From: Ed Babinski
Sent: Monday, November 10, 2003 3:54 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Dear Ed
From: Erica F.
Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2003 1:09 PM
Subject: Dear Ed
Hi Ed! I'm Erica and I'm 16.
ED: Hi Erica, I'm Ed and I'm 47.
I ran across your site while looking for stuff on Alexander the Great. I would just like to know why you are so sarcastic and cynical about the Christian faith?
ED: Perhaps because your history classes and Sunday School classes simply glossed over the history of Christianity, especially the 16th century (Luther and Calvin's era), the Thirty Years War (European Catholics vs. Protestants, possibly a worse war than WWII in terms of the porportions of people killed and the time it took to recover from all the damage done. If they had modern day weapons it would have indeed been the worst war. Also that was the century during which the most witches were burnt in all of western history, thanks to Catholics and Protestants getting together to finally get the job done right. And by the way, Luther and Calvin exiled Catholics. Calvin even had a 13 year old girl beaten in public for simply saying she wanted to be a Catholic. It was a crmie to be caught with Rosary Beads in Calvin's Geneva. You had to make sure you burned them. In fact, it was a crime to miss church in Calvin's Geneva, could cost you a day's wage or worse, or finally, exile. In fact, at the height of Calvin's influence a young boy was beheaded for striking his parents, another child was hung by his armpits to show that he deserved death, because he called him mom a she-devil. And today there are still Christians advocating the execution of disobedient children your age, as well as stoning homosexuals. Go to the Chalcedon website and read the articles for yourself by modern day conservative Calvinists. I am cynical because great men of faith like Luther and Calvin, the founders of Protestantism, do not seem to have enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Luther got the rulers of Germany to exile anyone who didn't adhere to the Lutheran faith as he understood it and with his version of the sacraments. That meant they even killed noisy Anabaptists, and unitarians, and even kept out Calvinists from Germany! Calvin exiled everyone from Geneva who didn't agree with his view of predestination, and put noisy unitarians to flight to sought to have them executed. If you don't know history, then you don't understand the basis of cynicism in regard to religious faith. Religious toleration is the result of Christians fighting it out amongst themselves in such bloody sixteenth century wars that they realized it was impossible for any one group to impose its faith on all the rest, hence religious tolerance was born. As for arguments from the Bible on religious toleration, Luther and Calvin and Catholic sixteenth century theologians agreed that Jesus never laid down the laws for a society. And if a society were simply to follow Jesus' law of turning the other cheek and giving to all who ask, asking nothing in return, it would collapse as a society. Jesus was interested in the individual and how he might "save his soul." God revealled the rules for societies to Moses, rules that fully honor God, including the command to stone disobedient children, stone anyone who tried to lead you to worship "other gods," etc.
And, I noticed, you don't seem to come down on or downplay any other religion besides Christianity.
ED: I was brought up in Christianity, raised Catholic, then converted to Protestantism when I was 15 or 16 in high school, was very convinced and a devout believer until a few years after college, when I began reading more widely. All I know is Christianity. Would you rather I wrote about things I didn't know?
You make remarks about the Bible contradicting itself, about verses that say to stone people who do things that displease the Lord, and about the inconsistency of Christianity. But, can I ask you, what about the other relnigions out there that are not consistent? Why don't you say things about them? Take a look at Islam. Muslims are called to wage a holy war (jihad, the inner and external war between good and evil), but some groups take this to the extreme, such as the Lebanese group Hezbollah. How about New Age religions that teach you to trust your feelings? If truth is relative, and I must trust my feelings, then I could do whatever I wanted. I could go kill people, steal things, sell my body (none of which I have any interest in doing), whatever. But you couldn't say I was wrong, even if you didn't like what I was doing, because it's my truth and that was how I felt. So what about consistency then? I ask that you be consistent in degrading religions. If you are going to find a point of faultn with Christianity, please follow through and find the points of fault with other religions.
ED: The Secular Web has a section on non-Christian religions with articles critical of them, and evangelical Christian websites contina even more pages denouncing Islam and the Koran.
And, I must say, for being so negative, you have read an awful lot of scripture, even analyzing and dissecting it. How did you miss the Gospel and the hope it offers? It's as plain as day.
ED: It is to you, obviously. But there are many Christian historians and theologians you have not read. Continue to read, branch out your reading patterns, things do not become so "plain as day" after a while, what with moderate evangelicals who are so happy to no longer be fundamentalists, and liberals who were once moderates. And agnostics and atheists who were once liberal Christians. Moreover, there are tons of fundamentalist groups that can't get along with one another's interpretations of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Some groups can't even agree on which translation to use.
I do admit that there are Christians who skip the loving people and go right to the part about hell, fire, and brimstone. But you know what? Though they may be harsh, they tell the truth.
ED: Like you know the truth about God, the devil, the afterlife, all religion. You're 16. My uncertainties are the result of reading and thinking about more than you will probably ever encounter even by the time you are my age.
I just have one more thing to ask you, and then I will be done. I ask that when you go through the scripture and use it for whatever pnurpose you will use it for, please look at it in context and use it in context. That is how so many things get misinterpreted. Take a look at the big picture and what the message of the entire passage is.
ED: Please give me an example. And please read what Jews have to say about "Christian contexts" applied to their own scriptures. Visit www.jewsforjudaism.com
I appreciate the time you have taken to read this rather lengthy email. I pray that the Lord will take the scales from your eyes, soften your hard heart, and shed the light of His truth on you.
ED: And I pray that you continue to read more widely and slowly grow to recognize that my heart is about as "hard" as your head is presently "soft."
Sincerely and in Christ's love,
ED: What, no love from you? Just "in Christ?" Learn to love, Erica, for love's own sake. So many creeds that wind and wind, but all this sad world needs is the art of being kind.
Philippians 2:14-16, Matthew 6:33, Colossians 4:5, Jeremiah 29:11,13
"Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity."
"Erica F." writes:
Thank you for responding. You made some really good points. Yes, at 16, I haven't totally learned much of what you have told me. Seeing as how I do enjoy learning, I will look into the various histories and view points you have presented.
You asked if I would rather you write about things you don't know. The answer is no. But I think it would be great if you looked into them, even if it's just to be familiar with them.
Thanks for you time again. God bless!
From: Ed Babinski
To: Erica F.
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2003 6:31 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Dear Ed
Thanks for writing back.
I have read about Islam. But Christianity is far more interesting to me, especially the way the movers and shakers of Christendom keep getting put on pedestals far above the rest of us, folks like the popes, or Augustine, Luther, Calvin. If you knew what I knew about them, and about the history of Christian doctrines and divisions, you'd think twice before blithely attributing it all to the work of the Holy Spirit leading men into all truth with the aid of a perfect holy book. The same goes for the history of ancient Israel, and even the questions raised in the Gospels by the story of Jesus. Jesus did not fulfill prophecies for instance. The Gospel authors were stretching the Old Testament to suit their needs. Read what the Jews have to say about this matter at www.jewsforjudaism.com