I Invited Jesus into the HQ of My Porn Addiction. It Didn’t Go Well for My Porn Addiction.

porn addiction

I never struggled with pornography until my wife and I decided to plant a church. I became distracted, busy, boring, and not too interested in my own spiritual health.

I had work to do.

For most of my career as a church planter, I struggled with porn.

I fessed up to my wife, my mentors, and got into therapy, which seemed to make things worse. Everyone knew what I had been up to. One mentor cautioned, “If you look at a mere thumbnail of a naked woman, you should step down as a pastor.”

Scared to death, I downloaded software that would block the bad sites. I locked down my router and signed up for a few “accountability” programs that would alert my friends every time I clicked on something questionable. While this had some effect, I was a part-time web developer and knew how to sneak around these firewalls if I wanted to.

At times I could plow through the temptation. The shame of so many people knowing every site I visited, and the shame of “letting God down” were good motivators. But after a few years I got tired.

I fought the best I could, had some victories, lied sometimes, and got pretty good at keeping it all to myself.

Then, boom. Victory.

I got out of church planting, signed up for a local pastor gig, hung out with a healthy staff team, started having some fun, and for two full years found freedom from porn that I never thought possible.

But our three adopted kids were struggling, and in need of some specialized time and attention from their parents. I drew the short straw, quit my pastor job, sold the web business, and became the first male at-home-parent in my family’s history.

And my porn problem went off the charts.

Saved by a Selfish Prayer

About a year later I gave up. I stopped trying to stop, and let porn become a regular part of my life. Anytime I felt discouraged, angry, lonely, or hopeless, which was often, I’d dive in.

I’d tried everything. And looking for another “fun” job wasn’t an option.

Why keep trying?

I was fully aware of the evils of porn – how it warps us, affects our marriages, marginalizes women, and puts a huge clamp on our ability to be happy. But what concerned me the most was the impact it had on my relationship with Jesus.

For most of my Christian life, I’d had a sense of His presence, His hope. In this latest chapter, I felt like He wasn’t there, and it didn’t bother me. I began to believe that if I kept this up, I wouldn’t believe much longer. Pretty soon I’d be someone who’s faith didn’t amount to much more than good behavior.

One night, at about 2AM, wrestling with thoughts that typically led to something bad, I told Jesus that I didn’t want to live like this anymore, and that I had no idea how to get out.

I prayed something I never prayed before.

It was a self-serving prayer, and wholly unspiritual. But it was also an invitation for Jesus to step into the epicenter of my porn addiction.

“Dear Lord, I feel like crap and porn is the quickest way out. It’s the only thing that makes sense right now. Would you comfort me? I’ll sit here, feel bad, and wait for you. I won’t do my usual escape. Please give me what I’m looking for.”

Instead of gritting my teeth, flexing my spiritual muscles, and plowing through the temptation until it subsided – God knows how long that would have taken – I asked God to solve the problem for me; to provide the comfort that I was expecting from porn.

I told Him He could have 15 minutes to make something happen. If He didn’t show, I’d fire up the laptop.

That’s bad theology, and arrogant, but that’s the shape I was in.

Within 15 minutes the comfort showed up, and I fell asleep.

Saying No to DIY Spirituality

I’d always believed that this fight was up to me. I’d ask God for strength to resist, employ some tools, and go to others for motivation/shame, but I saw it as my battle. I had become confused about the limits of my strength and the limitlessness of His.

It never occurred to me to let God do the work – to have faith that He was willing to replace the temptation with something better.

But this forced me to embrace the spiritual disciplines of weakness and dependence. I’m not good at that. I’m an American Evangelical – part of a culture that values strength, faithfulness, personal purity, and people who overpower life’s frequent hardships.

We are warriors, overcomers, do-it-yourselfers. And we look down on people who aren’t.

But the heroes of the Bible are too often spiritual “losers” who throw up their hands and cry out something akin to “God! I can’t do this! Save me!!” The Bible is the only religious document in the history of religion, to my knowledge, that puts weakness and self-insufficiency near the top of the spiritual disciplines list.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” I Cor 12:9

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Unfortunately, these passages don’t get much pulpit time – they don’t drive our culture nearly as much as the ones that lead us to believe that God loves a good warrior.

So it’s no surprise that my anti-porn campaigns were too dependent on my own strength, which brought even more shame when I failed, which did little more than add fuel to the fire.

For me, shame drives porn like nothing else.

So does repression. When we’re faced with a desire for something, even if it’s for something destructive, and we try to ignore it, or distract ourselves, we make things worse.

If I grit my teeth and go the DIY route, added to the pain of saying “no” to porn is the knowledge that I’ll be doing the same thing multiple times before day’s end. I might be able to claim bragging rights, or sooth myself by thinking about how faithful I am, but by the time I climb into bed, I’ll be a hornet’s nest of repressed desire. No amount of pride or feeling like God loves me for my faithfulness will soothe it.

And I’m not aware of any psychotherapeutic professional who would recommend our typical, repressive model of porn avoidance.

Underneath my temptation to do bad things is the desire for good things – comfort, excitement, pleasure, etc. Repressing these will make them worse. I needed to engage my desires in a way that honored them while keeping them in their place.

This was the best prayer I could come up with. And regardless of how unspiritual it might sound, and how weird it feels when I pray it, it’s working, even in this difficult, lonely, frequently un-fun stay-at-home-dad chapter of my life.

Tempted to Worship

Attractive as DIY spirituality is, it’s never done anything for my addiction beyond making it worse.

Via the weak, dependent, spiritual-loser route, I’m slowly coming to believe that my desire for comfort will be fulfilled. I have confidence that I’ll go to bed tempted to worship God for the tangible, frequent, undeniable ways I saw Him intervene in my day.

He’s taken an impossible addiction and turned it into a call to worship.

I know, I’m peddling a formula here – “Do X and God will give you Y.” We’re not supposed buy into formulas. God does what He wants to do and isn’t subject to our whims and addictions.

But in too many of our Bible translations, the Holy Spirit’s very name is “The Comforter.” No need to speculate on His role in our lives, and no need to feel weird, unholy, or selfish asking for comfort when we need it most.

Add to that the faithfulness of God, the power of God, the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, and the fact that He’s the one who came up with the whole comfort thing in the first place. It’s a little silly for me to not ask for and expect comfort in these moments where my soul is so thirsty that it’s willing to drink toilet water.

I wish I was the kind of person who worships when things are bad, or when God’s not answering my prayers, but I’m not that mature. I’ve got some growing up to do.

Watching God show up in this tangible way, over and over again, and knowing that my temptations now have an enemy that’s bigger than me is not just driving worship, it’s driving trust, and a deeper intimacy with God… which drives more worship.

Feel free to call me weak, undisciplined, hedonistic, whatever – but with regard to spiritual maturity, I’m growing like a weed.

And at the core is one simple belief, an awkward prayer that puts Jesus smack dab in the middle of something that wants to put a great distance between myself and everything that I love.

I Killed a 260 Year Old Bonsai Tree

A couple of years ago, I quit my web business and my volunteer pastor gig to go stay at home dad.

I wouldn’t change a thing about it, but I’ve since struggled with the lack of paycheck and the sense of accomplishment I used to find in the workplace.

So I took up a new hobby. The Japanese refer to it as “Yamadori”

If you’ve ever seen a really old bonsai tree, it wasn’t grown from a seed, someone who’s really into bonsai trees climbed a mountain, searched for hours, maybe days, found a very old tree struggling for life in a rock, very carefully harvested it, put it in a pot, and trained it into something amazing.

That’s Yamadori – collecting wild bonsai trees. It’s a blast. You get to hike, “hunt,” and if you know what you’re doing find a really old, really amazing tree that you keep till you die. Here’s an example of a ponderosa pine that was harvested in the Rocky Mountains:

With time and training this tree will be extremely valuable. As-is, if the harvester can keep it alive in the box for a year, the tree could easily sell for $2000.00.

I lost my mind when I heard about Yamadori, how it works, and how to do it. I called a friend who owns some land in the Red Feather Lakes area near Fort Collins and he agreed to let me try and collect a few trees.

The problem with Yamadori is that these trees are struggling to survive – that’s why they can be hundreds of years old and only 3 feet tall. Their root systems are super complicated which makes the harvesting process difficult, especially for newbies. Most hunters lose half the trees they harvest.

I’ve taken 4. Yesterday I lost #2 – a 200+ year old ponderosa that’s easily the coolest tree I’ve ever seen. If I could’ve kept it alive and trained it well, it would easily rival any bonsai at the Denver Botanic gardens.

When I found it, I was about to give up. I had climbed to the top of a ridge near my friends ranch and was completely worn out. When I stumbled across it I shook the trunk to make sure it was loose enough to come out. I could tell it was crazy old but it didn’t look like much as it stood in the rock it had grown up in.

I decided “what the heck” and started the harvesting process, trying my best to track down all the roots and get as many as possible.

I wrapped everything up in burlap and started down the mountain. The whole package weighed 50 pounds, and I had 30 pounds of gear to contend with.

One thing I hate about Yamadori hunting is that you feel guilty when you harvest a tree, knowing there’s a 50/50 chance that it won’t make it. At one point, about an hour into my journey off the mountain, I had to decide whether to leave the tree behind, or my gear. I couldn’t carry both.

I left the gear – a nice, internal frame backpack, a 20 lb breaker bar, my water, some tools, and an awesome jacket my wife gave me for Christmas.

2 hours later I made it to the truck, put the tree in the bed, and headed back up the mountain to find my gear. It was getting late, and I can’t remember ever being that tired.

I spent an hour so on top of the ridge looking for my pack but couldn’t find it. The sun was going down and it was time to go home. I prayed – why not – “Jesus, you gotta help me find this backpack. You’ve done bigger things, really need some help right now.”

I said “amen,” went to the bathroom, walked about 150 yards, and stumbled into my gear.

You can call it dumb luck, I’m calling it a miracle. These days I’d rather err on the side of “Jesus did it” than “dumb luck,” annoying as people like me can be.

What a day.

Which made it all the more difficult when the tree finally died.

Pine trees don’t just give up the ghost all of a sudden, it takes them months to die. So when you bring home your prize, you get to bite your nails for a long time before you get your report card.

I figured if the tree could make it to mid-July I’d be in the clear. On July 13th it went from looking good, to worst case scenario.

Yesterday, I said goodbye, pulled it out of the ground, trimmed the leaves off, and prepared it for it’s life as an ornament in my back yard.

I can’t tell you how much this sucks.

I did however get to cut the trunk and count the rings. 260+. Counting rings on these trees is difficult because they’re so close together – you need a microscope, or a powerful magnifying glass, and some patience to get a good estimate of age.

But there you have it. I harvested a tree older than George Washington’s cat, and killed it.

Such is the life of a Yamadori hunter.

I’m still at 50% though – I’ve only killed half the trees I’ve harvested. I’m on par with people who actually know what they’re doing. The two trees I took last year are doing great, and giving me something to do in one of the most boring, discouraging chapters of my life.

Got a Bad Attitude? Two Options: Kill it or Watch It Grow

bad attitude

I watched a guy almost drown in Cabo last week.

The beach there is nasty – there’s one 12 foot break 100 yards from the beach – people get sucked into it and drown all the time. On this particular day there was a rip current that yanked two guys, who decided to go swimming at a black-flagged area, into the break. One guy made it out, the other guy was in for five minutes or so. I’ve never seen someone that exhausted, that close to going under.

Someone showed up with a rescue buoy and a very long rope. Another guy swam it out to drowning guy and they were both dragged to shore.

My kids were watching. I had to wrestle with a bit of PTSD for the rest of our trip.

Shortly after, we watched a sea turtle lay eggs on the beach. Can you imagine? An animal that spends 99.99% of her life in the water – deep, cold water – climbs onto the beach, crawls for 50 yards or so in the 95 degree Mexican heat – super hot sand – spends about an hour digging a hole with her flippers, then delivers her ~75 eggs. Then another 10 minutes across the scorching sand into the water.

And maybe one of her eggs will make it.

Shortly after that I rescued a baby bird who had fallen into the pool. The poor thing was so scared Read more

Why Are Christians Afraid of Social Justice?

social justice

When the US decided to recently separate immigrant children from their parents, the world lost it’s mind, and so many Christians responded to the outrage with more outrage. “We are a nation of laws,” folks from my camp said, “These people dragged their children into this, it’s their fault, not ours.”

Simply stated, according to every child psychologist I’m familiar with, we caused a mountain of PTSD to a near generation of children. When kids are separated like this, and begin to wonder if they’ll see their parents again, it causes a “break” in their sense of safety, their understanding of the world, and their confidence in humanity.

Some kids didn’t recognize their parents when they were reunited.

In the name of “law,” “sovereignty,” and “authority” we perpetrated an injustice against children. And all God’s people said “hell yeah.”

In general, anytime someone outside of our camp cries “injustice!!” we turn a blind eye. Black Lives Matter advocates are terrorists, regardless of the legion of statistics that all but prove that our system is rigged in favor of whites. The US has the second highest child poverty rate in the developed world, which should outrage us.

But we have bigger fish to fry.

A Brief History of How We Got Here

Long ago, social justice, i.e., taking care of the poor, marginalized, and mistreated was big on our radar – it wasn’t seen as some Godless, pagan agenda. But around the early 70’s an interesting cultural shift happened. The hippies and Catholics were all about social justice, and for myriad reasons we felt the need to distinguish ourselves. We also felt strongly that the pro-social justice groups didn’t care much about the Bible and didn’t understand our God.

Enter the Bible movement, one of the most fascinating cultural shifts in church history. Read more

How to Fix a Broken Marriage

How to fix a broken marriage

My wife and I have been counseling married folks for a few years now, and learned a few things about broken marriages along the way.

We’re also married. We’ve made our way through some tough times, but there’s still work to do. Marriage is one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted, and I’m just now learning, 17 years in, that it’s not going to get any easier.

It gets better to be sure, but it’s never easy.

If your marriage is difficult, or horribly broken, or that it might end soon, consider the following before pulling the plug.

How to Fix a Broken Marriage Alone

Nothing will make you feel more alone than a tough marriage. Even in a great marriage, when things get tough, as they often do it’s easy feel like you’re floating around in outer-space without a tether.

It’s common for one spouse to be committed to doing the hard work of healing, while the other spouse completely checks out and puts the blame squarely on someone else. I don’t usually buy into stereotypes, but it’s usually the guys who check out when things get hard, leaving their wives to figure out things on their own.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not a guy, and your husband isn’t too interested in how to fix a broken marriage, much less accepting the idea that things are bad.

But if you try to figure out things on your own, I can all but guarantee utter failure. I know, we don’t like to get help, it makes us feel weak and helpless, but getting help from people who know something we don’t is the only way out. Read more

One Coveted American Pastime that Might Be Eating Your Soul

On Birthday #50 I asked a painful question.

How did I get so grumpy? I wasn’t born grumpy. I wasn’t grumpy as a kid.

Is it something that automatically happens to old men? Sure seems like there’s a lot of us.

I decided to take an inventory of all the activities and attitudes that had changed over the last 20 years. Maybe this was my fault? In my personal audit I noticed 2 things that were all but absent in my younger years.

First, fat. So I made a lifestyle change, bought a fitness watch, lost some weight, slept better, and got a bit less grumpy. But losing weight’s a walk in the park compared to the other thing I noticed – a bad habit that seems to get worse as I get older.

It’s something I didn’t do in my 30’s. I didn’t need it. I definitely didn’t do it when I was a kid; life was too fun to waste time on crap like this.

Now, I can’t seem to go five minutes without paying homage. It makes me feel good, and feeds an emptiness that’s been growing since I became a Christian, oddly enough.

In the early 1990’s I entered the world of Evangelical Christianity and began attending a small church in Texarkana, Arkansas. I was a mess at the time and needed a place to belong, a place where I felt valued. This was it.

I remember sitting in the back row during Sunday morning services, looking at the small gathering of fellow congregants, thinking to myself how good and holy these people were.

They were fighting the good fight, saying “no!” to the evils of the world and “yes!!” to God.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but in this moment, convinced that there was a significant number of people in the world that I saw as “good” convinced me that my world was “good.”

It was one of the most peaceful chapters of my life. Read more

If You’re a Christian, Feeling Like Your Country is in Ruins, Here’s What God Told You to do about It

If you’ve spent any time on this blog you know that I’m an Evangelical, Bible-believing person. Politically, I lean left on some issues, and right on others. I have friends on both sides, so it’s difficult for me to jump on board with the popular belief that “liberals are trying to destroy our country,” or, “conservatives are under-educated, overly-armed people who don’t care about anything.”

But I’m worried.

So many from my Evangelical camp seem to be losing their minds.

Someone has been whispering that our political foes want nothing more than to take away our freedom. I can take a guess at who that might be – there’s one particular media outlet that’s seen by many as wholesome and mostly aligned with God’s priorities.

I used to have an Evangelical neighbor who had it playing on her TV 24/7.

And it’s just like any other media outlet. It knows its audience and makes lots of $$ telling them what they want to hear. It doesn’t broadcast “fake” news, it simply doesn’t tell the whole story – just enough to lead one to believe that the “other side” wants nothing more than to burn our country to the ground.

Either way, there’s this army of people, all claiming allegiance to God, who are frightened, angry, and view any “liberal” agenda as the Devil’s seed.

And like religious people who see their country in danger have always done, we believe it’s up to us to turn things around.

Jesus dealt with this. Many of His followers believed it was their job to eradicate Israel of the Romans. Bad as the Romans were, Jesus had a different agenda for His people, one that repeats itself over and over again in the Bible.

God knows we get angry and frightened about the state of our country, and the world, so He saw fit to include one simple commandment, something we’re all supposed to be doing, but seem to frequently excuse ourselves from it.

It’s a commandment that forces us to step down from our anger, and stop the finger-pointing, division, and general hatred that has so characterized Evangelical politics this year.

The commandment is found in the Old Testament Book of Second Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14, and goes like this:

“If my people, who are called by My name, would humble themselves,…”

We all tend to think the problem lies beyond us. Our country’s predicament is someone else’s fault. Our bad marriage is someone else’s fault. Our bad kids are someone else’s fault.

And when we believe other people are screwing things up, we judge them, belittle them, downgrade them. Read more

Most of Our Arguments are about Two People Fighting to be Heard

I’ve been married for over 17 years, and man have I gotten better at fighting.

I win most of the time, but let me explain what that has come to mean for me.

When my wife and I first got married, and for the next 8 years or so, we lived under a mountain of tension, hurt feelings, and heated arguments. Most of the time, our quarrels would end in whoever didn’t get the last word giving in and walking away. We’d give it a couple of days or so, then act like nothing happened.

We rarely resolved anything.

Most of the people/couples I’ve mentored over the years are living the same way. The only thing fighting does is add hurt to the mounting cache of hurt-piles that will ultimately become too much to bear. Each argument is a step closer to the end.

Sometime in my mid-forties, I made a discovery that changed my life: when I get angry in an argument, 99% of the time it has nothing to do with the thing we’re arguing about.

Most of the time, I get pissed at my wife because she’s not listening to me. If we’re fighting, and I recount things from my perspective, and get shut down with a dialogue about how her perspective is better, I go through the roof.

And I’m not alone.

Most of us struggle here. When we have a perspective, when we want someone to know they’ve done something wrong, and they quickly, and with great volume respond with all the different ways we’re wrong, we won’t get mad because Read more

5 Things to Understand if You’re an Introvert Who Loves an Extrovert

I married an introvert, bless her heart, and spent the first 8 years or so of our marriage driving her crazy, and vice versa.

If you’ve married one of us extroverts, you’ve had some dark thoughts about your spouse. It’s OK. We’re nutbags who can suck the life out of you if we’re running the show.

But at the end of the day, it’s a personality thing. We’re not bad people, we just get a ton of energy out of things you tend to hate.

The Primacy of Parties

Sorry, if you have an extrovert in your house, you’re going to have to throw some parties. People you don’t know, and/or don’t care to know are going to invade your home, drink your booze, scratch up your floors, and corner you with small talk.

And if you’re my age, they’ll bring their kids.

Quiet get-togethers with a couple of friends over a warm cup of tea are death to an extrovert. We need music, grills, and loads of people.

I don’t know what it is about parties, but after I’ve thrown one, even a bad one, I feel great for the next few days.

And, really, parties are easy. Sure, the house gets messed up. Sure, I’ll “help” clean up afterwards. But the payoff is well worth the mayhem.

Never Met a Stranger

Sometimes strangers are more fun than old friends because there’s all this new stuff to learn about them, and no water under the bridge.

It’s fun to find out where people are from, what they do. And if they’re from planet Ex, well… get ready for hours of small talk.

Game on.

Wife and I were on a date the other night to see the Broadway musical “School of Rock.” Shortly after we settled into our seats (that were probably designed by the Frontier Airlines anti-legroom department) I struck up a conversation with the elderly woman sitting next to me. About 10 minutes into our conversation I asked myself something I’ve never questioned before.

“Why am I sitting here chatting it up with a complete stranger and not talking to my wife?”

Wife’s not a boring person – by a longshot. She’s a thinker, and knows/loves me better than anyone else. But there’s something about a stranger. And this one happened to be an extrovert as well.

I know, this world is a crazy place. A stranger can be a really nice person, or a complete psychopath.

But for us, it’s worth the risk.

Social Anxiety

Because everything revolves around people, we tend to be sensitive when things aren’t right in our relationships and social interactions.

We worry about what people are thinking, and can many times suffer from social anxiety. We see things you introverts typically can’t. We’ll raise the alarm in the most peaceful of places. True, sometimes we’ll see problems that aren’t there, but at least 30% of the time we’re right on the money.

This can be a good thing when we have the courage to step into places of tension. But because we’re so sensitive to what others are thinking, we typically avoid it all, look past the problems, downgrade them, act like they’re not real, and get super unhealthy in the process.

So when we run from relational problems, especially the ones in our marriage, it’s not because we hate you. It’s super scary. True, we need to grow up and face the music, but we tend to struggle here.

Filter Problems

Extroverts think as they speak, while introverts think before they speak.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blurted out something stupid, then regretted it for the next 20 years because I later realized what I actually said.

I’d love to provide you with some juicy stories, but they’re so. embarrassing.

Well… maybe one…

I’d say “don’t judge” but that’d be asking too much of most humans.

I had a friend in high school who was way cooler than me. At parties, he would frequently do this maniacal laugh that would start out low and soft, then quickly build into something hilarious. Everyone thought it was hilarious. Every time.

As someone who desperately wanted to climb the popularity ladder, I tucked my friend’s crazy laugh into my “I’ll try that at a party sometime” pocket.

About a year later, I sat at the dinner table with my girlfriend of 6 months. Things had gotten uncomfortably quiet so I thought I’d try the maniacal laugh thing. The problem was that we were eating dinner at her mom’s house, surrounded by her family, most of whom I had never met.

I knew her mom though, and boy did that lady hate me.

In the midst of a quiet moment, I mimicked my friend’s shtick:

ha…
ha ha…
ha ha ha …
bwaaaa ha ha ha ha ha haaaa!!!!

And then sat back and waited for everyone to laugh.

Everyone looked at me. More silence.

You might be tempted to chalk this one up to sheer, unmitigated social-awkwardness, and you’d be right. I have a long history of clueless, awkward, social perpetrations. But an introvert would have stopped to do a bit of thinking, maybe something akin to, “I don’t know most of these people, and the matriarch, who outweighs me by a thousand camels, hates my guts. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut,” among other things.

Extroverts typically don’t do that.

We’re not insensitive, We’re simply in a hurry to connect.

And whatever connections we do manage are worth the risk of social embarrassment – in the moment at least.

When We’re Wilting

For those of us married to introverts, it’s easy to feel like we’re cramping their style, or simply annoying them.

We want peace and harmony, so we try to live like introverts, which doesn’t go well. When the kids come along, especially when they’re young, we get tired/lazy and stop putting fun stuff on the calendar.

Then we wonder why we’re so depressed, hiding in the garage with a bottle of whiskey when we think nobody’s looking – or whatever unsavory activity we’ve gotten ourselves into because our souls are drying up.

When we don’t get the time we need on planet EX, bad things happen; usually bad things that spread to the people close to us – too much TV, booze, can’t sleep, porn, overeating. We struggle with addictions, not because we love food or booze or TV, but because our souls have gotten so thirsty for extroversion time that they start groping in the dark for anything that feels like a party.

Addictions make anyone – regardless of personality type – grumpy, checked out, uninterested.

This makes us seem like we’ve completely lost control, which scares the H out of our introverted spouses, who are tempted to step in and help us get control, which can sometimes make things worse.

What we’re in need of is a good party, a Sunday afternoon bbq with friends, golf with buddies, beer with friends – even a boring Sunday school class can help.

If you’re an introvert living with an extrovert, don’t let them run the show. You have needs that they don’t understand, and that’s OK. But if your extroverted spouse hasn’t been out with the boys in a month, there’s trouble ahead. For your own sanity, you might need to throw an emergency party, or give them a weekend “off” to go do whatever they want – something – for God’s sake – before their innate desire for extroversion time burns everything to the ground.

What We’ve Gotten Wrong about the Bible, and Why We Need to Reconsider

It’s a crazy book to be sure, and crazy people love to beat non-religious people over the head with it, despite the fact that Jesus (in the Bible) told His followers not to do that.

It’s an ancient book too. Our modern Bibles are copies of copies of copies – spanning thousands of years. The people who made these copies sat at a table, with a pen, and a candle, and were sure to make mistakes, and press their own agendas.

The most popular book ever written about the origin of the Bible (to my knowledge) quickly became a bestseller, mainly because it told us what we wanted to hear – the Bible we have today doesn’t represent, with any reliable degree of accuracy, what was originally written. Toss it. It’s garbage.

Eat that, crazy religious people.

The problem is that the archaeological evidence doesn’t support this book’s conclusions, neither does a book that the same author co-authored some years before writing Misquoting Jesus.

You can say that the Bible is a crazy book, and reject it, and I’d totally understand, and we could still be best friends.

But you can’t say that what we have today doesn’t represent what was first penned.

I know, I’m an Evangelical, and this smacks of me trying to defend my tribe at all costs. But I swear to all that is holy that I’ve done my homework here. I’ve considered as many sides of the argument as I can. And while this might sound like it’s going to be a boring, nerdy blog post, there’s an interesting story here. Hang tight for a bit.

The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Sometime in the mid 1900’s, a shepherd tending his flock near the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran threw a rock into a cave to scare out one of his sheep that had wandered in. He heard a crash, then entered the cave to investigate. His rock had broken a jar containing what he thought to be a bunch of old leather – a portion of it was sold to make shoelaces until someone got a clue that these were very old, very valuable religious documents.

Among these manuscripts was a complete copy of the Old Testament book “Isaiah,” dated around 125 BCE (the actual book was penned around 700 BCE).

At the time, the oldest copy of Isaiah known to be in existence was penned around 1000 CE.

There was a stretch of almost 2000 years between what was originally written and what we had in our hands. It was widely believed, understandably, that the 1000 CE copy of the Isaiah scroll could be nothing like the original. Too many scribes (and others) had gotten their hands on it – surely it was corrupted beyond restoration.

And now we could prove it. We had a copy of this scroll that was penned somewhere in the middle between the original and the 1000 CE version. Everyone knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that when the 125 BCE version was compared to the 1000 CE version of the Isaiah scroll, they’d be different, proving that the people who made all these copies, changed them – over and over again.

Here’s what happened, and it turned everyone’s understanding of the Bible on its head – for awhile.

When the 125 BCE Isaiah scroll was compared to the 1000 BCE version, there were differences. Here’s an example of one place where these two scrolls diverged – from Isaiah 53:3, what many scholars believe to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah:

  • He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 1000 BCE version
  • He is despised and rejected of men and man of sorrows, and he knows grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; and despised him, and we esteemed him not. 125 BCE version

Of all the differences now catalogued between these two versions, 95% of the time, they’re not a big deal, and don’t change the meaning of the text. Sure, there’s an occasional “big deal” change that was made by ancient scribes, but a) it doesn’t happen very often and b) modern scholars are really good at comparing all the manuscripts we have and getting at the original – sort of like people who restore old paintings, they can tell what’s missing by what’s there.

What the Dead Sea Scroll taught us was that, somehow, a bunch of ancient, different, unrelated people managed to transmit a very lengthy document for 1000 years with an alarming level of accuracy.

Misquoting Jesus

The same holds true for the scads of New Testament manuscripts that we have in our possession. There are differences – legions of them, but the vast majority are “small deal” differences; something akin to “see spot run” vs. “see spot hasten.”

For example, one copy of Galatians 1:4 reads “… who gave himself for the sake of our sins” while another reads “… who gave himself to atone for our sins.” Someone changed something, but both say the same thing.

To be sure, there are “big deal” changes that were made, something akin to “see spot run” vs. “see spot read,” but they don’t happen very frequently (liberal scholars put it at 5%, some say less), and again, there are folk trained in the fine art of getting close to the original based on what they have.

In the popular book I mentioned above, Misquoting Jesus, Dr. Ehrman only offers “big deal” examples of the changes scribes made. He doesn’t mention the fact that these don’t happen very often. This leaves the reader with the impression that every time a scribe changed something, it was a huge change that significantly diverged from the original meaning of the text.

It’s easy to read Misquoting Jesus and walk away believing that our modern Bibles are garbage.

But in an earlier book that Dr. Ehrman co-authored, the facts are more clearly stated – 95% of the time, scribes got it right, for thousands and thousand of years. For some reason, he left that out of Misquoting Jesus, which is a good thing if you’re trying to sell a book about the Bible to our modern culture.

Word of God?

Bart Ehrman’s spot-on. Scribes changed the Bible – they got sleepy, left out some things, added others. Sometimes they got uncomfortable with what they were reading. Sometimes they added explanations and qualifications, either in the margins or directly into the text. But, at worst, 95% of the time they did it right – no technology, no governing body, nothing to keep them in check, save the fact that they thought they were copying the very words of God, and they might get in a world of trouble if they screwed up.

You can say that the Bible is utter hogwash, or that the people who wrote it were crazy, but the belief that we can in no way recover what was originally written, or that our modern Bibles are a collection of horribly corrupted manuscripts has no sound evidence.

For me, the Bible has saved my keester on many occasions. In it, I’m commanded to unconditionally forgive, to invest in the lives of people who are poor, folk who are hurting. It paints the picture of a God who doesn’t fuck around, yet also loves and forgives without limit or qualification.

This book has taught me to give myself and everyone around me a break, which has brought a level of peace to my life that no other book has.

And when another Bible-believing brother or sister tries to convince me of things that are “un-Biblical,” like “fight the gays!” and “God’s a Republican!” I’ve been formally trained to use the Bible to straighten them out.

There are some things in the Bible that are difficult to reconcile, and hard to understand. If there is a God who can know and do much more than us, His truths will seem weird, even crazy at times. So I go with the stuff that seems clear to me, and leave the rest to the mercy and love that the Bible has led me to count on.