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February 09, 2005

My friends in the Southern Baptist Convention are getting a little slow.

I can't believe it took them this long to blame the tsunamis on the sin of the people in those countries hit by the big waves.

I wish I could describe the sense of perspective I've had since I left the hyper-conservative SBC. The sad thing is that someone will say something like "the tsunami was the wrath of God on a sinful people" and hundreds of thousands of otherwise loving Christians will believe it. I'm glad I'm out.

Key quotes:

“If you read the Old Testament, especially, God is very concerned how the nations treat His covenant people,” Blackaby explained. “The nations that persecuted, offended and killed His people, God came down and destroyed them. And He’s the same God today. He’s just as concerned about His people.” [ed. Don't you get it? The Tsunamis have to have been God's idea. And since God loves everyone so much, his concern for them forced him to wipe out nearly 300,000 of their enemies. I think I feel sorry for people who can't see the contradictions inherent in believing in a God like this]

The God I worship is a God who is Love. If you worship a God who kills people because they believe differently than other people, or even because they are naughty, then we believe in different Gods. Period. End of sentence.

Come to think of it, the lady was following letter-perfect SBC theology when she asked me, as I lay in the hospital, to check my life for whatever sin it was that caused God to give me cancer. THERE'S a healthy concept of God.

Your God might give people cancer and send tsunamis. Not mine.

Posted by Dan at February 9, 2005 11:14 PM

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the truly hilarious part is, muslim clerics had them beat on this proclamation for several weeks.

Posted by: beth at February 10, 2005 08:42 AM

Some thoughts.
1. Henry Blackaby does not speak for the SBC. You might have been away too long to remember that each church is autonomous. The SBC does not have a high priest of any sort. I would think you would be hard pressed to find too many Southern Baptist who are thinking that way. I believe the number would be the similar to the Christian folks who are in other denominations and independent churches.
2. God in fact did wipe people out in the Old Testament. Sodom & Gomorrah ring a bell?
3. As for hyper-conservative, what are your specific issues? Gay men leaving their family for another man to become a bishop got you bent out of shape? The illegality Gay Unions? What issues are you seeing clearly now with your new perspective?
4. God indeed is a God of love. He is also Holy. That's the reason Jesus lived and died for us so that we could one day be with him.
5. Blackaby's opinion is his opinion. It does not make it fact. It is not a uniting opinion by any means. I do not share his opinion that God sent the tsunami to kill specifically these people. I am also a Southern Baptist.
6.For someone who likes opinions, you seem to be hypersensitive when you come in contact with one that does not agree with your own. I imagine that makes it tough to share Christ with someone who does not know Him and might disagree with you.

Posted by: Jim at February 10, 2005 09:36 AM

I offer you one cautionary reminder here... Not everyone associated with the SBC (in this case meaning Southern Baptist Convention and not the one who I have my DSL through) agrees with what Henry Blackaby had to say. Or the woman who visited you by your bedside.
I hope you get my point... If not... tsk tsk!
Your sermon for today,

Posted by: Cam at February 10, 2005 09:52 AM

Ummm no... pardon me.... That was delivered by Jim.... {little jab}

Posted by: Cam at February 10, 2005 10:14 AM

I had a friend recently chastise me for some things I said regarding a Sporting event...totally unspiritual matters. But, I will offer it to you in this light.

"(Dan), I am starting to suspect you like to hear an opinion (several come to mind) and go off.

My opinion on Dillon is my opinion. Joel's opinion on the Royal Tenenbaum's is also just an opinon.

You may have been living in (or have been gone from)the Bible Belt too long; you seem to be responding to statements of opinion as if they were personal attacks. "

Easy there fella!

Posted by: Doug at February 10, 2005 10:48 AM

Jim, Cam, Doug,

When I speak of the Southern Baptist Convention, I speak of the political body that controls the monies and public face (ie press relations) of the gathered churches.

I am American Baptist, and our churches are also autonomous. Similarly, the American Baptist Convention makes statements sometimes that all or most churches don't agree with.

However, in this politically charged time, when the Southern Baptist Convention makes a statement, it expects to be followed and is willing to cut churches from membership for more grievous departure (ie your gay marriage example).

The Convention has made statements in the past ranging from "God doesn't hear the prayer of the Jews" to "boycott Disney" to selectively evangelizing Jews or Mormons. Now, churches are being kicked out of conventions for allowing gay members and seminary professors have long since lost jobs for not believing the bible inerrent or whatever. The SBC is quickly and smoothly moving past the days of local church autonomy.

YOUR church might not believe in a God that kills to prove a point (although you didn't waste time jumping to Sodom and Gomorrah: that tells me something).

It is a matter of opinion when a single person makes a single statement about, say, tsunamis or corey dillon. It is another thing when the SBConvention as a body makes a political statement through one of the pastors of its larger churches, which it does and has done as matter of course. These statements (ie when the SBC said boycott Disney) are not meant to be heard as opinion, but as God's will to be obeyed.

I would also add that if you worship a God who killed two cities full of people to prove some point about not liking homosexuals, we worship different Gods.

Which is fine, I suppose.

PS Doug, you don't find it at all contradictory to argue that opinion is just opinion, while at the same time following a salvation belief that says, in effect, "believe like me or go to Hell forever?"

Posted by: Dan at February 10, 2005 11:03 AM

Men? Might I offer this as food for thought?

May we each be careful to not say or think that we speak for God in all things.

While I have a finger pointing at you, I have three pointing back towards me.

Posted by: Cam at February 10, 2005 11:58 AM

More thought's. More opinions.
1. Does your Bible have that Sodom and Gomorrah story? Has the master of the monkey-suit ever preached on that subject? Are these subjects better left to trained professionals? Yes my God is the same God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He is also the same God who at times in the Bible who said to the Israelites, "Kill them all." Did not this same God conquer death?
2. As for your thought's on Disney, I know of no churches or individuals who were cut loose for going to Disney World. If the political body decides to have a boycott against Disney, it is there right. It is also my right to choose to participate or not in the boycott.
It seems you are reliving some battles of old when the major changes were made in our, SBC seminaries. We are talking about stuff that is 20 years old. Is it a result of posttraumatic stress?
3. As for your salvation analogy, Doug didn't say believe like me or go to hell forever. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the light. No one comes to the Father but by me." What is your response to His comment?
Chow for now!

Posted by: Jim at February 10, 2005 01:07 PM


Just saying, I think I'd go with your God. :)

And I'm just going to go ahead and say that it's people like Blackaby and Jerry Falwell--who says things like the ACLU and gays and feminists caused 9/11--that make people like me quite leery of certain religions. And it's people like Dan, quite frankly, that help remind me of the good that can come from religion.

I never much cared for the preaching on fire and brimstone, but I'm always heartened by someone talking about love, inclusion and helping others.

Posted by: Joel Caris at February 10, 2005 01:12 PM


1. The Old Testament is full of angry, killing God stories. What of it? That's how people in that warlike, barbaric age viewed God. Don't ask me to view God that way today.

2. Disney is just an example of the trend in the Convention itself to define goodness in terms of works. If you ban Disney, you are good. If you love homosexuals you are bad. That seems to be the message, but frankly I am happy to forget all about the Disney thing.

3. Jesus said, "no man comes to the father but by me." Humans took that and turned it into "no man avoids an eternity in hell except by being born again the way we tell you to." I take Jesus' statement to be more like "if you want what I have, do what I do" than "The God of Love will torture you for eternity for the least little sin unless you obey these church rules, and say this magic prayer."

Jesus seems to be promoting a lifestyle, not an adoption of specific, rigid beliefs. Paul echoed this when he claimed salvation wasn't a one-time event that automatically put you on the "winning" team. Paul confessed that throughout his life he was constantly "working out his salvation with fear and trembling."

I don't know how we got from "no one comes to the father but by me," which I believe, to "you must believe this list of specific list of baptist doctrine, say this magic prayer and boom you're saved forever" is beyond me. In essence, I am agreeing fully with what Jesus said, and disagreeing fully with what it has become in the way evangelical churches use it.

The greater issue is about the tsunamis. Is God love or not? What loving God would kill all those innocent folks to prove a point about how Baptists are right? The analogy of God is that of a loving father. The first time your kids broke the rules did you lock them up and torture them eternally?

The even greater issue, which I suspect you of all people are aware of, is that I love making trouble.

Posted by: Dan at February 10, 2005 01:30 PM


Agreeing with me is the first step to enlightenment.

So you got that going for you, which is nice.

Posted by: Dan at February 10, 2005 01:52 PM

Hey Joel? If you have the time... Please go to the Garage and answer my latest question, "Are You Offended"... BTW: Ralph's Garage has more than one main contributer. One is even an atheist.

Of course any who read this are welcome to as well...

Dan? Trouble? Hmmmmmmm I can see that!

Posted by: Cam at February 10, 2005 02:01 PM

I don't like to argue with people, especially you, but I can't be silent on this point. Dan, how on earth can you deny that God has a history of wiping out large quantities of people when he is offended? The Great Flood being another prime example,(and yes he did promise not to destroy the whole earth that way again, but he never said he wouldn't smash a part here and there), Sodom and Gomorrah IS a valid example however and does not only mean someone is "homophobic" if they bring it up. Homosexuality or not, God said that he was going to destroy the city because he couldn't find one person who was righteous there. I am sure there were children, and other people who we would not think of as deserving to have fire rained down on them there, but the fact is that WE DON'T THINK LIKE GOD. ONLY GOD IS GOD. We CAN use history to see patterns of behavior however. How about all of the times he allowed kingdoms to be decimated by invading armies, including women and children? If I was God, would I kill entire nations? No! But we have to submit to the absolute authority of God and stop pretending that we can mold and shape him into what we think he should be. To say that God is ONLY a God of love is just ridiculous, and I would think that someone who has studied the Bible as much as you have would know better. The saying "The WRATH of God" didn't come from nowhere! He says again and again that he will not put up with man's sinfullness. We have Jesus interceding on our behalf (thank God!) but without that, I have no doubt that we would all be in BIG trouble. And to say that we can worship different Gods is also ridiculous. I love you Dan, and I admire you and think you are so smart and talented and funny and clever, but I am ashamed of the things you said here. God is the one God, the only God and he doesn't play. I personally think the tsunamis were because of plate tectonics, not His wrath, but I certainly wouldn't deem to have His mind and swear to that. I'm sure you will say that I am narrow minded and whatever, but I don't see how you could have ever read the Bible and say the things you said.

Posted by: Bonnie at February 10, 2005 02:16 PM

Bonnie stole my thunder, but to what she said, I cross my arms and say, "Yeah!"

I also find that when people decide that they don't care to submit to the idea of an all-powerful and just God that gets angry, they revert to the idea that God is loving, inclusive and helping of others. He IS all of that, but he's also, and don't ever forget, Holy and Jealous. We continue to slap Him in the face but want His blessings. I say WE because it's true, Christians, Jews and Agnostics alike. Jesus spent a lot of time trying to convince the Jews of who He was, so we all have to make a choice: He was a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord! I won't judge you, but He will. So, the choice is yours.

So, I will take my Southern Baptist family to visit my homosexual cousin that works for Disney, but just got home from performing Tsunami relief in Sri Lanka, and that's that!

Posted by: Doug at February 10, 2005 02:48 PM

Bonnie, Doug,

I am trying to get my mind around this idea. Somehow, because I don't believe that God wipes out entire populations (Biblically and recently with Tsunamis), you tranlate that into "Dan doesn't believe that God is all-powerful."

This interests me.

Of course, I believe that God is love and that where love is God is. I also believe that love is all-powerful. At the same time, I don't believe love goes around killing folks for disagreement or disobedience.

My main concern is that if you believe that God is likely or capable of killing humans painfully for disobedience, that divine execution is in God's bag of tricks, then you both believe on some level that it is possible that God his-own-self has given me cancer to punish me for some disbelief. I find this implication incredibly offensive and I will ignore it for now, since it is possible that you aren't thinking that far down the natural progression from Sodom and Gomorrah. I know that no sin an individual committed in S&G is bad enough to get them burned alive because I know that no sin I committed is bad enough to put me through the agony I've gone through with cancer.

What you are doing is jumping past my arguments to a thinly veiled "it's in the Bible, so if you don't believe it the way I say it exists in the Bible, you must be wrong" argument. This fits on a bumper sticker: God said it, I believe it, that settles it. Problem is, there are many ways humans have interpreted these sayings of God throughout history, and for any of us to say that we, finally, got it right is dangerous.

At the root of the discussion, I suspect we believe the same things, but in different ways.

We see tsunamis, and some of us choose to blame God. This is a basic, gut-level response.

In the same way, in more primitive society, folks see big cities wiped out and they, knowing nothing of plate tectonics or volcanic activity, similarly blame God.

Our differences of opinion about homosexuality and Sodom and Gomorrah aside, we differ on focus. I see you focusing on God as Power, while I focus on God as Love. The difference is important.

God as Power wipes things out.

God as love certainly punishes, in the way a loving father punishes his children, but only to help that child grow into a good person. God as love doesn't kill when God gets angry at misbehavior. I never said God is ONLY love. I said God is ALL love. As we have all known since being teens, love can hurt.

I will always believe that all power and love are in God's hands. I will never believe, no matter how many Old Testament passages you quote (and yes, they are there in multitude and easy to find), that God gets upset at unbelief and just snuffs millions of people in horrific, painful ways. I'm happy to leave it at disagreement there.

Heck, if God got mad at sinful living, at oppressing the poor and being warlike, at turning backs on God's ways, at chasing whatever pleasure comes into view, then the good old U.S.ofA. would certainly be higher on the Divine Snuff List than Sri Lanka.

Posted by: Dan at February 10, 2005 04:09 PM

I actually find the tsunamis to be a valid point. What started to creep me out was when one person's site claimed that this was the beginning of the end times, and it followed a man's vision. At that point I figured he either misunderstood that vision, or that we have a few million years left, because according to science, God took quite a long time to build this earth up from nothing.

As far as the "snuff list," Christianity remains dominant in the U.S., if not openly. Look at how many people re-elected President Bush based on perceived moral integrity alone. Meanwhile, the people of Asia are worshipping what we'd call false gods, violating the first commandment. I'm not as well-versed on the Bible as I'd like to be, but I'm pretty sure that this one was the most important. That would put non-Christians above sinful believers. Catholicism is prevalent in Hispanic culture, so I'd imagine that they're pretty much saving North America if this is true. If other traditionally non-Christian continents get hit by unprecedented natural disasters, maybe it's time to listen to some of the people who claim the "wrath of God" argument.

However, our God is also one of compassion and forgiveness. One of the hymns I remember well from mass has the line, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me." Hopefully, the SBC remembered this side of the coin and didn't use the tsunami-sin theory to preclude aid to the victims. We are to let God do the judgment. It's up to us to keep the peace in the meantime and give people a chance to repent without coercion.

I know I just argued both sides (must've missed a calling as a lawyer). I see a much larger picture. By focusing on a single trait, you're placing a non-human being into a human context. God is loving and SLOW to anger, not completely devoid of it. As long as people argue that this was the wrath of God without prophesying about the end times or using it as an excuse to refuse giving aid to the victims, I'm OK with their ideas.

Besides, we are talking about the Master of the Universe, right? I believe that the plan is twofold in nature. The wrath of God was released upon Asia, and we are in turn being tested by our response to the disaster.

Do we moan about the rich people not giving, or do we go ahead and give all we have? Are the rich people doing enough? Can we put aside our selfishness long enough to heal the afflicted without putting on a show?

This will be one of those defining moments when we reach the gates of Heaven.

Posted by: Alex D. at February 10, 2005 11:12 PM


You're ashamed of him?

"Judge not lest ye be judged."

And people wonder why I'm Buddhist.

Posted by: Larime at February 11, 2005 02:59 AM

The correct quotation of that oft-misued passage is "Judge not lest you be judged by the same measure." This was given to remind people not to be hypocritical and criticize someone for behavior that they themselves also exhibit, NOT to say that we can never point out wrongs to one another.In fact, in other much less quoted scriptures that we as Christians have some responsibility in approaching our fellow Christians about certain things and are given prescribed ways to do just that. I am not "judging" Dan, and you, Laramie, have no idea the history that Dan and I have and if I am in a position or not to have a debate with him.

Posted by: Bonnie at February 11, 2005 09:10 AM


The new site looks great!

I do appreciate the defense, but Bonnie is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She doesn't mean me harm, and I'm not sure she meant "ashamed" as much as "disappointed." Bonnie saw what she thought was a flaw in my view of God, and she has earned the right to call me on it.

As far as I'm concerned the discussion here is over. Nobody's going to change anybody's beliefs, and lots more people in the world believe in a God that snuffs out entire populations than one that doesn't. I just like for folks to hear that there is an alternative reading to the God that sits in the sky waiting for you to be bad enough that He can whallop you.

As I said, discussion is healthy, but we've reached the point here where further discussion is of no real use in terms of persuasiveness.

Posted by: Dan at February 11, 2005 09:57 AM

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