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Ark Encounter Park Opens – Just Another Religious Mega Scheme?

Ark Encounter Opens

The Ark Encounter project, a replica of Noah’s Ark built by “young earth” Creationist Ken Ham with the exact specifications from the Bible, opened yesterday in Kentucky with no shame about its evangelistic goals.

A producer for New York Public Radio called me up to ask my interest in commenting on it. She had found my book, Craft Brewed Jesus, on an internet search, and thought my opinion was a good fit. In the end I got quoted on their web page (see The Takeaway Show, Life-Size Noah’s Ark Opens to the Public), but here is what I had prepared to say if interviewed on air:

First, this is definitely a fascinating idea, to replicate Noah’s ark with the very dimensions spelled out in the book of Genesis. It has a lot of historical and educational potential. There’s an enormous appeal to see this thing up close and explore its implications just out of curiosity.

The trouble is, the Ark Encounter project does not have a pure historical and educational agenda.

11 Historical Facts Evangelicals Don’t Want You to Know (or Don’t Know Themselves)

evangelical church

First, two caveats. One, evangelicals are not a monolithic block. It’s possible (but rare) that some will want you to know some of these things. Second, most devoted evangelicals and their leaders sincerely believe that the historical, biblical, and linguistic facts listed below are… well, false. Not “truth.” Not “biblical.” False teaching.

I know. When I was an evangelical, I felt the same way. The few that I did believe or suspect might be true (or conversely, those traditional evangelical views I thought might be false), I kept secret, for fear of being “unevangelical.” But the truth is, aside from a few shady types who know them to be true but want to hide them from their flock, most people are clueless at best, and sadly, brainwashed at worst about these facts.

A fair, objective examination of the Greek of the New Testament and the history of Christianity, especially the first few decades and centuries of the faith, reveal these historical facts:

What’s Wrong With the Modern Church?

CraftBrewedJesus_CoverNew book taps the answer:

What if the modern American church has its Christian history wrong? According to ex-evangelical Michael Camp, most American believers fail Christian History 101. Drawing on his own historical research and missionary experience, he discovers most popular Christian views of the Bible, church, sin, salvation, judgment, the kingdom of God, the “end times,” and the afterlife—pretty much all religious sacred cows—don’t align with the beliefs of the original Jesus Movement. Some of them not even close.

Camp’s Craft Brewed Jesus paves a fascinating journey of a group of disillusioned evangelicals and Catholics. When they decide to meet regularly over craft beers to study the historic foundations of their faith, their findings both rock their world and resolve ancient mysteries.

Donald Trump, Evangelicals, and Why We Really Need a New Spirituality

Robertson_Trump

Despite some conservative Christian leaders pleading with fellow evangelicals to reject him at the polls, Donald Trump still won a plurality of born-again Christian votes on Super Tuesday—in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia and weeks earlier in South Carolina and Nevada. At Regent University, Pat Robertson welcomed him to a campaign visit by saying, “You inspire us all” (3:02 in video). In January, Jerry Falwell, Jr. endorsed him.

Thrice married Donald Trump is the most arrogant candidate with the rottenest fruit of the spirit. He endorses torture, wants to bomb the sh*t out of ISIS, says he’ll block all Muslims from entering the country, shuns refugees, is known for racist, sexist, and bigoted remarks, admits he’s dedicated his life to the pursuit of wealth, and once confessed he has never asked God for forgiveness. So how is it he’s largely winning the evangelical vote!? 

What New Spiritual Path Will You Take in 2016?

DOWNLOAD AN EXCERPT OF “CRAFT BREWED JESUS”

Download excerpt of book Craft Brewed Jesus

Will you stay the course or take a new road? Will you finally address those pesky questions you have for which you’ve only gotten pat answers? Is this the year to research those unexamined doctrines and doubts? If you have been skeptical about any of the following, the forthcoming book “Craft Brewed Jesus” (Spring 2016) may help: 

3 Big Ideas of New Book “Craft Brewed Jesus”

 3 Big Ideas of "Craft Brewed Jesus"

How History We Never Knew Taps a Spirituality We Really Need

My next book is in the hands of the publisher! Wipf and Stock Publishing in Eugene, Oregon is publishing it in April or May 2016. Besides the craft beer theme (just as small, independent craft breweries using historical recipes have rethought corporate-brewed beer, pub or cafe theologians outside the church are rethinking “corporate” religion), here are the book’s three big ideas:

1) The Modern American Church Has Failed Christian History 101
– With some notable exceptions, American Christianity does not understand the rich, fascinating, and complex-but-illuminating history of the early Jesus saga and how it later morphed into a warped man-made religion.

3 Peaceful Ways to Fight the Ideological War with ISIS

SyrianRefugees

Regrettably, in the aftermath of ISIS’s inexcusable attacks on innocent people in Paris, amidst admirable calls for support and assistance for victims and their families and the people of France, conservative policymakers are also calling for a response that plays right into the hands of radical Jihadists. Twenty-six U.S. governors don’t want Syrian refugees in their states for fear of terrorist attacks. Much of the rhetoric on the Right further polarizes the West and Muslims. Most policymakers are only concentrating on a military solution to the problem and are ignoring the ideological war that needs to be won.

Here are three peaceful ways the West can fight ISIS on the more important Ideological Front:

The Real Reason Kim Davis and Evangelicals are Against Gay Marriage

Kim Davis and Gay Marriage

We learned this week that while in the U.S. the Pope had a secret meeting with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Apparently, he offered her support for standing up for what she believed. (Later reports say it was not a private meeting and the Pope does not back her position). But we also know this Pope has reached out to gays and lesbians more than any other pope. When asked once about a gay person’s condition, he responded, “If he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

So, why are evangelicals so quick to judge gays and lesbians? We get the answer in the recent ABC interview of Kim Davis.

The Scourge of Black and White Thinking

black_white

I often talk about the dangers of black-and-white thinking I encountered in my evangelical past. American conservative religion puts things in nice, neat boxes, with defined boundaries. The Bible is inerrant, they claim. If it wasn’t, it couldn’t be trusted at all (a strange concept considering no one claims that about any historical document). People are “sinners” steeped in original sin and totally depraved unless they are regenerated by conversion to Christ. One is either saved or under God’s wrath; on the way to heaven or destined for hell. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee thinks the case of county clerk Kim Davis (refusing to give out marriage licenses to gay couples in Kentucky) is proof that there’s a movement toward the criminalization of Christianity, based on the belief that anyone who allows or tolerates gay marriage just can’t be Christian. There’s a line drawn in the sand and heaven forbid if you cross it and try to create a gray area, between these stark spiritual “realities.”

That’s why I was surprised to hear Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist)

5 Facts to Brighten Your Worldview

Hans_Rosling_5_Facts

Yes, there are pressing problems in the world this very day: A refugee crisis in Europe, a war-torn Syria, and grinding global poverty, to name a few. But according to Global Health expert and statistician, Hans Rosling, focusing on all the bad news in the media masks the real gains our world has achieved. I’m an advocate for taking every world problem we have seriously and focusing on finding real solutions. But let’s do so from a worldview with hope for the future and not one of gloom and doom. Here are 5 facts that many people don’t know: 

Correcting the Flat Reading of the Bible

Michael Hardin is brilliant in taking us back to the Jewish historical and cultural way of thinking at the time of Christ to correct the traditional Evangelical way of reading the Bible, as if everything is equally authoritative and true, what he calls a flat reading of the Bible. Open your eyes and heart to a new way of finding the fingerprints of God through the lens of Jesus, not by swallowing everything you read hook, line, and sinker, but by viewing the sacred texts in their historical/cultural context with Jesus as the window. A refreshing perspective! Thoughts? (23:14)

The Best Kept Secret in American Christianity

best-kept-secret

There are many secrets in American Christianity. Unfortunately, a chunk of them are dirty little secrets that fester for years before eventually breaking open in popular media. The sexual confessions of Josh Duggar from the reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting” is the latest of these. Last year it was the scandal involving church leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and their alleged cover up of child sexual abuse. In years past, it was Ted Haggard’s confession of drug use and involvement with a male prostitute. And, of course, there is the well-known documented pedophilia of Catholic priests. All these now-exposed scandals and many more examples suggest the best kept secret might have something to do with a link between fundamentalist teaching on sexuality and predatory behavior. As reasonable as I think that notion is, it’s not the secret I am referring to.

4 Reasons History Matters to One’s Faith

When people of faith, particularly the Christian faith, don’t get the historical facts right, they can come up with some wild and wacky theologies, e.g. church authority and hierarchy, the Rapture, the imminent Return of Christ in our lifetime, etc. As imprecise as history is, it does follow a scientific method. Check out what our study group learned about why history matters >


3 Ways Atheists are Good for Christianity

3 Ways Atheists and Agnostics are Good for Christianity

To most people, the title of this blog seems contradictory. Aren’t atheists rebelling against God and leading people astray? Well, for the most part, no. One of our discoveries in our group’s research is that most atheists (or their cousins, agnostics) are good for people of faith because their honesty keeps us honest. They can help us learn to think for ourselves. 

How to Break Free from Anxiety and Depression

overcome_depression

Amy, a younger, energetic woman sat across from me during a speech at our local Rotary Club. Dave Brooker, known as “That Gratitude Guy,” was speaking on the power of gratitude to change one’s life. He gave us an exercise to drive home a point. Amy and I partnered up.

“On the card, write as many adjectives you can think of about the other person that would finish the sentence, ‘I see you as…’, he instructed. 

4 Ways History Solves the Puzzle of Faith

History Solves the Puzzle of Faith

Have you ever puzzled over things you hear/observe at church or read in the Bible? Like how can an all loving God allow anyone to suffer in hell forever? Or, if people go to hell, why is the door to repentance and forgiveness closed? Or, why do religious people and systems often seem so unloving?

Fifteen years ago, I started to investigate the answers to these and other perplexing questions.

Why America Needs a New Spirituality

new_spirituality

America needs a new spirituality. One rooted in reason, love, and sound, historical evidence, not in religious fundamentalism or pseudo-spiritual wishful thinking. One not at odds with reality.

This is one of the big ideas in my latest project. I’m exploring the implosion of conservative Christianity (barring a few exceptions) on the one hand, as evidenced by a continual string of evangelical-leadership and church scandals, and the spiritual void of secular scientific thinking on the other hand.