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Evangelicals are shaming a Hillsong pastor for having a hot Palestinian girlfriend. It’s their business?

Scandal grips the Evangelical Christian world. It seems a pastor had a girlfriend. “He told me the most beautiful women come from the Middle East,” she says.

I’m putting together what’s known of the love story of Carl Lentz and Ranin Karim. A man falls in love with a beautiful Palestinian woman. Except for the part about him being white — it’s nearly biblical.

So what’s the problem? That he’s married? That she’s Muslim?

They met in Domino Park in Brooklyn, when he went up to talk to her.

He didn’t tell her he was a famous pastor at Hillsong, the well-known ‘hip’ megachurch. He was known throughout the usually stodgy Evangelical world for his unique appeal — sexy, fashion-conscious, Jesus-centered.

He told her he was a sports agent. He didn’t tell her he was married.

They began texting and FaceTiming, and “write novels to each other,” seeing each other every other week — at her place. They drink Tequila, and talk and talk. “I leave him on read all the time ’cause he pisses me off,” she said. …

Hey, I’m Jonathan and I was raised Evangelical! It was a culture where ‘God’ and ‘sex’ didn’t appear in the same sentence. So I set out to catch up.

Check out my popular series of very surprising Bible facts:
• “10 Terribly Misread Bible Verses
• “10 Things Christians Don’t Know About Jesus
• “10 Key Bible Terms That Christianity Misunderstood

And let’s get into some Evangelical scandal. Here’s the lowdown on Ravi Zacharias, Charley Stanley’s divorce, and Amy Grant’s divorce.

My Elisabeth Elliot exposé, “The Purity Hoax,” kinda shook things up. More to come! Let’s learn to read the Bible—and each other!

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. …

An account in the Talmud is—provocative

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Illustration of the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible Historiale by Pierre le Mangeur c.1178 ( / Bibliothèque Nationale de France; public domain; color enhanced)

In ancient Israel, a visit was required three times a year to the Temple to “behold” God, as we learn in the Bible (Exod 23:17; Deut 16:16). One might like description of such a remarkable experience, and there is a passage in the Talmud—which than one commentator has pronounced “curious.”

We’d imagine people in Jerusalem filing into a building understood by them to be a nexus between Heaven and Earth. Within, in a golden room called the Holy of Holies, is the Ark of the Covenant. Over it hover the cherubim, mighty winged angels.

“In the midst of two living creatures you will be known,” says Habakkuk 3:2. To be an Israelite would be to understand that, from between these figures, the voice of the Creator had been heard. …

The author of “Dune” tried to decide if he’d been ripped off

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John Johnson, “Beverley and Frank Herbert,” November 6, 1976 (Creative Commons license)

On May 25, 1977, Star Wars was released to worldwide acclaim, going on to become one of the most successful movies in history. Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, a well-known Science Fiction novel, finds his son Brian telling him on the phone: “You’d better see it. The similarities are unbelievable.”

Brian Herbert recalls in Dreamer of Dune: “The film was shocking to me, for all the similarities between it and my father’s book.” …

Stephen Arterburn wrote the Evangelical classic book saying porn ruined his life. Was it a scam?

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Pictures of naked women ruin male minds, marriages, and horrify God Himself. This is a core idea of Evangelicalism, and its key teacher is Stephen Arterburn.

In 2000 he published a book, Every Man’s Battle, which went on to sell some 3.5 million copies. Its message is that women “should dress modestly,” but don’t, and so men have to work even harder to get rid of “impure thought lives and ungodly sexual actions.”

He’s there to help. His life was damaged since he was a child, he says, by porn. You don’t just need one of his books, though. He has a whole series of ‘Every Man’ titles. Looking through them, he tells various details about his life. I’m realizing: something’s off.

What are Stephen Arterburn’s credentials?

The book gives an impression of his being a mental health professional. “From my counseling experience,” he writes. The preface calls him “an experienced and widely respected counselor.” …

A journalist just demolished centuries of official denial

As a researcher in sexuality, I’ve had my eye on Frédéric Chopin, the 19th century Polish composer. He struck many contemporaries as highly androgynous.

You might even get it from his music—so delicate, magical, energized. A scholar writes in 1996:

“People who heard and saw Chopin play the piano, who encountered his music, or who made his acquaintance repeatedly tried to share their experience by evoking various otherworldly beings, in particular fairies, elves, sylphs, and angels.”

I flip through books on Chopin, finding snippets of commentary over the years, like “Chopin was a man with a woman’s genius,” or “so womanly is he.”

For the most part, though, his sexuality isn’t discussed. …

In 1883, Moses Shapira shocked the world

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Moses Shapira (undated, c.1860, public domain; colorized)

On May 9, 1883, Moses Shapira writes to Herman L. Strack, an Orientalist in Berlin, saying he has come upon an amazing find. It’s an ancient leather manuscript. On its darkened surface, paleo-Hebrew letters spell out the Ten Commandments—with surprises! Like an eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.”

Shapira was an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem, a Jew who had converted to Christianity. He was reputable, except for that one episode with the Moabite idols. They’d been dismissed as forgeries by the famed French archaeologist, Charles Clermont-Ganneau.

How had Shapira acquired this manuscript? He told a strange tale of a Bedouin man who’d found it, among mummies, in a cave on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. It was then stolen from him by another man, who’d sold it to Shapira, then disappeared. …

God likes a girl who sees into the spirit realm

Growing up Christian, I thought only guys were prophets. Come to find out, the Bible is packed with women who see God.

And I had no idea! I’d been told the Bible talked about women as spiritually infirm and inferior. That, of course, was false. Let’s look at ten Biblical women doing high-level spirit juju.

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EisTraum, “Drunk and I’m Seeing Stars” (2013)

1. Rebekah

“So she went to inquire of the LORD.” —Genesis 25:22

At verses like this, a misogynist religion runs into problems. Rebekah speaks to God. What to do? The usual solution: invent a man who does it for her! …


Jonathan | sex+✞heology

spirituality + sexuality + stories

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