Saturday, September 5, 2015

New converts and religious extremism

From the Oatmeal comic "How to Suck at Your Religion"
Although this entry is inspired by Kim Davis (thanks, Kim, you kooky gal!), it is not specifically about her. I’m tired of her, aren’t you? So much for that 15 minutes. Much ado has been made about her four previous marriages and some of the nasty details about her life. It turns out that she is a recent convert to Christianity. I’m not going to judge her for her previous mistakes; we’ve all made them. I do think it’s a shame that she has decided that her religion prevents her from having empathy for others. It really shouldn’t work that way. I prefer kindness over condemnation, as well as abiding by the law of the land. Her attitude is really kind of pathetic. Sorry you’re such a dupe, Kim.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about recent converts. I’ve had my own experience with that, and honestly, aren’t they just the worst? I am not at all surprised that she is new to Christianity.

My ex-husband got religion at a late age...I’m going to say he was maybe 30, or in his early 30s? Well, you’d think that he was the first person in history to find out about Christianity or to read the Bible. He had that same sort of fervent, holier-than-thou attitude that I see in Kim Davis. He had a dismissive attitude towards me and my thoughts on it, because he decided that he knew more about it than I did because he was fervent and he was studying. This despite the fact that I was raised in a very religious home and attended an apostolic evangelical church (just like the religion Kim Davis converted to). I spent my entire youth going to church services, every Sunday and sometimes on Wednesday. I learned my Bible verses in Sunday school like a good little girl and got a Bible with my name embossed on it for my efforts.

In other words, I was not ignorant about religion. In fact, I knew quite a bit about what was in the Bible. That didn’t matter one bit to him. Because he was new to it and was on fire about it, he obviously knew more about it than I did. When he would toss scripture at me, I’d come right back with a discussion about it. Even then, I was questioning the dogma and learning that nothing is black and white. As the Monkees sang, only shades of gray. But he stuck with the interpretations of his Baptist church, and as far as I know, is still deeply involved.

I did mention that he is my ex-husband, right?

I suppose that it happens with anyone who discovers something new, whether it’s religion or lack of religion or the joys of...I don’t know...surfing. I understand that people get enthusiastic about things, and I certainly feel that enthusiasm and passion for things that I care about.

What I try not to do, however, is dictate to others about my passions. Don’t like “The Walking Dead”? Fine. Don’t watch it. Don’t dig Duran Duran or the Stones? Fine. Don’t listen to them. What people like my ex and Kim Davis don’t seem to comprehend is that not everyone believes the same way they do. They cannot use their belief system to deny the rights of others.

My ex was determined that if our marriage was to work, I had to believe exactly the same way he did, and be as involved in the church as he was. That wasn’t going to happen. I am my own person and have my own thoughts on things. I couldn’t continue in that kind of a relationship and I filed for divorce.

Kim Davis decided that she would not participate in the law of the land, she denied services to people who rightfully asked for them, and beyond that, she refused to allow anyone in her office to fulfill their duties as employees of the state.

There is a reason I divorced my first husband, and there is a reason Kim Davis is in jail.

Being religious does not have to mean being intolerant. I know people who are believers but who are compassionate and caring and understand that we’re all on this planet together. If you are using your religion to deny the rights that our Constitution grants to others, or to condemn others for their own beliefs, you, as the Oatmeal says, suck at your religion.


  1. The difference Beth, is in meeting Jesus. Going to church or being religious means nothing if one has not had a personal experience with Jesus. And yes, new converts can be irritating even to seasoned Christians. But that excitement about Christ is something that He calls us to hang onto, or find again if we have lost it. There is a vast difference between having empathy for someone and refusing to be a participant to their sin. If a person sincerely believes that homosexuality is a sin, than issuing them a marriage license or renting them a motel room would be like selling alcohol to a drunk, or a gun to someone planning murder, or asking a gossip what she knew about the Lewis's.

    I'm sorry your 1st husband didn't mature in Christ fast enough to realize that he, nor I, or anyone can convict another of their sin or save someone else. That is the Holy Spirit's job. Our job is simply to live out the life, being willing to share all He has done for us.

    It is not intolerance to say "That is a sin." There is no grey area to sin. God decides what is and isn't sin. And He plainly states it in His Word. I sin. You sin. Everyone who has ever lived, except for Christ, has sinned. Everyone who has ever accepted Christ as Savior, has sinned since receiving Him. (Unless it was a true death bed confession.) So, therefore, we are called to still exhibit grace toward others, even while they are still sinners. That doesn't mean help them sin. It means not to attack them, and to stand willing and ready to help them in whatever way is not sin. Feeding them if they are hungry, for example.

    Life & Faith in Caneyhead

    1. Dear Caneyhead:You're wrong. I do not sin. I don't believe in sin, or heaven and hell, or your friend jesus. Have I done things I regret? Sure. Have there been times when I have done things that you or your jesus would judge to be sin? Daily. But to me, they are not sins... because to me, there is no such thing. And that's the entire point of Beth's post... just because YOU believe that a man was god, and that a book is his word, does not make it so for everybody. Or even important to everybody. You live your life your way, and let the rest of us worry about ours. You can tell me I'll be damned to hell if you wish... it won't bother me, because I don't believe in that either.

  2. ... I am not sorry that your first husband did not "mature in Christ" soon enough... the whole idea that an adult has to "mature" in anything is a little bit of a built-in excuse to justify bad behavior ...

    The hypocrisy of people, secular or religious, is egregious... but when it is also back by ignorance, it can be dangerous... that isn't about lack of maturity in thinking, but a lack of critical thinking or lack of being able to think for oneself, period...

    1. When someone accepts Christ as their savior, they are a new person in Christ. Spiritually, they are a "baby". And they have to grow and develop spiritually, just like we have to grow and develop physically and mentally. If it is an excuse, it is one God himself gave as the Bible refers to this many places in the New Testament.

  3. Still comes down to "thou shalt not judge." Period.

    1. Thou shall not judge relates to persons, not what is and isn't sin. To say stealing is a sin is not judging. To say someone is wrong to steal is not judging. Judging would be to say because they stole, they are sorry, no count. God is reminding us that there is a person behind that sin. A person only He truly knows and understands. Only He can judge the person. The Bible relates it to fruit. All lives bear fruit. Some bear rotten fruit of discord and sin. Some bear lovely, pure fruit that is good.

    2. Here's the thing, though: not everyone believes the same way you do. I don't believe that homosexuality is a sin. I think it is wrong to discriminate against people on that basis, and that is what Kim Davis is doing, and that is what anyone who denies service to gay couples is doing. That concept of sin just does not apply to me or to many of my friends and loved ones. You can believe what you want, but that doesn't mean it's okay to discriminate or deny services. To me, it's the same thing as denying services to an African-American. You can say you're judging the behavior all you want, but to many of us, you are still judging the person.


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?