Welcome! I set out to learn what Evangelical Christianity didn’t tell me! From Bible scholarship, I learned “facts,” which were different than “church facts.” Then my articles were being read by hundreds of thousands of shocked people! May the truth set you free:

Catch up on the divorce stories of Charles Stanley and Amy Grant. …


Scholars are giving the religion a crash course in old words

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Back in my church days, I thought the pastors knew everything? Like, he went to seminary and knew Greek and Hebrew and basically everything about Christianity.

Come to find out, they “knew” the assumptions filtered through a few languages—and centuries of speculation.

1. “Faith”

Everyone knows what faith means. You know something so deeply that you don’t need to listen to facts? It’s “the opposite of reasoned judgment in consideration of the evidence,” as Matthew W. Bates explains. “Faith was reckoned not just an alternative but a superior way of knowing what is true and what is false.”

In his 2017 study, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King, Bates explains the word pistis actually means, not any traditional idea of ‘faith’, but—‘allegiance’ for a leader. …


Remember when Evangelicals canceled their Pop princess?

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I’m thinking back to 1999, when the woman who’d been the face of popular Christian music for two decades got a divorce.

Seventeen years and three kids into her marriage, she’d fallen for another man—country singer Vince Gill. Or as she says: “We got along like two peas in a pod and made no bones about it.”

If she was Cinderella, this was her midnight. Christian radio quit playing her music and Christian bookstores took her products off the shelves. That she kept her record deal was front page news. As far as Evangelical America was concerned—Amy Grant was canceled.

Her soon-to-be ex-husband, Gary Chapman, was out raking her over the coals for the crime of liking somebody else.

“Since the beginning of 1994, they had what I would call an inappropriate friendship, which was destructive to our marriage,” he tells People in 1999. …


John Weaver’s outing is getting messy

I have a deep, dark confession. I’m fascinated by gay narratives in right-wing politics. It’s a history riddled with secrets, mostly carefully forgotten.

But a lid got blown off this last week as John Weaver, famed campaign strategist for John McCain and other top candidates, was accused on Twitter of being a sex “predator” on young Republican men — dangling jobs in exchange for sex.

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A little history? Modern conservatism is basically a gay phenomenon.

In the era of mass media, nobody would be too eager to hear from Republicans, who were stuffy, law-and-order types. But in the early 1950s, a dynamic young journalist named William F. Buckley gave the sensibility a facelift. He launched National Review magazine, and presided over the movement for decades. He made conservatism “happen.”

Buckley was married, but often read as gay. (Gore Vidal called him “the Marie Antoinette of American politics.”) Even recently, the Republican commentator Darren J. Beattie writes: “What’s disgraceful is that Willam F. Buckley stayed in the closet his whole life, and managed to pass himself off as an aristocrat to a gullible American audience.” …


The strange tale of the Nag Hammadi library

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Nag Hammadi library c.1947 (Claremont Colleges Digital Library, public domain; colorized)

In the early days of Christianity, there’d been a splinter movement? A strange, godless group, not even Christian really. They had orgies all the time, and re-wrote the Bible, adding in stories full of ‘pagan’ influences. The church fathers put a stop to that. The ‘Gnostics’ were heretics.

These might be thoughts in the mind of a traditional Christian in 1949 if reading The Guardian newspaper reporting on a discovery. In Egypt, “the scriptures of the Gnostic sect” have come to light.

It’s not a big story. Updates run only occasionally. A 1956 report mentions that “the 1,000 sheets of yellowish-brown centuries-old papyri” had included “twenty pages of sayings of Jesus Christ as recorded by St. …


Did the traditions get a few things wrong?

When I set out to learn about sex in the Bible, I kept saying: Can this be true? A God who really likes human sexuality?

In church, one tends to get a G-rated version. But Bible scholars evoke a text alive with sexual details. Here’s ten that got my attention.

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EisTraum, “Salvation” (2020)

1. The human body is divine!

In the Bible, humans resemble God. This is the meaning of the famous line in Genesis: “made in the image of God” (1:26–28; 5:1–3; 9:6).

Christian tradition often explains this as meaning humans share the ability reason. Our intellection is divine? Except the ‘image’ language, as David J.A. Clines notes, refers to “a three-dimensional object.” Being the “image of God” means we look like God.

As Benjamin Sommer notes in a study of the subject: “The God of the Hebrew Bible has a body.” The deity is often seen as a human-like form (cf. Exo 33:19–23; Isa 6:5; Ezek 1:27–28; Amos 9:1). …


Does a Christian icon keep secrets?

At age fourteen she had ‘bad’ friends, especially a woman from whom, she wrote, “I learnt every kind of evil.” Alarmed at the relationship, her father forced her into a convent—a place for “girls like myself,” as she puts it, “although there were none there as depraved as I.”

Teresa of Ávila a.k.a. ‘Teresa of Jesus’, the Catholic saint who died in 1582, remains a global icon of sacred character, beloved across all Christianity. Her sexuality, for some reason, is not often discussed.

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“Teresa de Jesús” by Juan de la Miseria (1576)

Biographers aren’t sure what to do with Teresa’s confession of her teenage ways.

A 2019 academic biography by Carlos Eire has this:

“Teresa provides no details about these sins of hers, or about her ‘depraved’ behavior, but she does say that it was due to her ‘wickedness’ that in 1531, at the age of fifteen, she was sent to live at the Augustinian Convent of Our Lady of…


The strange tale of the “Odes of Solomon”

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“Odes of Solomon” (public domain); J. Rendel Harris (public domain; colorized)

As a scholar of early Christianity, J. Rendel Harris of Birmingham, England, had manuscripts mailed to him from all corners of the Middle East. His procedure was to remove them from their envelopes, place them on a shelf, and return to them a few years later.

On January 4, 1909, he would write:

“…having a little leisure time, I thought I would devote it to sorting and identifying a heap of torn and stained paper leaves written in the Syriac literature, which had been lying on my shelves for a long time, waiting for attention and not finding it.”

One manuscript was a Syriac copy of a known text, the Psalms of Solomon. He realized it was bound with another work, which he recognized from quotations by early Christians. This was the lost Odes of Solomon, the first hymnal of the faith — some forty-two songs, nearly two thousand years old. …


The strange tale of Charles Freer

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Codex Washingtonensis, Freer Gallery of Art (public domain)

On December 31, 1907, newspapers around America report a startling event. An ancient Bible has been discovered—with more text! The previous year, Charles L. Freer, the industrialist from Detroit, had been in Cairo looking for art to add to his considerable collection. In an antiquities shop he’d noticed a pile of books. His eye was drawn to one. “The beautiful writing first attracted my attention,” he tells a friend.

Freer was wary of it being fake. Egyptian merchants, he believes, are “the worst gang of high and low scoundrels in the whole universe.” But after consulting a few Greek scholars, he decided to bite — later having a case of buyer’s remorse. …


The weird tale of the Temple Scroll

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One-sheet promo poster for “The Ten Commandments” (1956)

In 1955, one of the most remarkable manuscript discoveries in history had been made, or would be shortly. One of the key figures in its emergence, the Reverend Dr. Joe H. Uhrig, knew only that he was going to the ‘Holy Land’, to learn more about the Bible.

Returning to America, he resumed his career in the exciting new field of ‘televangelism’. His T.V. program, Hand to Heaven, was filmed in a ‘little country church’ in Alexandria, Virginia. He’d built it as a studio set. The cemetery outside was fake.

A nice touch — on the tombstones, rather than names, there were selections from the ‘Ten Commandments’. …

About

Jonathan Poletti

spirituality + sexuality + stories

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