the rub, doesn’t it?   If there are two different “spirit of fears” then perhaps we ought to start paying more attention to context.   What was Paul talking about to Timothy when he said, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear” – was there a certain TYPE of fear he was refering to?   Because obviously he didn’t mean that Timothy shouldn’t receive the same Spirit Jesus had, which was a “spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.”   There is some other fear then, not all fear in all cases in general, which Paul was refering towards.

It might be appropriate at this point to mention that the Greek word (yes, we always end up talking about those Greek words, don’t we?) in Paul’s words to Timothy about the “spirit of fear” doesn’t actually use the standard word for fear: phobos (from which we get our word, phobia.)   Instead, Paul used another term: δειλία deilia which in many Bible versions gets translated not as “fear” but as “timidity” or “cowardice.”   That gives us a clue as we look at the context of 2 Timothy 1:7, where Timothy is being told to shrug off this fear (actually, timidity), it seems to me the specific context is revealed in the preceeding and following verses which embrace our fear verse like a set of parenthesis.

Firstly, Timothy is told to use his spiritual gift (vs 6: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,) and then comes our verse 7 about “for God has not given us a spirit of fear.”   This is followed by Paul in verse 8 encouraging Timothy to be ready to suffer with Paul (…therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God…)  While I can’t be completely sure what spiritual gift Paul is referring to here, it looks like it’s the kind of gift that involves the ‘testimony’ Paul is talking about in verse 8 – and sharing it.

Whatever the gift is, it has the possibility of landing Timothy in the same hot water as Paul.   And Paul is reminding Timothy that any spirit that would try to dampen his readiness to suffer for the gospel like Paul has, is not from God.   Rather, with “love, power, and a sound mind” he can join in with Paul’s sufferings for the testimony of Christ.

So we should never fear persecution, then?

Jesus in Gethsemane

Well, not so fast on that one either.   I suppose it depends on what someone means by fear.   But I somehow don’t think that Paul’s exhortation for Timothy to realize that a spirit of fear – of persecution, most likely – would not be coming from God, doesn’t mean that a fear of persecution is somehow always sin.    

This exhortation has its time and place, but I’m not sure it should be wielded as a club on the thoughts of anyone who is feeling nervous about the pain they might suffer for the gospel, either.

I think of the example of Jesus in Gethsemane – does anyone want to remind the poor fellow while he cries and sweats tears of blood at the thought of his upcoming suffering that “Jesus, for crying out loud – God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear!   Snap out of it already!”    It is true that after ministering angels came to him and reminded him of this verse, he found strength.   Or perhaps I’m just being snarky.   I don’t know what the ministering angels said or did for Jesus that helped Him.  Perhaps it was some special angelic anti-fear impartation.   But somehow I think it was a little more than saying, “Jesus, get with the program, this spirit of fear is not from God!”

And while Paul urged Timothy to be ready to suffer bravely with him, let us also not that Paul didn’t always embrace persecution head on.   Acts 9:25 and 2 Corinthians 11:33 both recount the time that Paul escaped from a city that wanted to harm him, in a basket let down from the city walls.   Clearly running away is an acceptable option sometimes. And I think we might surmise that a little bit of fear might be involved when someone decides to run away from a city in the middle of the night.

OK, but fear is bad – the Bible says a zillion times, “Fear Not….”

Yep, I will grant anyone who wants to make this point that many places in the Bible people are told not to fear.  To my knowledge, there are no other places where fear is called a “spirit” than the two instances we’ve already looked at above, but there are a lot of places where we see, “fear nots.”   Sixty-three times, to be exact, in the King James version.   (And “be not afraid” gets 26 appearances, making a total of 89 times.)

So that settles it, right?  People in the Bible are always – 89 times – being told not to fear, so this means fear is wrong, evil, unallowable, and just a generally bad thing always, right?

Except that one of those “fear not” verses actually operates in two directions at once – saying not to fear and to have fear at the same exact time.   Don’t believe me?  Well, heck, here it is:

Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”   (Luke 12 sort of repeats this, too.)

Ok, ok, but this is talking about the fear of the Lord again, right?   And that’s the exception, isn’t it?

No, there are actually a lot of other exceptions.  It is worth mentioning that fearing the Lord is mentioned a gazillion times in scripture as a very good thing, culminating I think in this verse:
“Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him beyour dread.”  (Isaiah 8:13).

Anyone who gets all excited about 1 John talking about “perfect love casts out all fear” really needs to remember that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scriptures talking about the beauty and desireability of the fear of the Lord, using the same exact Greek word – phobos – as the fear that 1 John talks about being cast out. (Especially if we call the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible into the mix.)   But aside from the fear of the Lord, there are still lots of other fears being exhorted or encouraged or at least treated as sorta normal.

So here’s some other Biblically endorsed fear for us to chew on:

Romans 11:20 exhorts fear of suffering the same fate as unbelieving first century Jews:
“…because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear”

Romans 13:7 exhorts fear of authority:
“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

In fact, Romans 13:4 had exhorted people to be afraid of their authorities if they do evil:
“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

2 Corinthians 11:3 has Paul expressing some of his own fear (worry, concern) about the Corinthians:
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

And again, in 2 Corinthians 12:20 the same thing:
“For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:”

And again in Galatians 1:11 – 
“I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”

Paul is fearful of his ability to represent Christ to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 2:3:
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

Slaves are told to be fearful of their masters as towards Christ, in Ephesians 6:5
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ..”

Social fear is employed in 1 Timothy 5:20:
“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”

Noah knew danger was coming, and had fear motivating him to build the ark per Hebrews 11:7:
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

2 Peter 2:10 sneers at people who have no fear of speaking evil of spiritual beings:
“But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”

These are just a few examples of other kinds of fear being exhorted, or at least acceptable, in scripture.   There are a lot of examples of people just showing a normal, natural fear of something, and nothing is said to them about whether it was ok or not ok to be afraid of that thing.

For instance, the disciples got really scared in Mark 9:6, and nothing is ever said to them about it:
“For he knew not what to say; for they were sore afraid.”

Daniel was afraid of the angel, and the angel didn’t tell him NOT to be afraid, he just gave him some understanding:
“So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.”  (Daniel 8:7)

The proverbs 31 woman was actually NOT afraid, because she had prepared her family.   But one might easily conjecture that there is a subtle suggestion here that if she had NOT prepared, she would have had valid room for fear in view of the lack of preparation (Proverbs 31:21):
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.”

It also seems worth mentioning that taking precautions about something dangerous does not always equal fear anyway. Wearing a mask or getting vaccinated to take care of one’s body and and one’s family and community does not mean one is “living in fear” as much as it simply means one is using good judgment, wisdom, and caution. There is a verse that says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (ESV)

“Prudence” is a type of caution (or “fear” if someone wants to label it that) which the Bible actually seems to hold in high honor. In fact, this verse appears TWO times in Proverbs, perhaps suggesting the verse should be taken doubly seriously. (Proverbs 27:12, Proverbs 22:3)

…..And thus concludes part 2, but you can go on to part three by clicking here.

God Protects Me and My Friends from Covid

A friend of mine recently wrote me about his attitude towards covid-19 and God. We’ll call my friend “Mike”:

[I want to share how I responded. First, a word about statistics: while it is hard to truly estimate the true death rate from Covid-19 because of the severe differences in mortality between ages, ethnicities, nationalities, and socioeconomic groups, it seems like 1% is the typical number that people quote in conversation. This doesn’t seem unreasonable, and it may be worth mentioning my friend is a white American male in his 50s.]

My reply:

The problem with the mindset here you are sharing about “not giving into fear” is that it is very individually centered. Covid only kills one out of every 100 people who get it, that’s what 1% fatality looks like. That means that you, and the average person in the average small church, will look around and say to themselves, “Look! Me and all my friends are recovering! See, we trusted God and it worked out!”

But this is a pandemic, and with a 1% fatality rate, it doesn’t play out on the scale that one person’s social network or church can see. Instead, a pandemic works itself out on large scale populations. So in a small church, maybe no one dies, or maybe one person dies.

But when you zoom out and look at a city, or a state, people are dying everywhere. You would see it playing out at a city’s ICU, or at a funeral home, or at a cemetery because this is where all those people end up. But among your limited group of friends, from that vista, 1% isn’t enough to make a large impact on a sample that small, so it looks like God is really on your side. And I’m not saying He isn’t — but again, when you zoom out and see a larger swath of people, for some 600,000 people in the USA, He didn’t “see them through” like you feel He did for you — many of them just as strong believers in God as you, many of them praying and being prayed for maybe more than you were.

No, this, “I’m not giving into fear” thing is all about individualism. If you move over to a more collective mindset rather than an individual mindset, one begins to see what while one thought they were trusting God to keep them safe, one was a vessel along with all their friends and church through which the virus flowed through a community like a wave. And Christians who insisted on gathering together without any masks, distancing, or vaccinations — without any “fear” as prudence gets mislabeled, these people directly contributed to the death of many people in their community. It’s impossible to see the 2, 3, or 4 degrees of separation where covid-19 got passed along until it killed someone, but everyone who died of covid so far got it from someone else, who got it from someone else. If any one of those people who could have been more cautious had done so, that chain would have been broken. Every person’s virus came from another person. Everyone who died was killed by other people’s bodies making copies of the virus which they then, sometimes without any attempt to hold it back, passed it on to other people.

But people can be myopic and only see what’s right in front of them instead of seeing the big picture. If I wear a mask, it sets an example for others — especially in my group of friends and people I fellowship with. And if I don’t, that also sets an example for others. And so covid-19 tearing through a group is also not just the responsibility of the people who get sick, but the people who sent them the message that they shouldn’t try not to. We are a body after all. I can talk about how God “saw me through” a Covid infection, but what I wish people would see is not how God sees them through covid, but how covid saw a way to get to them and through them to others — some of whom are killed, some of whom will suffer residual effects for years to come.

Not “being afraid” is so misapplied, and I wrote about the church’s mishandling of so-called “fear” long before this pandemic ever started. That’s all I have to share on this post, but since I can hear the gears turning in my readers’ minds and some are thinking about how “death isn’t something we should fight so hard to avoid” — I’m going to write about that crazy way of talking and thinking that’s been going around – in my next post.

The “In-Between”

A long time ago a writer named Robin Gill (which was then echoed by Brian McClaren and others) talked about a concept, “Belonging takes us to Believing.” A story I remember in some publication being an example of this was a church that was having a time of prayer and fasting; a non-believer was invited to the church that week and decided it would be worthwhile to her to participate in the exercises. She fasted and prayed with the church as a non-believer; shortly thereafter she became a believer. The takeaway was that people find the God of a people by participating in the life of that people — that “belonging” leads to believing.

So what happens when you believe, but you stop belonging? In this season thousands upon thousands of evangelical Christians have found themselves at odds with their brothers and sisters in their cell groups, prayer groups, churches, even on their social media pages. They couldn’t stomach voting for Trump, they watched as they believed the church was conned by a man greedy for power at any expense, and they proceeded to wear masks, socially distance, and get vaccinated all while their friends and churchmates labelled them “sheep” and acted like no virus existed. Quite unwillingly, people who never planned to rock the boat have found themselves thrust into a giant disconnect with the groups and movements they quite recently called home.

I am one of these people. My disconnect began even before Trump, as earlier blog posts will testify to my pushing the evangelical envelope with embracing theistic evolution. My reward for that, plus my gradual and yet now resolute rejection of conservative right-wing politics has been that my conservative friends regard me as a bit too much of a hot potato, as something of a loose cannon, and as someone outside of any “solid teaching” they might trust. At 45, when I would wish to impart, to be asked to lead or teach somewhere like my other friends I grew alongside of, instead I am thrust to the sidelines, heck, I’m not sure “sidelines” is even a strong enough term. Never mind though, with the Delta variant showing signs of vaccine breakthrough, I am still preferring Zoom to real life gatherings.

So I write. Writing ends up being the only outlet for anything I think God has dropped in my soul to say to anyone. And I wrestle with — do I unfriend all those folks on Facebook I knew from earlier churches I was part of that seem to have blocked me from their feed anyway? Again, people I shared life with never drop a comment, never hit a like (or even a sad or angry button) on a thing I say — and haven’t for years — this is how in modern life, one knows they are marginalized by their group.

Meanwhile, I have collected myriad friends who are sympathetic to my “angry prophet rebuking the church on a hillside” vibe, but are appalled and ready to pounce me when they realize how much I really am still a charismatic evangelical at heart — that I’m not a universalist, that I believe in hearing the voice the Holy Spirit, that I speak in tongues, heck, I even believe in demons and deliverance, and I still think sex is for marriage, despite my overall critique of purity movement excesses. I am caught in the “in-between;” most of my current audience go to liturgical churches for which I bear no ill will, but I personally prefer to dance in when the church meets corporately, while at some point maybe I end up on my face with others as we are moved along in a corporate spontaneously written song.

And I (and my husband) still want to do missions, go to other countries with the gospel which my predominantly mainline friends likely will consider “white European colonialization” and be appalled at my goals to “share the gospel with the unreached.” I have known countless ministry leaders and missionaries who confide in me their misgivings about everything happening in the evangelical scene right now; and yet they lay low and keep their views to themselves to avoid losing position and supporters. I’m not wired that way; I can’t quite call it integrity but rather an inability to shut up that makes it really hard to attempt to be so “strategic.” I’m just a zealous idiot who figures the chips just have to fall where they may.

But all of this leaves me, and countless others, in a quandry. I sit and wonder, when will the new evangelical churches, made up of all these disenfranchised mask-wearing people like me, arrive on the scene?

Aside from an occasional outlying congregation, it doesn’t seem to be happening. I watch as people either find their place in migrating to a mainline denomination, try to do some sort of home church thing which doesn’t last long, or they drop from Christianity altogether.

So back to my original thought: Belonging takes us to believing. Sociology also teaches that those who don’t fit into a group are labeled deviants. And deviants seek out deviants. What is outside the groups of our evangelical faith?
A lot of disoriented people. I wish, over and over, that I could be content to just let my group identity shape me, that as so many of my friends are still comfortably enjoying all the fruits of never having rocked the boat of the ideologies of their groups, they continue to be invited to teach, to lead, to have play dates for their kids, to have friends come over and pray and worship, to be invited to things, to feel connected to things. If only I could close my eyes and just pretend everything is ok, and just fit in. But I can’t. And if you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance you resonate way too much with this too.

I think of this verse: “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate, to sanctify the people by His own blood. Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore.” Hebrews 13.

I wish this verse brought some comfort. If anything it’s hard to know how it applies. It seems very self-congratulatory to quote it, when the last thing I really want to do or be is “outside the camp.” I want to sit at the table with my brothers and sisters, inside the camp. But I guess the promise is that Jesus is doing something outside of it, and I need to hope in that and keep my eyes open for that. I don’t really have much of a choice at this point in time. Maybe that will change sometime soon, or at least, some day.

~ Heather

COVID-19 Truths for Christians

It’s not that there’s a different set of truths about Covid-19 for Christians than for anyone else; but there are certain myths and ideas that seem particularly frequent in the Christian internet. So let’s look at them through a uniquely Christian lens.

As believers, we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.   This is because what we think and what we believe shapes our actions, decisions, and character.   If we are believing myths, urban legends, and rumors, we end up essentially believing lies and our decisions are shaped by these lies.   We are not the first people to be challenged by legends in our day; Paul wrote to Titus, “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sternly, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of men who have rejected the truth.”

There were myths and urban legends in Paul’s day, and there are in ours as well.  Here are the most common myths being spread in Christian circles about Covid-19, in no particular order:

  • Myth: The CDC said that only 6% of Covid-19 deaths were actually caused by Covid-19.
  • Myth: Only old people with pre-existing conditions are at risk from Covid-19
  • Myth: Covid-19 is no worse that the flu.
  • Myth: Covid-19 kills as many people as car accidents do every year.
  • Myth: Covid-19 death counts in the USA are exaggerated by hospitals misreporting.
  • Myth: More people in the USA are dying from suicide, drug abuse, and loneliness than Covid-19.
  • Myth: Old people and people with pre-existing conditions should stay home and the rest of us can live a normal life.
  • Myth: If we just follow Sweden’s example and let the virus rage, we’ll reach herd immunity quickly and everything will be fine.
  • Myth: Liberals believe in survival of the fittest and should follow that idea now.
  • Myth: I don’t need to worry about Covid-19 in my area because all the cases locally are in nursing homes.
  • Myth: Masks don’t work.
  • Myth: Masks protect us so we should be able to live life normally wearing them.
  • Myth: Covid-19 is a respiratory illness.
  • Myth: Taking vitamin D and other immune boosting supplements, and a healthy diet, is all we need to defeat Covid-19.
  • Myth: As long as I feel healthy, I don’t have coronavirus and can’t spread it.
  • Myth: Masks are bad for you.
  • Myth: The mRNA vaccines coming out will permanently alter your DNA.
  • Myth: Wearing a mask removes individuality and is against human rights.

    Each one of these myths is tackled below. Scroll down to read about the one you are interested in reading about.

Myth: The CDC said that only 6% of deaths counted as covid deaths were actually caused by Covid; the rest were all caused by pre-existing conditions.


The CDC did say something about 6% of causes of death being Covid-19, but the meaning of what was said has often been twisted and taken out of context. Death certificates are what this myth is discussing.  On a death certificate, in most cases, physicians will list everything that went into the process of someone dying.   So if someone got in an automobile accident, and died from a deep wound in their neck that resulted in a massive loss of blood which then caused a heart attack, all four things will likely be put on the death certificate as the cause of death:  the automobile accident, which contributed to a neck wound, which resulted in blood loss, which ultimately caused a heart attack.

The same is true of Covid.   People die from covid sometimes because of pre-existing conditions; for instance: the patient had asthma, which resulted in respiratory distress, because of Covid.   In that case, three causes of death would be on the death certificate.

And a fair amount of people with Covid do have pre-existing conditions. But there are also a fair amount of people who die of Covid who do not have pre-existing conditions; yet even in this situation, more than one cause of death will generally be listed.   For instance, Covid has been known to cause strokes in young, healthy people.   In which case, the cause of death listed may be a stroke, and Covid-19.

Covid also causes respiratory distress (inability to breath sufficiently), and it causes blood clots and heart attacks.   It’s also common for Covid to open the door for secondary infections, such as systemic pneumonia.  Pneumonia can cause sepsis (an infection of the blood throughout the entire body which causes all organs to shut down.)   Etc etc.    Someone who had a cascade of events of failing health, all due exclusively to Covid even without pre-existing conditions or anything else, is still likely to have several causes of death on their death certificate, explaining exactly HOW Covid killed the person.

In 6% of cases, only Covid was listed on the certificate.   This could happen because health professionals were in a hurry, or weren’t present at the time of death (for instance, the person died at home) or because the physician who filled out the death certificate just decided to be brief.   

But this does not mean that only 6% of the people who had covid on their death certificates actually are the only people in the Covid count who actually died of Covid.

For further reading:

Myth:  Only old people with pre-existing conditions die from Covid-19.


It is true that having a pre-existing condition greatly increases the odds of a bad outcome from Covid.   But many young people and middle aged people with no known pre-existing conditions die of Covid-19, too.   For example: sadly, a 41 year old elected official recently died of Covid, and it is specifically stated that he had no pre-existing conditions.   A thirteen year old boy with no real pre-existing conditions recently died of Covid.   A 21 year old college student recently died of Covid.   

Anecdotes aside, many many young people have died of covid, many of whom had no pre-existing conditions.
AND — many many people who have not been killed by COVID, have had their lives completely wrecked by COVID after-effects that have yet to go away half a year later.   Death is not the only problem this thing causes.

For more reading about young people dying from Covid:

Myth: Covid-19 is nothing special, it’s just like the flu.


The flu kills roughly 30,000 people in the USA in a given year, or almost one in ten-thousand Americans.   In a really bad year, the flu might kill 60,000, but this is rare.   Covid-19 has already killed 330,000 at the time when I’m writing this, and we haven’t even been counting covid deaths for a year yet (more like 9 months.)   This represents roughly one in a thousand people in the USA, already dead from Covid.   

One of my friends pointed out that we have a vaccine for flu so it would probably kill a lot more people without it.   But this effect is small; estimates are that the flu vaccine saves 40000 lives over a 9 year period, or around 5000 people a year, give or take. — flu death statistics – flu vaccine statistics

Myth: Covid-19 kills as many people as car accidents.


About 36,000 people a year die on American roads.   Covid has killed 11 times as many people in 10 months thus far.

Myth: Covid-19 case counts are exaggerated.  One of the reasons is that the USA tests more people than any other country, so of course we find more cases.


President Trump first started saying back in May that the USA tested more than any other country.  Even in May, this was not the truth.  (Here’s an article from July, after that it is hard to compare because Trump stopped saying it as often, so less articles were written to refute it.).

Myth: Covid-19 death numbers have been exaggerated.  Hospitals make more money every time they say they have a covid case so you can’t believe case counts.


Experts say that Covid-19 death numbers are actually UNDER represented.   This is because many deaths due to Covid look like deaths from other reasons; for instance, we know that Covid is a vascular disease that causes blood clots, leading to heart attacks and strokes in people who sometimes have no other symptoms.   People who are found dead at home from a heart attack might not get a covid test, but nevertheless may have died from Covid.  

The CDC keeps track of what is called the “excess death rate” for various causes of death.   The excess deaths are the number of people dying from a cause that are markedly in excess of what one would see in a common year in the USA.  A certain large percentage (like over 100,000) of these excess deaths are believed to be attributable to undiagnosed COVID-19.  Covid deaths often look like non-covid deaths, as covid can cause things like heart attacks and strokes without any other symptoms. For more reading on this click here.

Also, there are rumors spreading that doctors are labeling car accident deaths as occurring from covid-19. Johns Hopkins medical center responds to that here.

Furthermore, not everyone who dies with a positive test for Covid-19 is labeled as a “covid death” unless the doctors believe covid reasonably was a contributing cause.

But, if you don’t believe the CDC, you can just ask the funeral home and coffin industries.  In Los Angeles, for example:

Myth: We need to open the country up because more people are dying of suicide and loneliness than are dying of Covid.


We do need to open up the country, but that is only possible if COVID is kept to low levels of spread.  To get there, we need people to be diligent about social distancing, and not travel over the holidays. We need rapid testing which in most corners of society, we don’t yet have.  We need people to cover their noses and mouths with masks at all times when around other individuals they do not live with or have a small group “bubble” with.  And when COVID-19 spread starts to rise, we need short term lockdowns to bring it back under control.  Ultimately, we need as many people as possible to get vaccinated now that vaccines are starting to become an option.   And we need people to stop spreading disinformation about masks and so forth that leads to a jump in case numbers because people refuse to take precautions to limit the spread in their community.

If we all cooperate with one another, we can keep covid-19 under control and open many things up.   But if we continue to behave in ridiculous and ill-advised ways, Covid keeps spreading like a wildfire and we can never get case numbers down low enough to open things safely. Read more about how countries can be open during COVID-19 here:

As for overdoses and suicides, there definitely has been an increase during COVID-19.   It would be interesting though to know what percentage is linked to families grieving lost loved ones.   At any rate, the increased depression and dysfunctional coping among people in our country definitely needs to be addressed; but it is also worth noting that the increase is nowhere near the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 directly.

Myth: Old people and people with pre-existing conditions simply need to quarantine and stay inside, and let the rest of us keep living normal life.  


That would be nice if it could work that way, but that’s not how an epidemic works.   First, as already stated, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are not the only people dying from Covid.   But even if we imagine a disease that truly only killed easily predicatable groups of people, and we had those people quarantine while everyone else went back to normal, the behavior of the many would still kill those few.   Why?   Because even people quarantining are still, no matter how hard they try to stay inside, are connected to the outside world whether they want to be or not.  

The only way to protect people is to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in the entire population; the realities of life don’t let us pick and choose to allow a disease to spread in some people and not other people.  

People still need to go food shopping.   They occasionally need to go to the doctor for things not related to COVID-19.   My 66 year old husband had a medical emergency in July when Covid was thankfully mostly under control in our area, and we were grateful for that because he had to go to the emergency room.   If Covid was spreading like wildfire, that trip may have been deadly for him.  

People still need to buy gas and stand at the gas pump sometimes downwind from other customers.   People still have problems with their pipes and need an emergency plumber to come in their home, or they need an emergency electrician.  Sometimes storms destroy homes and people need a contractor and they need to stay in a hotel. Sometimes people at high risk have no choice but to go to work because they have no savings and their employment is deemed “essential,” so they don’t get laid off and can’t collect unemployment.    If they are like my husband who needed to be admitted to a hospital for a non-covid reason, they need doctors, nurses, cafeteria workers, and cleaning crews that will not spread Covid to them. If they live in a nursing home or care facility, they need staff that did not get coronavirus at the grocery store, or church, or at their friends’ party the other night.

What we need is for COVID-19 to be at very low levels of spread in the entire population to have any chance of protecting the most vulnerable.   Whatever the society is carrying is going to make its way to the vulnerable folks too.   And, again, we don’t actually know who those folks are — because even young people without preexisting conditions are at risk from Covid-19.

Myth: Let the virus rage (like Sweden supposedly did) and we’ll get herd immunity and everything will be fine.


Sweden did keep things open for a bit, but Sweden had as part of their plan that companies could reduce peoples’ hours and with government pay people their full normal paycheck, even though they only had to work 20% of their normal hours to get that check. 

However, after a little while, Sweden’s herd immunity plan had to be curtailed because the virus started raging out of control there too, and too many people were dying.  

It is largely considered by medical ethicists and disease experts trying to reach “herd immunity” with wild and unchecked spread of the virus in the USA would be deeply immoral and cause too many deaths to be a reasonable course of action. 

Additionally, it does not appear that natural immunity to COVID-19 lasts very long, although it is true we do not know yet exactly how long it lasts.  We know that other coronaviruses humans are familiar with confer immunity for 1 or 2 years, but we don’t know much about this one.  There are many people documented though to have already gotten COVID-19 twice this year, and while for many people it was less severe the second round, although we know of one woman who died the second time round after doing OK with it the first time.  

Myth: Liberals believe in “survival of the fittest” so they should be fine with letting weak and vulnerable people die from COVID.


Some people, and unfortunately many of them being Christians, might be OK with letting Covid-19 do its worst, killing off whoever is susceptible to dying of COVID-19, or having people that survive it incur lasting and devastating effects for months or years to come.  But many people, a large number of them liberals, are far more concerned about the weak and vulnerable and in so doing, hold up a mirror to conservative Christian ethics. Yet I’ve heard Christians mocking people saying, “Those liberals believe in ‘survival of the fittest’ so why aren’t they into that now?”  

I can not express enough how repugnant it is to hear brothers and sisters in Christ flippantly and callously speak in such selfish and ugly terms as wanting to kill off weak and vulnerable people — and using an overly simplistic version of the theory of evolution, which they hate as a scientific theory, in order to scorn those who are doing what they themselves ought to do. But they instead mock those who care about COVID-19 sufferers, and use their misunderstood summation of the “survival of the fittest” to justify themselves in so doing.  

But to clear the air, those who properly understand and accept the science of evolution and the idea of survival of the fittest, would mostly agree that the idea of “survival of the fittest” as applied to humans in evolutionary theory is not merely about the fittest “individuals” in our society. The adaptations that the species has which enables us to respond to adversity are what makes us evolutionarily fit for survival, and in that regard, humans are rather intelligent social creatures that at least within their own social groups can be quite compassionate, and can use that caring intelligence to look out for one another. Group cohesion and intelligent care for one another is a big part of what human “fitness” for survival looks like and which has enabled our species to survive all that nature has thrown at us. “Survival of the fittest” is not specifically an individualized thing, but can often be seen in how humans are social creatures who look after the weak in their families and societies.

Myth: I don’t need to worry about spreading coronavirus or catching it because the only people in my area sick with it are in nursing homes.


If it’s in a nursing home in your area, its there because other people in the community brought it there.   There has never been a bigger need for everyone, but particularly the people of God, to live out the ideal of “loving your neighbor” than now.   Coronavirus spread is a matter of what everyone in a community does; and the more people who believe themselves to be the invincible “healthy” people in a community pass it around, the more the nursing homes and everyone else ends up with it.  If you want to understand more about how your actions as an individual affect the weak and vulnerable in your community, check out this interactive here.

Myth: Masks don’t work

Masks are not 100% effective at preventing coronavirus, but they do massively reduce how many people will contract the virus compared to how many would get it if no one was wearing a mask.

Here’s a great video that explains:

Myth: Masks protect us, so we should be able to live a normal life.


Masks only work when combined with social distancing. And masks only have an effect in reducing how often someone new gets infected with covid — they don’t prevent covid infection entirely.

Myth: Covid is a respiratory illness


Covid is more likely properly defined as a vascular disease, with respiratory features in some individuals.

Myth: As long as I take vitamin D, eat a healthy diet, take a lot of immune boosting supplements, etc, I have nothing to worry about.


There is no known cure or prevention for coronavirus other than the new vaccines coming out.   While vitamin D does have a small but beneficial effect at preventing the severity of coronavirus, it is by no means a *guarantee* of health.   There are things that can help you be healthy but helping is not the same as a perfect shield against Covid-19.  Northwestern University for instance found a statistically significant improvement in the outcomes of patients with adequate vitamin D vs. those with deficiency, but the improvement was only present for about 3% of cases.

Additionally, if you get the virus and your immune system handles it well, that will still not keep you from spreading the virus to everyone you come in contact with.  You may recover, but the person you gave the virus to may give it to someone who gives it to someone who dies.   If you didn’t believe yourself to be invincible because you took a handful of herbs and vitamin D, that person might have lived long enough to get the vaccine and be relatively safe.  With coronavirus, the expression, “It’s not all about you” has never been more true.

As long as I feel healthy, I don’t have coronavirus.


I know a guy who has been testing positive for three months straight and has never had a symptom of the virus.  He feels perfectly fine and he’s frustrated he is still having to quarantine himself from his girlfriend.  

But it’s not just my friend.   It is well known that people without any symptoms do carry and spread coronavirus to others.   In the political climate of the moment, this was briefly refuted by a public health organization over the summer but that organization went back to stating the facts of the situation later on — as do all other health departments on the planet:  You can spread coronavirus without having any symptoms.

Myth: Masks are bad for you.

Masks have been widely used in our society by people every day for decades.  Surgeons wear them, people who do sanding and painting wear them, people who fight fires wear them.   Doctor after doctor has gone on youtube showing that their oxygen levels don’t go down even while wearing a mask.   No one has questioned the safety of wearing masks for occupational hazards until this became a political issue.

The truth is that of course, if your mask is made out of some non-breathable material, like super thick material or a plastic bag, then yeah, you could be suffocating yourself with it.   But the average face mask made from regular types of fabric or paper, is not going to cause issues with oxygen levels, unless you already have a breathing disorder like COPD.

Myth: The mRNA vaccines coming out for COVID permanently alter your DNA.


This is not what mRNA does in cells.   There is no reason to think mRNA would do anything whatsoever to your DNA, from any mRNA vaccine.  mRNA is made by picking up the pattern of DNA, but in the case of the vaccine, the DNA pattern being used is not YOUR DNA, but it has a copy of a portion of the virus’s DNA.   It can’t do anything to YOUR DNA with this, because that’s not how mRNA works.

mRNA heads to the ribosomes (not your DNA) of your cells where it instructs the ribosomes to make various types of proteins — in this case, the protein being made is the spike protein from the outside of the coronavirus.  But this sounds worse than it is — any time in your life you have ever had a virus, the virus invaded your cells and used your ribosomes to make its proteins.  With the vaccine, the whole virus isn’t in your cells, just a temporary instruction on how to make the protein on the outside of it, so your immune system can be trained against that unique protein. Your body does not continue to make this protein forever, either — when the mRNA from the vaccine runs out from telling enough cells what kind of protein to make, your cells move on to making other stuff.

Myth: Mask wearing takes away your individuality and your human rights.


Masks can massively show off the individuality of the person wearing them.  Masks come in all types of fabrics and designs and colors.  There are artistic masks, high-tech masks, you’ll almost never see two people wearing the same mask.   Individuality abounds with masks.  And if you are desperate for people to see your face, there are even clear plastic masks.  
As for rights, in the USA we decided a long time ago that health and safety in many instances was not an infringement on human rights.   We made laws against driving without seatbelts.  We made it illegal to smoke on airplanes, most areas of restaurants, or in hospitals.   We made kids wear bike helmets and adults wear motorcycle helmets.   Wearing a mask is important because we share the air together, but we don’t want everyone to share coronavirus.

Lies and disinformation and myths hurt everyone, because when it comes to Covid, we’re all in this together.   What you do affects me, and what I do affects you. This one takes a village — working together — to conquer. 

Some Thoughts on Identity in Christ

I’ve noticed that many churches and ministries emphasize knowing one’s “Identity in Christ.” I attended a YWAM DTS training school — it’s a training school designed to prepare one for cross-cultural ministry — and an entire week of the curriculum was called “Identity Week.” Aside from that, two entire weeks not entitled “Identity Week” covered much of the same material.

During identity week, almost every statement in the New Testament that could possibly hide any truth about the identity of believers on this Earth before God in Christ was turned into emphatic “I am” statements, and students were led to announce aspects of their identity loudly to themselves and the Heavens, until they really felt it had been able to sink in and they could believe these amazingly powerful and positive things about themselves from God’s perspective.

Sacred Cows of Identity

I remembered many sermons I had heard elsewhere on the topic of identity. Charismatic believers, of which I am one, are often taught extensively that spiritual power is linked to confidence in one’s identity. (I’m not sure I completely agree with this, but it is often unquestioningly taught as a basic truth.) As one often-shared story goes in many sermons, Jesus was tempted by the devil with continual attacks on his sense of identity, with satan repeating, “*IF* you are the Son of God,” do this or that. The premise of these messages was that the temptation of the enemy was aimed at getting Jesus to question who He was, which would have incapacitated him.

But, as I’ve reconsidered this, I think the emphasis in this story is not that satan comes to steal our identity from us — if anything, it began to stand out to me that satan was challenging Jesus with an “if” that was already a given, creating “if…then” statements to tempt Jesus to do something BASED on his already firm acceptance of his identity, which would have been out of line with the Father’s will, and done instead out of personal pride. “IF you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the temple,” was inviting Jesus to act in His own sense of Himself, rather than to do only what He saw the Father doing. Identity, even when based on truth, can become pride, or at the very least distract us from the focus we ought to have and instead put our focus on ourselves.

What Actually IS Healthy Spiritual Identity?

Ultimately though, learning one’s identity in Christ has a place. Yet another risk awaits those who teach and learn about this; and that is, that identity is cultural. Western cultures tend to form identity based on individualism, whereas Eastern cultures, of which the Bible is based in, emphasize a person’s role in connection with a broader group, such as a family, or a clan, or a tribe, or a nation. Yet in teaching from the Bible about identity, people in the West tend to notice and emphasize aspects of identity that function as individualized definitions. We need to be aware of this inherent weakness we as Westerners have in how we even approach the idea of having an identity in Christ, as Christian identity is a little bit individual but more so it is extremely collective.

So then, my identity is not just a child of God, but it is a sister in the faith in reference to you, another child of God. IMHO, I think if done corrrectly, learning about our identity, should not be something that separates us more from one another or gives us reason to feel proud, but instead be something that humbles us before the Lord in seeing His love for us undeserved, and then teaches us more about who we are collectively, as a body, and as a temple being built TOGETHER with spiritual stones, as a holy Priesthood, a holy nation, and a family.

We talk a lot about community in the body of Christ, but unfortunately deep expressions of community that are not mere frriendship cliques are in short supply among God’s people. I think if we did do a better job of teaching a more accurate Biblical identity, it may go a long way in helping us embrace a vision of who we are as a house of and for God, a radical community of people loving and walking with one another, that transcends ethnic and racial boundaries, age boundaries, political boundaries, personality preference boundaries, common hobbies, church cliquiness and religious social ladders, to instead become something this world has rarely seen, a group of people who through their shared fellowship, friendship, and life truly demonstrate together an “US” — a holy habitation of people joined heart to heart in which is found God’s kingdom come to Earth.

In short, a robust awareness of our identity in Christ I think ought to challenge us to see ourselves not so much as the individuals we are prone to be, but as those who learn to love others and walk with them as those who are literally part of us, and us part of them. Perhaps those who see identity as being a key to spiritual power may have some truth then, for Christ’s people are never as powerful as we are when we are humbly laying down our lives for others, and learning to walk in love and the connected joy of sharing in Christ with others, and sharing in common humanity with all.

Yet, Going Beyond Identity

Yet there is however something else to be considered when those who disciple others emphasize learning about and embracing one’s identity. The other day I was reminded of Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, and my conviction deepened that barking up the identity tree too much might be not so much the wrong tree, but may certainly become unhealthy as too prominent a tree when there are other trees to eat from which require leaving behind that one and moving on to others. Ok, that may be a clunky analogy I know, but I wonder if emphasizing identity as our source of power and strength all the time may cause us to not realize how identity really functions in terms of a timeline of human growth and development.

Erickson was a developmental psychologist who observed that in human development, there is something of a crucial struggle at various ages, where things could go one way or another. So for instance, a first grader who is struggling in school unfortunately is also in the stage of life characterized by developing a sense of inferiority versus industry. Success at this stage means people develop a sense of efficaciousness in their own ability to do things — industry, while failure at this stage leads to inferiority. The stages progress as one ages and encounters new inner struggles.

It is in teenager-hood that the main struggle becomes Identity. However, the struggle is not between identity and inferiority, as inferiority was the foe to deal with in an earlier stage. Now the struggle is between developing a coherent identity and confusion about how one’s various roles and self-expressions make a coherent self. Yet this stage usually gives way to another stage of development in early adulthood.

Now certainly some people may have gotten lost somewhere in an unsuccessful attempt to create and understand a whole identity for themselves in teenagerhood; just as others may have enduring complications from earlier stages than that, such as industry vs. inferiority. But identity development is just one stage of many; and it is not as though all the stages hinge on that one.

In Christ, we do receive a new identity with our new birth. And this can be healing for those who never developed a cohesive identity in their teens, or it can be redefining for those who did. But this is not the be-all and end-all of personal development. There are more stages yet to come.

So it is not as though I am saying that identity is not worth teaching about. But what I do think is that it is not worth getting stuck on it, as if it is a fountain from which all spiritual life and health emanates. We must press on to know the Lord, and this also means pressing on to seeing Him manifest in other stages of development that are not focused on identity.

The next stage in young adult life is the struggle between intimacy and isolation. This is rarely taught about in Christian circles; other than to exhort everyone to be part of a church. But many young adults do get lost in not being able to meaningfully find their place in community or with a significant other, and the struggle to define the intimacy vs. isolation stage of life can be even louder and more crucial than identity. How can we disciple people through this process, of learning how to interact in healthy ways as part of a community, and appropriately respond to others’ healthy or unhealthy attempts to seek intimacy or break out of isolation created either from their own decisions or the unhealthy decisions of those around them? A robust expression of Christian faith needs to be able to address this even more than have people state truths about their identity.

And by far, the bulk of a lifetime is spent in yet another phase: Generativity vs Stagnation. Someone in this stage may not feel any deep connection to a teaching about identity, even though at some points it may have cross-over to the struggles of this stage, but the struggles finally are not the struggles of identity. They are struggles of resource management, of dreaming, of partnering with other’s dreams, of birthing, of growing, of molding and shaping, and knowing one’s desires and which to explore and build out of. This is the most long-term stage, how does the church walk people through this one?

Finally, in older years, the last stage is integrity vs. despair. There is wisdom to be had in how to regard one’s earlier phases, how to regard the successes and losses, how to recapture things and still build even in a late hour, how to appreciate and celebrate and remember and commemorate what has already been done. This is also something for mentoring and discipleship and support, even as people in this stage may turn and be the ones mentoring, supporting, and discipling.


To sum it up, I hope this can open up a broader discussion among people and groups who read it, as to where the importance of teaching about identity does or doesn’t rightfully have a role of importance in the discipleship process of people. Thanks for reading, and, as always please comment below.

Adoption is a Beautiful Choice — AND so is IVF

It’s no secret that my husband and I have been walking through the process of building our family together with IVF. I’ve been fairly open about this on social media and on my blog here. In doing IVF I’ve been part of a large community of women (and men) who join support groups to walk through this very formidable process together and help each other out with information and validation.

One of the things that comes up over, and over, and over again — both for me as an individual and with others in my support groups, is what can only be termed a “microaggression” from people who seem to look down on people who turn to medical science for help with getting pregnant. It’s the statement, said sometimes gently, and other times harshly, “Why don’t you just adopt?”

From religious people in particular, I think this is based in a few misconceptions. The pro-life movement holds up adoption as a virtue, and it surely is. But many people I think get this misconception that there are literally thousands if not millions of babies just waiting for someone to step up and adopt them, and failure to adopt these ethereal babies results in rampant abortion. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

The reality is that there are thousands of couples desperately trying to adopt a baby, and it is a very, very difficult road. For every baby that comes up for adoption, there are dozens of couples vying to be the chosen ones who get to take that baby home. Many couples will never fit the bill – preference will go to families that are well-off, with parents who are under a certain age, and have a certain level of education. The process is often heartbreaking (I have known many would-be adopted parents who are given babies to take home, only to have the birth mother change her mind at the last moment) and expensive (thousands and ten-thousands of dollars are used up on each attempt.)

Of course, one could adopt from the foster care system, although even there, there exists a lot of competition for babies and small children, and I’ve heard too many stories of well-meaning would-be adoptive parents praying and hoping that parental rights get terminated of some woman who they hope does NOT get off drugs in time or show up in court in time to keep her family together. I personally don’t want to be that person, as I came from a family where my mom had a very real risk of losing me due to her irresponsibility, and no matter how messed up my mom was, I’m very glad no one ever took me away from her. I’m a real bleeding heart for family reunification (except in the extremist of cases) and I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that fence.

But here’s the salient reality: Infertile couples (and singles looking to have children) have no more responsibility to take care of the world’s unwanted children than anyone else. Being infertile while yet desiring to reproduce, does not suddenly bestow a mandate upon a person that unwanted children are one’s assignment.

The fact is that all competent adults of the world share an equal responsibility towards unwanted children — both fertile couples, and infertile couples, both singles who want children, and singles who don’t want children. Every adult in our society has a responsibility to ask themselves what role they ought to play in helping the unwanted children of the world. Shirking off this responsibility the moment someone shares that they are doing IVF, to inform them subtly that THEY ought to adopt unwanted children simply because they are trying to get pregnant with medical help, is just a form of scape-goating of one’s own responsibility to the children of the world.

People have a natural desire to reproduce themselves. For some, this means biological reproduction. It is a privilege to be able to reproduce with ease, and for the privileged to look at those who have medical issues and inform them that they are judged for wanting the same privilege, is nothing short of a microagression towards a weaker party.

Adoption IS a beautiful choice, that every adult should consider if and how it might play a role in their lives. But this choice is just that — a choice. And as long as couples can freely reproduce naturally without being put down for having biological kids instead of adopting, no one should be judging those who reach out for medical assistance, either. Adoption ultimately is not the responsibility of the infertile; it is the responsibility in one way or another, of all.

Revisiting 25 Views on Hell

If there is one blog post out in the blogosphere that I have shared more often or brought up in conversation more often both off and online, it has been Chuck McKnight’s classic post, “25 Views on Hell? 2 Questions to Reframe the Debate.” (Classic to me, anyway.) Yet now, 3 years later, I’d like to suggest a revision.

Chuck (otherwise known as “The Hippie Heretic”) aptly noted that most of the viewpoints out there about hell can be placed in a grid making up 25 views, based on asking two main questions: What is the duration of hell, and what is the purpose of hell. The answers to the two questions get laid out on the two axis of a graph, like so, with the purpose going across the top, and the duration up and down on the side:

The inside cells with the weird letters are all the possible interactions of all the answers to the two questions about one’s notion of Biblical hell, placed into this grid.

It’s too much to explain, and if I did, I’d be plagarizing, because Chuck explains it in huge detail over on his post, which in case you missed the link above, I’ll repost again HERE. If you’ve never read his post, I highly recommend you go give it a read and then come back to finish reading my post. I’ll wait. 🙂


Ok, so, wasn’t that revelatory and deep and chew-worthy? Maybe you can see now why I share that post so often. (HEY, you, go and READ IT!) But as an avid fan of the post, I’ve road tested it in many a real life discussion and after getting to chew on it for quite a few years, I’ve realized it needs an update. So, Chuck — I’m adding to your conversation, if I may 🙂

It has occurred to me that this grid needs another question added, a third dimension. This is because I have found that in many conversations about hell, there are a few assumptions being made — usually, the assumption is that we are talking about EVANGELICAL hell in some form or another. And the assumption about Evangelical hell is that it applies to everyone, who ever lived, or ever will live, no matter where they live, no matter their situation, everyone goes to this hell unless they…know Jesus.

So I realized we need a third row, a third question in the discussion, and that is: “Who goes there?”

Does Ghandi go there, because he never believed (as far as we know) in Jesus? Of course many would say he does not go to hell, but this would be outside the scope of the 25 Views of Hell chart (lucky him.) Or, one might envision that he does, but gets out quickly the moment he realizes Jesus the Way, in one of Chuck’s “consequential yet healing escapable process” scenarios. Or one might imagine he goes to hell, and is annihilated (sorry Ghandi) in a “retributive inescapable destruction” scenario.

What I have found is that many people almost don’t care as much about what kind of hell we are talking about — as much as they care who goes there. Sending Ghandi to Hell divides the no-holds-barred evangelicals (and some other groups) from most others.

So the question of “What kind of Hell” are we talking about really needs to include a discussion of who Hell is for. Is it just for demonic spirits, and perhaps humans never go there at all? (This is not a widely held theory because it doesn’t seem to go along with most Biblical statements about Hell, but some folks might hold that.)

Another consideration is that all the statements Jesus made about any sort of Hell were to a mostly Jewish crowd, and maybe we are dealing with a uniquely Jewish hell? After all, even Jews themselves did not believe that their 613 laws applied to anyone other than Jews, and that God would not be holding non-Jews to that standard nor judging anyone for failing to uphold Jewish law. Perhaps there is one punishment for disobedient Jews, and another one for the rest of humanity? Many people have noticed that Jesus harsh words were not directed at just anybody, but specifically to the Pharisees. Perhaps the people who might go to hell were specifically religious elite among Jews.

Perhaps we have extrapolated unique punishments promised to that generation to all people to come, and the Hell we think we know is really a Hell meant specifically for disobedient first century Jews, not Jews of all time, and not the entire population of humanity for all time. I could see some version of preterism postulating this, as preterism makes 70AD a firm cut-off for Biblical prophesy, and centers it all on the Jewish world.

This would also mean for instance that concerns about the injustice of murdered innocent Jews such as Anne Frank going to hell, who did not believe in Jesus because of their time and culture could be assuaged because of perhaps the Biblical hell was meant specifically for those who had the chance to hear from Jesus or those who saw Him personally.

Perhaps none of this is true (after all, it borders on sounding pretty darn anti-semitic) and perhaps Hell does exist for everyone, Jew and Gentile, but again, only in the first century, before the Preterist 70AD cutoff, and then now we are in a new era where things somehow work differently.

That brings us more up to date with most versions of Christianity, which believe that Hell, whatever the duration or purpose, would apply to all humanity that is disobedient to God and fails to believe in Jesus. But, does it apply to those who never had a chance to really hear the Gospel? What about the Aborigines in Australia before Europeans arrived, were they going to hell (at least, one of Chuck’s 25 versions of Hell) or were they not?

Perhaps our chart needs to have a version of hell that is only for those who have had a chance to hear an adequate telling of the gospel, and still refused Christ.

Of course, perhaps people go to hell whether they believe in Jesus or not, just based on their actions. This is why on my chart I defined categories as “disobedience” to God, because one can view “failing to believe” as gross disobedience, or cling to an Anonymous Christian idea like the Jesuits do, that there are those who do not believe in Jesus by name but still live according to His Spirit without knowing His name. Then again, Cornelius was a righteous man, but salvation still came to Him when Jesus was made known…..oh well, this post is not aimed at figuring these things out, but only stating that more options need to be covered…..and those options center around the question of WHO.

If the table of the variety of possible Hells includes a third dimension for “Who”, then there is room for the unique Jewish scenario of the Rich Man’s hell in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus to be one form of hell (say, CIP – consequential inescapable process, for Jews of the first century who had Moses and the Prophets and refused to listen), while Ghandi could end up in RHED (retributive but healing escapable destruction, specifically for Gentiles who heard the gospel and refused post-first century) and Anne Frank to miss hell entirely. In fact, there could be dozens of different hells for different situations at different points in time.

Or maybe there is only one hell, but that is for you to decide amongst yourselves. With the help of this nicely expanded table, to chew on for the next several years until you update it and send me a link to it. 🙂

— Heather

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