Friday, June 7, 2013

Teacher Led Prayer in Public Preschool? What Would Jesus Say?

The instance:

During my four year old's in-class preschool graduation ceremony, the teacher announced we would start by "leading in a word of prayer". She called out a student to come forward, positioned the child in front, gave the child a toy microphone and ordered the child to begin reciting her prayer. The child said a few lines then the teacher said "now say "in Jesus name, amen"" at which point the child along with others repeated "in Jesus' name, amen".... With over four decades worth of hype over school sponsored prayer, I was more then a little surprised. My first thought was, "Yikes! I hope she asked that girl's parents first and that no one in here gets upset". My other thought was, while I do not have a personal problem with this prayer, has this teacher been pushing other doctrines or religious teaching on the class that I may not agree with. I see that she prays in Jesus name, but I have no idea what her religious beliefs are outside of that.

I felt I should privately acknowledge what happened and ask her if she has been including religion in her teachings throughout the year. I spoke with her in the front lobby during nap time. I told her as nicely as possible that this is one of those highly controversial subjects and some parents are not ok with it. She replied "I'm sorry, but I cannot apologize for that". She kept reiterating this line through the whole of our conversation. She said "no one else had a problem with it" and "no one has ever said a word to me before about this".  I inserted the word "religion" to which she immediately cut me off with "oh it's not a religion, it's a way of life. It's who I am". I then said again that not everyone is ok with teacher's leading students (namely preschoolers) in a specific prayer. She replied that it was "student led". Now to that, I was insulted that she would presume to claim such a preposterous notion knowing that I witnessed the entire event. I called her out by saying, "You made your students repeat after you and that is illegal". She began shaking her head "no" while quoting "freedom of speech". I said "no mam, not in the classroom". She continued shaking her head and repeating "freedom of speech" and began again with her line that she would "not allow" herself "to apologize". I did not want to get into an (obviously pointless) argument, so I left to ponder whether or not it was really a big enough issue to formally address. While this one prayer may not have posed any real harm, I am a firm believer in separation of church and state because I have seen first hand the much uglier side of teachers and administrators in southeast Texas abusing their position to impose their beliefs on local students and bully those who disagree.

The very next day that my child attended school, I checked his take home folder as always, and she had sent me a local church flyer for VBS. The timing was just a little ironic.

I only ever intended to clarify with her for future reference, that what happened and the way it happened was not appropriate. I assumed the conversation would go more along the lines of "Oh I'm sorry, I didn't think anyone would mind, won't happen again"; end of discussion... unfortunately not.. She clearly overstepped her boundaries yet thinks she did no wrong and had no intention of stopping. The issue then became one of a school teacher who is willfully exempting herself from the law in a school district that is infamous for such.

I really saw no point in attempting to write the superintendent myself, so I asked for advice on how to approach the situation and was directed to the FFRF. I had never heard of them before, but it is my understanding that in situations like these, the appropriate way to handle it when an individual is not being taken seriously is to have an organization send a letter for you, hence I consulted them and they notified the superintendent of the situation and asked that it be addressed. Contrary to popular belief, the FFRF is NOT an exclusively "atheist group".  Regardless of how, the common goal here is defending EVERY individual's constitutional rights regardless of their beliefs.

My conversation about the subject was overheard by a local reporter and, in consideration of the bigger picture, I feel it is something worth standing up for so I agreed to an interview.

 Live coverage including myself and the teacher in the orignal news story here::

I think it's safe to say she thought I was an atheist who was offended by "Jesus' name", but in reality, there are many many Christians, even entire denominations, who see the importance of separation of church and state and there is quite the case to be made against what she did based solely on the Bible and the fundamentals of Christianity which sadly, many Christians know little of. For personal reasons, I was compelled to politely explain to her why I, as a Christian, cannot condone these type of offenses in hopes that whether she ever acknowledges it or not, she might have a better understanding.

(Editing to add: Before sending this letter, I tried asking my child if his teacher had made him pray or talked to him about religion any other time. I intentionally asked in a positive way so he would feel free to tell me, but I could not get him to answer me. He kept looking away and didn't want to talk about it. I try not to make assumptions, but I did find that odd. Now that school is out, he has been randomly telling me that she taught him things. The other day he says "Mommy, I have Jesus in my heart, Ms __ just tell me that". Then something about Jesus making him be a good boy and making him grow up. It's hard to get a clear answer out of a four year old, but I repeatedly asked him in several different ways who told him that and he consistently said that this teacher along with her aid, both by name. told him these things together. It very much appears that after our conversation, she made an extra effort to indoctrinate my child. Not only without my consent as would be the case before, but now quite literally against my consent. There are thousands of varying beliefs just among Christians, hence, I am careful about what doctrines are taught to my child and by whom.)

The letter I sent her in response to our conversation:

Dear (Teacher),

I am fairly certain I gave you the wrong impression during our conversation on Friday and would like to take a moment to erase any misunderstanding there have been. Let me clarify first and foremost that I am not offended by prayer nor am I offended by students praying in school. As I have a second child who will soon be attending Amelia Elementary’s Preschool program as well, I want to ensure there is no misunderstanding and to convey what my original motives were. It occurred to me afterwards that because I opposed what took place, that you likely thought I was an atheist (or other) offended by Christianity, however nothing could be further from the truth. I grew up in an extremely fundamentalist Christian environment. I attended church school, went on mission trips and spent over 5 years in seminary and full time Christian service in various fields such as inner city Chicago and Mexico. I am proud of my background and it pains me that some assume I am not Christian simply because my views are not always in line with the majority, but I have made it a priority to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.  I commend any person who lives their faith in their daily lives as we all should and I am so thankful to live in a country that makes no restrictions against a person’s faith. Every day Christians in other parts of the earth are persecuted, imprisoned and even murdered for what they believe. We should always be thankful for the freedoms that we as Americans have. The constitution was designed to protect ALL people’s rights to their choice of faith and does not differentiate. It is intentionally neutral, not only to guarantee freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion. Contrary to popular belief, our nation was not founded as “one nation under God”.  God was not added in the pledge of allegiance until 1954 and many of our founding fathers were not Christians at all. Our fore fathers came here specifically for the purpose of freeing themselves from religious tyranny. American government protects itself from that threat by upholding a separation of church and state.  A Christian should view separation of church and state to be a good thing and it is my prayer that reasonable Christ-followers will see the wisdom of this law.

America is increasingly diverse. If the state compromises the precept of separation, the floodgates will be opened for any religions to take their place in government.  “Religion” is defined as “belief in and worship or a superhuman power”. Using the name of Jesus, even in saying it is “who I am”, or a “way of life”, is defined as “religion”. Because we feel that our religion is the “true” one, does not exclude us from obeying the law, and rightfully so.  If federally funded institutions promote Christian practices they will also have to sponsor practices from all other religions. It’s easy to say we want prayer in school until we realize that may not be exclusive to Christianity. This is very important to think about as we develop our opinions on this subject. Christians and teachers should approach the subject of prayer in school with wisdom and discernment.

 To quote Supreme court Justice Hugo Black, “A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion.”  And Supreme Court of Wisconsin “There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed.  Let it once enter our common school, they would be destroyed”.

Christianity is not an exception. Not all people have the same beliefs and not all Christians have the same beliefs. We can look to history to see the dangers of a government sanctioned version of Christianity. The holocaust itself was based on a false interpretation of scripture. The Nazis had “Gott mit uns” inscribed on their belt buckles which means “God with us”. The Catholic church celebrated Hitler’s birthday until 1945. We need to recognize the ways in which religious fervor has led to the misuse of the Bible and prayer as a weapon against minorities. Even recent history clearly details how communities attempt to impose religion on their public schools to the extent that many Christians have even gone beyond angry protests to threats, violence and arson.

Religion is private and schools are public. Let’s be clear about the facts and the law, no one is telling anyone they cannot pray. No one has said we cannot have prayer in school. The issue is when a prayer is government sponsored or coerced.  While in a government office or federally funded position of authority the law requires strict neutrality. If I, as a Christian, wouldn’t want to be subjected to a government sponsored Islamic prayer, than I should not subject others to a government sponsored Christian prayer. Christians who fight for teacher led prayer in schools are unwittingly lobbying for something they could never accept. My children both attend a Christian daycare five days a week. That is a private institution that can teach and preach all they want and I have no objection to that. Amelia Elementary on the other hand is a federally funded public school that must keep in line with the laws regarding religious neutrality.

“School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the message to members of the audience who are non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders favored members of the political community” – US Supreme Court. Senator Phillip A Hart, “The public school classroom is no place for me to try and impose my world formula for prayer on children who don’t share it, and for that very reason, I don’t want my children in a public school classroom to be exposed to someone else’s religion or formula”.

 Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Bringing a public display of prayer into the classroom is coercive and invasive. Children in public schools, especially non-discerning preschoolers, are a captive audience. What four year old could view a recited prayer as “voluntary”? It is my God ordained duty to meet the spiritual needs of my children by teaching them about religion, no one else’s.  I prefer no one pray or share their religion with my child without my knowledge and consent.  I place grave importance on teaching children the ability to study and think critically about religion than to be exposed to the spectrum of viewpoints of their teachers. Thinking critically is necessary to becoming a Christ-follower; every child must make a personal decision to follow Christ. Forced faith is not a Christian practice. Yes, teachers and politicians both have and will continue to covertly or overtly use their position to promote their beliefs, but that does not make it right. “It is appalling, unethical and wrong and both teachers and parents who have some modicum of decency should be vigilant about demanding accountability and change.”  We are free to make any choice we wish, but we are not free to exempt ourselves from the consequences of those choices.

From the TX Assoc. of School Boards Legal Services:

"The district or an individual employee may not require, encourage, or coerce a student to pray or not to pray. page3

"Student Speakers:
Under federal law, is prayer or other religious speech permitted over a public address system? 
A public school may not permit school-sponsored prayer to be given over the public address system at school or school events, even if the prayer is given by a student." Page 6

"Is student-initiated, student-led prayer allowed at graduation ceremonies? The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that school officials cannot arrange for prayer to be included in a graduation ceremony." Page 8

"May employees express their religious views on campus? 
Employees’ statements in their official capacity are attributed to the school district, and consequently, employees are not at liberty to express their personal religious beliefs in a way that violates the constitutional prohibition on an establishment of religion." Page 11

"Can a school employee lead or participate in a religious activity with students? 
A school employee may not lead or participate in a religious activity with students while actingin the employee’s official capacity." Page 12

 From the BISD Administration Guide:
Page 16 - The educator shall comply with standard practices and ethical conduct toward students, professional colleagues, school officials, parents, and members of the community. In conscientiously conducting his or her affairs, the educator shall exemplify the highest standards of professional

PRINCIPLE I: Professional Ethical Conduct
The Texas educator shall maintain the dignity of the profession by respecting and obeying the law, demonstrating personal integrity, and exemplifying honesty.
1. The educator shall not intentionally misrepresent official policies of the school district or educational institution and shall clearly distinguish those  views from personal attitudes and opinions.

Moral Turpitude:
Moral turpitude includes but is not limited to dishonesty; fraud; deceit; theft; misrepresentation; deliberate violence; base, vile, or depraved acts…

Employees shall comply with the standards of conduct set out in this policy and with any other policies, regulations, and guidelines that impose duties, requirements, or standards attendant to their status as District employees. Violation of any policies, regulations, and guidelines may result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment. [See DCD and DF series]

All District employees shall be expected to adhere to the standards of conduct set out in the "Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators." [See DH(EXHIBIT)]
3. The educator shall not use institutional or professional privileges for personal or partisan advantage.
5. The educator shall comply with written local school board policies, state regulations, and applicable state and federal laws.

PRINCIPLE III: Ethical Conduct Toward Professional Colleagues
2. The educator shall not willfully make false statements about a colleague or the school system

PRINCIPLE IV: Ethical Conduct Toward Students,Towards parents and community:
2. The educator shall endeavor to understand community cultures, and relate the home environment of students to the school.
4. The educator shall manifest a positive role in school public relations.

I would also VERY much like to draw attention to the issue of morale in this situation. A primary purpose of public education is to shape good citizens.  I pray every day that my children will be influenced to develop good solid values. I believe it is safe to say that as a minimum, this is a goal we can all agree on. The Bible speaks very clearly on obeying the laws of the land and respecting government. God places a very high value on authority.  The Bible tells us that all authority comes from God.

Romans 13:1-2Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

God’s word tells us that as followers of Christ we are to be obedient to secular laws and government. The law is meant to keep law and order on the earth. (Rom 13:4 1 Peter 2:14-15)

1 Peter 2:13-14  Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.

Submission to authority is basic to Christian life. When we defy the law, which is rebellion, it hinders our testimony to Christ, even more so when we are willfully breaking the law to supposedly glorify Him. That is direct disobedience to the scriptures and does not honor God. Rebellion is defined as “the unwillingness to be ruled by any source other than self”. It is in contempt with everything true to Christian values. (1 Samuel 15:23) According to Romans 13, 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 2 we are to submit to and pray for all authority, but we are never to place ourselves above the law, even the laws of man. The issue I had with the organized display of prayer at Zander’s graduation was almost exclusively because of this point right here. I expect all persons in authority over my child, particularly the office of teaching, to uphold a certain level or morale which means obeying the law, respecting authority and dealing honestly. Young children are very impressionable and they learn more from how we live than by what we tell them.

The last thing I’d like to point out is what Jesus taught about praying in public. Too many Christians don’t really base their religious lives on the teachings of Christ which is made obvious by the “public, ostentatious manner” in which many Christians pray. The Bible is very clear about how we are to pray.

Matthew 6: 5-6And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Jesus promoted private prayer and was suspect of public or long prayers:

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward

Luke 18:10-14 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 5:16  But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray

Luke 6:12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

The message could not be clearer. We are to abstain from making prayer a public display. For example, the See You at the Pole campaign, the whole motive and of that is to pray in a manner so as to be seen by the rest of the school. The real purpose isn’t simply to pray. Students can pray anywhere they like. The purpose is to be seen by others who don’t follow the same belief system. This is exactly what the Bible tells us NOT to do. The same applies to prayers at football games that turn into debates and law suits in which Christians actually become even more fervent and arrogant in making public displays of their religion. These kinds of situations are absolutely not about prayer nor are they about exalting God, but rather exalting self. Coerced or repeated prayers, particularly by those not old enough to have any religious discernment, are also not real prayers. Prayer is a personal conversation with God, sincere and from a humble heart, not a public display for attention and not a cluster of meaningless words uttered by someone too young to understand what they are saying.

Even Jewish writings from that time are equally condemning of exhibitionist prayer, from which we can gather that public displays of prayer were not a mainstream practice.  Those who push for prayer in schools and courts and practice public demonstrations of prayer claiming they are compelled by their faith to do so don’t seem to know the Bible they claim to base their beliefs on.

In conclusion, I hope you now understand why I had an issue with the graduation prayer, not because of my religious affiliation or personal feelings. The issue progressed with your response that you could “not apologize” (implying what you did was right and “Christian”, which we both are now informed on the falsity of that idea) and that it was “freedom of speech”  while shaking your head no at me acknowledging the laws against (falsely implying that you were not aware of any such laws) and that “everyone else was ok with it” or “no one has ever had a problem with it” (falsely implying that you know the feelings of every person present) and suggesting that the prayer was” student led” though in fact you announced the prayer was going to take place, called the child out, handed her a toy microphone, urged her to pray and then had her repeat the closing line after you (aside from the fact that four year olds believe and do exactly what they are told, a preschooler does not take it upon themselves to independently choose their faith and then to organize a graduation prayer without prompting, to suggest so is absolutely absurd) .

If a person truly feels there was no wrong in their actions, there would be no need to manipulate facts and skirt around the laws and rules. As the teacher of my child and as a federally funded employee of the school system, I expect to be met with honesty. Any teacher may have any views they wish, but they may not, according to the laws and the constitution, force or coerce their beliefs on their students. As Christians we most effectively share Christ by how we live and how we treat others, not by how loudly or publicly we pray. I personally feel it is counter-productive to convey a prideful attitude and use such actions as public defiance of state and federal laws as well as proselytizing young children against their parents’ wishes to make a showing of our affiliations. This is not in line with what Christ taught or lived Himself. In fact Jesus rebuked the ones who did this and called them Pharisees. We all live what we feel in our hearts, however I base my beliefs about God and Jesus on the Bible and my knowledge of the scriptures tell me that to use Jesus’ name in a showing that clearly does the exact opposite of what He tells us to do is blasphemous and I personally would wish to have no part of that nor would I knowingly permit my child to be coerced into such an act. It breaks my heart every day that so many Christians are “tarnishing the place of religion in public life because they cannot accommodate diversity”.

  Thank You

Editing to add:

The motive behind the media attention was NOT because of a "little prayer", but because of a school system that is steadily becoming infamous for religious bullying, segregation and just generally running a muck. I agreed to speak out NOT because of the prayer and NOT because I have any personal problem with the teacher, I do not, but because of all the students in this area who are bullied and mistreated for not conforming to the popular view. If nothing else, I hope they know that they are not overlooked and there ARE people who care and are willing to stand up for what's right. If any of you are reading this, please don't ever feel that you or your issues are unimportant, and please do not be afraid to reach out!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Homophobic? Re-read Your Bible!

I have been meaning to tackle this highly controversial subject. For lack of time, I am re-posting from a very wise man. Well put and he brings out some very clear points. Homophobia is one of the biggest misuses of scripture I have encountered. Christians who spout this poison are NOT representing the Christ of the Bible. It cannot be repeated enough, that if your beliefs are spawned and fed by fear or hate and you call yourself a Christian, by all means you must take a moment to re-evaluate those beliefs. Remove your goggles of cultural conditioning and preconceived ideals and see "truth" for what it is. Look at how Jesus lived and taught, than ask yourself if your words and actions are in line with that.

(re-read several times)

Posting compliments of:
Peter J. Gomes Professor of Christian Morals, Harvard University;
Minister, American Baptist Church

Opposition to gays’ civil rights has become one of the most visible symbols of American civic conflict, and religion has become the weapon of choice. The army of the discontented, eager for clear villains and simple solutions and ready for a crusade in which political self-interest and social anxiety can be cloaked in morality, has found hatred of homosexuality to be the last respectable prejudice of the century.

Christians opposed to political and social equality for homosexuals nearly always appeal to the moral injunctions of the Bible, claiming that Scripture, is very clear on the matter and citing verses that support their opinion. They accuse others of perverting end distorting texts contrary to their “clear” meaning. They do not, however, necessarily see quite as clear a meaning to biblical passages on economic conduct, the burdens of wealth and the sin of greed.

Nine biblical citations are customarily invoked as relating to homosexuality. Four (Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, I Kings 22:46 and II Kings 23:7) simply forbid prostitution by men and women.

Two others (Leviticus 18:19-23 and Leviticus 20:10-16) are part of what biblical scholars call the Holiness Code. The code explicitly bans homosexual acts. But it also prohibits eating raw meat, planting two different kinds of seed in the same field and wearing garments with two different kinds of yarn. Tattoos, adultery and sexual intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period are similarly outlawed.

There is no mention of homosexuality in the four Gospels of the New Testament. The moral teachings of Jesus are not concerned with the subject.

Three references from St. Paul are frequently cited (Romans 1:26-2:1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and I Timothy 1:10). But St. Paul was concerned with homosexuality only because in Greco-Roman culture it represented a secular sensuality that was contrary to his Jewish- Christian spiritual idealism. He was against lust and sensuality in anyone, including heterosexuals. To say that homosexuality is bad because homosexuals are tempted to do morally doubtful things is to say that heterosexuality is bad because heterosexuals are likewise tempted. For St. Paul, anyone who puts his or her interest ahead of God’s is condemned, a verdict that falls equally upon everyone.

And lest we forget Sodom and Gomorrah, recall that the story is not about sexual perversion and homosexual practice. It is about in-hospitality, according to Luke 10:10-13, and failure to care for the poor, according to Ezekiel 16:19·50: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” To suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexual sex is an analysts of about as much worth as suggesting that the story of Jonah and the whale is a treatise on fishing.

Part of the problem is a question of interpretation. Fundamentalists and literalists, the storm troopers of the religious right, are terrified that Scripture, wrongly interpreted, may separate them from their values. That fear stems from their own recognition that their “values” are not derived from Scripture, as they publicly claim.

Indeed, it is through the lens of their own prejudices and personal values that they “read” Scripture and cloak their own views in its authority. We all interpret Scripture: Make no mistake. And no one truly is a literalist, despite the pious temptation. The questions are, By what principle of interpretation do we proceed, and by what means do we reconcile “what it meant then” to what it means now?”

These matters are far too important to be left to scholars and seminarians alone. Our ability to judge ourselves and others rests on our ability to interpret scripture intelligently. The right use of the Bible, an exercise as old as the church itself, means that we confront our prejudices rather than merely confirm them.

For Christians, the principle by which Scripture is read is nothing less than an appreciation of the work and will of God as revealed in that of Jesus. To recover a liberating and inclusive Christ is to be freed from the semantic bondage that makes us curators of a dead culture rather than creatures of a new creation.

Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant. Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert.

It is dangerous, especially in America, because it is anti-democratic and is suspicious of “the other,” in whatever form that “other” might appear. To maintain itself, fundamentalism must always define “the other” as deviant.

But the chief reason that fundamentalism is dangerous is that it uses Scripture and the Christian practice to encourage ordinarily good people to act upon their fears rather than their virtues.
Fortunately, those who speak for the religious right do not speak for all American Christians, and the Bible is not theirs alone to interpret. The same Bible that the advocates of slavery used to protect their wicked self-interests is the Bible that inspired slaves to revolt and their liberators to action.

The same Bible that the predecessors of Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson used to keep white churches white is the source of the inspiration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the social reformation of the 1960’s.

The same Bible that anti-feminists use to keep women silent in the churches is the Bible that preaches liberation to captives and says that in Christ there is neither male nor female, slave nor free.

And the same Bible that on the basis of an archaic social code of ancient Israel and a tortured reading of Paul is used to condemn all homosexuals and homosexual behavior includes metaphors of redemption, renewal, inclusion and love - principles that invite homosexuals to accept their freedom and responsibility in Christ and demands that their fellow Christians accept them as well.
The political piety of the fundamentalist religious right must not be exercised at the expense of our precious freedoms. And in this summer of our discontent, one of the most precious freedoms for which we must all fight is freedom from this last prejudice.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


You can never know truth until you're willing to think outside your box, until you dare to go places that make you uncomfortable or even scared, until you risk being ridiculed or cut off by those closest to you, and until you're willing to question EVERYTHING you've believed, not just the details.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Breastfeeding In Church and Modesty

I recently visited a church and on the first occasion, I was sitting in the cry room which was a wonderful set up. They had two rocking chairs behind a glass window so the mothers can sit with their babies and still see the service. It was perfect because I have two littles, a 3yr old and a 1yr old (almost). They are at the age that I can't bring them both in the sanctuary with me, but I don't want to leave them in the nursery with strangers at least until they are comfortable with the workers and I have gotten to know them first. On top of that, the baby has never taken a bottle or paci and refuses both. I've been wanting to go to church so badly and find a good Bible believing church to raise my children in but being on my own with two of that age makes it near impossible. Anyways, so on the first occasion of me visiting, I was able to use the cry room while still witnessing the service. I was sitting in one of the rocking chairs nursing my baby and an older lady came in and said "people can see you" and proceeded to close the blind of the window in my face. I was not terribly offended. As a breastfeeding advocate and a mom who will have been nursing for three years straight come August, I am more than aware that it is a controversial issue. I did mention the situation, but was more than happy to let it go and overlook it. The next time I visited the same church another one of my friends who is also breastfeeding came with me. Both  of us were sitting in the cry room nursing and another lady came in to close the blinds on us. This lady was quite rude. To make a long story short, lots of nasty things were said and ignorant things were said. Such as, that breastfeeding is immodest, inappropriate, doesn't belong in church, "haven't you ever heard of a cover?", that "i don't want to see another womans' boob", and even that if I were to continue doing so certain persons would have to leave the church. I am not confrontational so my approach to this type of situation was to write a letter addressed to each of the women involved. From a Christian perspective. Some of the moms in our local breastfeeding coalition wanted to read it, so I thought I would post it here. Breastfeeding in public is too often viewed by "Christians" as immodest or even ungodly. That is completely contradictory to scripture and un-Christ like. I have gone round and round with friends and family for years over this subject, sadly.

Disclaimer: I rarely get to sit here without a child on my lap so having the opportunity to actually type something is near impossible. I generally only have the use of one hand, if that, so I personally find it easier for me to cut and paste from other people's blogs and comments. Most of the following is my own words, but a portion of it is a conglomeration of points others have made that I felt were fitting and could not have said better if I tried. I did this in a hurry so I can't cite each reference, but I can't take credit for 100% of the words here lol.

Here we go:


 I have visited your church a few times recently with my children and realize now I seem to have been the source of a small bit of drama. First of all, I’d like to apologize for any hard feelings there may have been and thank you for being as kind as you could be about the situation. For future reference, you are all more than welcome to speak openly to me about any issue you may have. I am not easily offended and as far as this subject goes, I promise I have just about heard it all lol. I do feel this needs addressing though in good Christian love. My intent here is not to try and change anyone’s mind or stir up further discord, but merely to share my perspective in hopes that you would have a better understanding of where I am coming from. I am more than happy to agree to disagree on any subject, I only ask that you lend me your ears for a few moments with an open mind and an open heart. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read this! 

I think I have a fairly accurate perception here of your view point. Correct me if I am wrong, but the issue you ladies have is one of modesty? Ironically, though you can’t tell now, I felt EXACTLY like you do about a woman nursing in public three years ago. When my first was born I did not leave my house without a cover and avoided most public settings for fear of the necessity to nurse. Even with a cover I was still uncomfortable doing so. Let me give you a quick background on myself if you don’t mind, I was raised in a very extremist religious setting. As far as modesty goes, we had pretty strict dress standards, ie, girls wore dresses only, a-line (no straight skirts), nothing showing the knee, no sleeveless, not even capped sleeves, nothing below the collar bone, at least one slip, one undershirt, and nylons at all times. Boys wore pants, no shorts ever, and collared shirts. I do not follow those same standards now, but my point is that I do understand modesty and I do not have a problem with modesty. 

Before I had children, if I saw a woman nursing without a cover I probably would have fainted. I joined a breastfeeding support group a few weeks after my first child was born which obviously would involve sitting in a room with lots of nursing mothers. I think I blushed and averted my eyes every time someone “whipped it out”. I absolutely have been where you are. Every breastfeeding mother in our culture just about goes through the same emotions without exception. Unless she has been predisposed to breastfeeding as normalcy, the first few weeks to months or more are shy and uncomfortable, the longer a woman nurses the more comfortable she becomes with it. I myself went from being a mom who hid at home or in dressing rooms to nurse to ...well you see how I feel about it now :) ... Regardless of any opinion you may have or how educated or well meaning you may be, the fact remains that the only people who are uncomfortable with seeing a woman nurse uncovered are those who have little to no experience with breastfeeding. I am trying my very best to be as eloquent as possible as not to offend, so please do not take me offensively, but I will be honest and hope that you can appreciate that honesty as I would appreciate yours.

What we consider modest is entirely based on cultural conditioning. The Bible does not say or even hint that breastfeeding is immodest or private, quite the opposite actually, but Americans in particular are the ones who have put nursing in the closet. If you just cross the boarder into Mexico you will glimpse a whole lot more breast than I’ve shown you. In some African countries legs are considered the quintessential "no-no part" for women. Villagers can strut around topless, but they're outraged if some tourist shows up wearing shorts. Muslim women are required to cover themselves head to toe because they are responsible for keeping men's thoughts in line. That is why, if a woman is raped, she is the one put to death. In the Middle East, it is a woman's hair, not her breasts, that is considered the most sexual part of her body. A woman flipping or fiddling with her long, loose hair in church would barely be noticed because it's just not a big deal here. If you were to do the same thing at a branch in Jordan, people would think you were trying to seduce someone, definitely not appropriate in church. 

Modesty and breastfeeding is really only a Western concept. Our culture is trying to turn something God created to be sacred and beautiful between mother and child into something dirty or private. Something happened in the 50s, 60s and 70s that changed the way we look at breastfeeding. (I know what happened, and so do you, but we'll just leave it at 'there was a cultural shift.'). The majority perspective has been shaped by the status quo of what is socially acceptable moreso than morals. We are not required by the Church to cover up at the beach, and a woman in a bathing suit is showing much more than a breastfeeding mother. Obviously, degrees of modesty are situational, even within the guidelines of the Gospel. 

I think a point was made by one or the other of you that it is not the act of breastfeeding that you find immodest, but rather the moment before or after latching on when the breast as a whole is exposed. A woman can be as careful and discreet as she possibly can be, but the fact remains that if there is going to be breastfeeding and if you are looking, odds are you are going to see a glimpse of nip at some point or other. Saying that you have no problem with breastfeeding, but only the seconds between latching is still having a problem with breastfeeding. Either breastfeeding is immodest or it isn’t. Furthermore, I also understand how you may feel about not wanting to see another woman’s breast. Again, if the real issue here is not wanting to see a breast, than the only way to solve that is for you to never leave your house and to promptly dispose of your television and any and all magazines or advertisements in your home. 

I am going to try and address a few points here before I close. I apologize for my wordiness. Hopefully this is something we can quickly resolve. "It is not an exaggeration to say that never in any culture or in any time has God's design for women come to be so thoroughly abused and perverted as it is in modern America. It is not easy to show this to women today. The abuse and perversion has become so completely pervasive as to make it seem "normal''. But let me gently try."

1) Breastfeeding is not immodest and it is not sexual. I know I covered this point already, but I’d like to say again, that whether you agree or not, the emotions a person has towards seeing a woman nursing sans cover is purely defined by the culture said person was reared in. Our particular culture happens to be very unsupportive of breastfeeding. The national Breastfeeding rate is around 10%. The chance of witnessing a woman breastfeeding in public in America is extremely rare for the average person, hence it is something we are as whole uncomfortable with. Even if a person has the best intentions and a good heart and claims to be supportive of breastfeeding, we are still generally uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. If everyone breastfed, no one would think anything of it. The heart of the issue is not what is modest but a mistaken identity of why God made breasts. Breasts are not purely sexual, but their primary function is to feed our young. Our society (cultural conditioning again) has taken the function of breasts away and turned them into something purely sexual. That is a perversion of God’s design. "The scriptures often refer respectfully but plainly to the body and its parts. There is no embarrassment and often there is sacred symbolism. It is the world that makes the divinely created body an object of carnal lust. I personally think that getting aroused when a mother breastfeeding is like getting aroused when changing a baby's diaper. It is not sexual in anyway even though the private parts are being exposed." It is the responsibility of parents and leaders to teach the young people and children so as to prevent a society of adults who get squeamish at the sight of breastfeeding.

2) Breastfeeding with a cover only works during infancy and (by God’s own design) children are biologically geared to wean on average between the ages of 3-5. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years, the Surgeon General recommends a minimum of two years, the AAP recommends a minimum of one year with continued nursing as long as both parties involved are happy. The world wide average is between 3-5 yrs. If you don’t already know, America is actually one of the only countries in which weaning at or around 12months is the norm. I could go on, but to get to the point, I have two children, both of which are still in the natural breastfeeding age and both of which are still breastfeeding. Avalon will be turning one July 14th, and Zander will be turning three August 9th. I am practically a single mother with virtually no help. Caring for two children of those ages is unimaginably stressful. It is virtually impossible for me to meet both of their needs all of the time. I am so blessed to have this one parenting tool that allows for the quickest and most effective comfort to stop tantrums or ease an unhappy toddler. That being said, I have used a nursing cover with my first for a few months. Once a baby begins to develop motor skills it is literally impossible to keep them covered while nursing. Not only that, it is hard work for the mum and uncomfortable for both parties. Both of my children are past the age of using a cover. Any person who says “just use a cover, it’s not that hard” has not breastfed past infancy if at all. 

On that note, if a mum is breastfeeding without a blanket, someone's going to want her to have a blanket. If she has a blanket, someone's going to want her in the back of the room in a corner. If she's in the back of a room in a corner, someone's going to want her in a different room.... Where do we draw the line? Who here is defining what is or isn’t acceptable? How do you think that makes the mother feel? In the past I have honestly not left my house because I was uncomfortable to breastfeed in public. As a Christian in the church, is it not our duty to make visitors feel welcome rather than uncomfortable and unwelcome for no other reason than that they have a nursling? And lastly, the cry room is a room designed for mother with babies. When you have mothers with babies, you are going to have breastfeeding. If I can’t even nurse in the nursery than how can I bring my children to church?

3) Breastfeeding in the church is God’s will. Rather than basing our ideals on what is socially acceptable or what we personally have been exposed to, we should be asking what do the scriptures have to say? Does God care that we breastfeed? Did he create infant feeding to be done only in privacy? Should Christians be made to feel guilty to nurse? Has the sexual aspect of the breast caused mothers to feel shame to feed their children in the most nurturing way? Where have we come? From the Lady who came up to Jesus in Luke 11:27 and said, " Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou has sucked." to today with "I can’t believe she is breastfeeding here!"? "It would be foolish to urge mothers to breastfeed while simultaneously holding that it is immodest and inappropriate to do so in public. The idea that women should not breastfeed in Church is a part of a larger misunderstanding of women’s bodies and association of women’s breasts purely with male lust. When such anti-Biblical ideas are allowed to continue without refutation an entire segment of family and Christianity really is lost to perversion. The solution is not to ignore or “clean up” tradition, but to rethink our views and bring our lives into conformity with the way that God has designed and intended for mothers to feed their babies. A mother who breastfeeds her child gives a great good to her child through the physical reality of her act. She also offers those who see her a vivid reminder of the goodness of the human body and of God’s astounding love for us." The action which we need to take is to bring ourselves into line with God's plan. My choice to breastfeed and to do so wherever I am regardless of another person’s ideals is honoring God’s plan for my children and my family. My choice to support other younger nursing mothers is also God’s plan. If I honor God by my desire to work within His revealed plan, He will honor me. Our culture has been infiltrated with an enormous amount of misinformation surrounding the subject of breastfeeding. Mothers wean earlier than they plan to, don’t try at all, or are made to feel ashamed of their body’s divine function for no other reason than a lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6 " His  people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." 

The Bible teaches that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made'' (Psalm 139:14). Breastfeeding is a sign of God’s great love for us. Isaiah 66:10-14. If you do a Bible study on breastfeeding you will find that a mother’s breast is used to symbolize comfort, nurture, caring, sacrifice, and love. The Bible paints an entirely different picture of breastfeeding than does our society that calls it private and to be covered or hidden. Mothers who breastfeed offer a great gift not only to their children, but also to the Church as a whole through their witness to love. How much more so in a sacred setting? God gave women breasts specifically for the purpose of nursing, so of all places, the church would seem the most appropriate to nurse a child. "It's highly ironic that in a church this would even be a problem, especially since church is very family oriented and breastfeeding is very "family friendly." All 50 U.S. states and its territories allow breastfeeding in public places where a mother is legally allowed. Therefore in a church that sustains and follows the law, no one can tell a mother to stop, they are breaking the law. And breastfeeding is NOT an act of indecency. Many states in their breastfeeding laws state that mothers do not need to conform to the appropriate norms in their places of worship."

"Breastfeeding was created by God's magnificent design for all mammals and he is not silent on the topic of infant feeding.  His children can receive more than food from the breast of their mother. What greater gift can a mother give her child than the gift God has given............breastfeeding. The biblical perspective of breastfeeding makes references to show breastfeeding to be a joyful, rewarding blessing to both mother and child. Isaiah 55, the scriptures declare that His ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than our thoughts.  His way to provide infant feeding is from mother to child."  

I am spending a lot of time on this point because it is the most important. Here are a just a few of the many scriptures that seemed fitting...

Isaiah 66:10-13
"Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn over her; That ye may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance and brightness of her glory. For this is what the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."
God is depicting Jerusalem as a well loved nursing mother; a mother who provides nourishment and comfort from her breast. He says the people should be delighted with Jerusalem the way a baby enjoys the suckling and sustenance from his mother. God used the word GLORY to symbolize breastmilk!  God clearly has an appreciation for mothers who show their love and compassion for their babies through close physical contact that includes breastfeeding, being carried, and play. In order to be Christ-like, this is the attitude we should have when we see a mother breastfeeding especially in church. Our emotions should be one of joy and admiration and delight, not shame and embarrassment.

Numbers 11:12
"Have I conceived all this people? Have I brought them forth, that You should say to me, Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father carries the sucking child, to the land which You swore to their fathers[ to give them]? "
God implies the importance of the nursing father. Nurse is used in this verse to mean support, faithful, firm, to build up , to give assurance. Husbands need to demonstrate these characteristics to their wives. This would apply to any person who comes in contact with a breastfeeding mother, especially in the church. Not only should we make breastfeeding mothers feel welcome and supported but we are admonished to encourage, promote and prayerfully make breastfeeding a high priority!

Genesis 49:25
"By the God of your father Who will help you, and by the Almighty Who will bless you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings lying in the deep beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb."
Breasts are a blessing. Breastfeeding is a blessing. Seeing a mother nursing her child is a blessing, not shameful. 

I Samuel 1:21-23
"And Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah did not go, for she said to her husband, I will not go until the child is weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and remain there as long as he lives. Elkanah her husband said to her, Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish His word. So Hannah remained and nursed her son until she weaned him." 
Hannah's priority of nursing her child should be an example to all of us. She did not wean him until he was around  three to five years of age.This length of time nursing was common during this time. We can reap many benefits today by not thinking of nursing in terms of weeks or months, but instead, nursing for several years. The physical, emotional and spiritual benefits are astounding. From my personal stance, I value the breastfeeding relationship I have with my children in the same way that Hannah likely valued hers. My responsibility as a mother is to make it a priority above the thoughts of any other person around me. I cannot in good conscience allow myself or my children to be bullied or shamed by what may no doubt be a well meaning and loving on looker who may unknowingly or innocently have a perverted view of God’s design.

And lastly but most significant, Joel 2:16
"Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast"
Here it is obvious that nursing publicly and in church is in God's will. I whole heartedly support any person’s right to have whatever opinion they so choose, and I am more than happy to agree to disagree, but the church is the house of God and thus the only opinion that should be enforced inside those walls should be the opinion of God, not of ourselves. God’s opinion on breastfeeding is quite clear.

4) What if someone is offended by it? immediate response to that is, which is more important, a new convert visiting a church and unknowingly offending an uncomfortable on-looker by feeding her child in the nursery, or a church member potentially causing a visitor who is looking for a Bible believing church in which to raise her children to feel unwelcome or even shamed and harassed? .... 

Aside from that, the problem with this argument is that a mother breastfeeding her child is not doing anything wrong. Breastfeeding is not immodest or sexual or inappropriate. It is beautiful and wonderful and specifically designed by God to be so. If a person has a problem with seeing a baby nursing, the problem is not the mother or baby but the mind set of the onlooker. Everyone is allowed to eat in public.. including children. Breastfeeding is not a sin. Breastfeeding without a cover is not a sin. 

It is not my responsibility to control another person’s thoughts, nor theirs mine. If I am offended by something another person does, that is my burden to bear, not theirs. Unless what they are doing is blatantly sinful. "I would never expect anyone to avoid mentioning a certain name or object so as to lift my burdens. The problem is mine. If I choose to allow those things to affect me deeply, that is my problem and no one else's. I can just as easily choose to not allow those things to affect me. I might not be able to stop the germination of a thought, but I can refuse to allow it to flourish. What if there's a closet foot-fetishist running around - should we all avoid wearing flip-flops and high heels in case we "trigger" some kind of impure thoughts? What about pedophiles? Does that mean we shouldn't bring our children around adult men, in case one of those men might have salacious thoughts about them? I see the same thing applying to breastfeeding women in their consideration of others' behaviors and challenges. It is not their burden to bear. It has no correlation to how they treat their fellow men." 

And lastly on this point, I am the last person who would intentionally offend another, but when it comes to feeding or comforting my children, they will always come first and rightfully so. I can only hope you understand that.


5) Why I can’t compromise. Since having children, I research everything. I have become quite the activist on certain issues, this being probably the biggest one. I hope after reading this you can understand where I’m coming from. I’m not trying to be rude at all and the LAST thing I would want to do is offend, however, this is an area in which I feel it is my duty as a Christian and as an American citizen to make a difference where I can. That means breastfeeding in public anywhere and everywhere I may be. Again, the ONLY reason people are uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding is because they aren’t used to it. In cultures where breastfeeding is the norm, no one even looks twice. I think it’s important for the sake of supporting other breastfeeding mothers by helping them feel comfortable nursing, not like they have to hide or stay at home until their children wean, and I think it’s important for children to see and learn what breasts are for. I went to a Christmas party once and proceeded to quietly nurse Avalon when a young pre-teen girl freaked out and went to tell her mom that I was “doing something gross”. She literally had no idea why I had my boob in my child’s face. That, my friend, is a crying shame. I feel it is our responsibility to normalize breastfeeding. We should explain to our children and young adults that breasts are for nurturing our children, not to promote shame or embarrassment. It is our responsibility to teach our children about the divine purpose of our bodies. How many more mothers, babies, and even whole families would receive the blessing of a breastfeeding relationship if our society saw it as the norm? 

I also think it's important to talk about nursing in public because "even if every mom had a wonderful lactation consultant, some would still stop breastfeeding earlier than they'd like because of societal pressure. I know this for a fact. Nursing children past 2 years or 1 year or even 6 months is shocking to some people and we need to see it and make it normal so a mom doesn't feel pressured to wean at a time that she doesn't want to. I want all women to be able to reach their breastfeeding goals."

"So why is it important to me? Why can I not hide or use a cover? ...Because I'm hoping to change our culture. And I know I have already changed the culture for many people.... Since when is it wrong to live within cultural norms? ...Since they are oppressive to breastfeeding women and babies and are therefore, wrong. I am silently weeping for the appalling destruction of womanhood and motherhood in our culture and in our churches."

If you made it this far, thank you again for reading. I only hope to have shed some light on this subject for you and give you a better understanding from my personal perspective. I don’t breastfeed in public just because I can, but I do it because it is my God ordained duty to my children, to myself, and to those I come in contact with every day. If you are still uncomfortable or offended I hope that we can agree to disagree with no hard feelings. Like I said earlier, I am not easily offended and I do understand where you ladies are coming from, but for the sake of future visitors and future mothers, it is not in the best interest of your testimony or the testimony of your church to make a visiting mother feel unwelcome for nursing her child. Shaming an act that God created and called beautiful is not for the betterment of the body of Christ and reflects badly on the Christian name as a whole. I want to raise my children in church and in truth, but to be completely honest, in light of recent events, I do not feel welcome at your church. I am saying this only for your benefit. I harbor no ill feelings, but if I do visit again, I will continue to nurse my children without a cover and wherever I may be, in the cry room, the fellowship hall, or the sanctuary. If any of you find that offensive, I am truly sorry that you feel that way and I mean that with the utmost sincerity, but your opinions are your own. They are not my burden to bear and they are not my children’s burden to bear. ...One more thing, I also heard (though this may not be accurate) that one or more of you made the statement that if this (breastfeeding without a cover) was allowed to continue than you would not be able to remain in the church. Again, I am truly heart broken that you feel that way, but the only realistic response to that is to ask the question: How strong of a Christian are you if you would allow my breasts to come between your walk with God? Just something to think about.

 I appreciate your taking the time to read this! I hope I haven’t offended, but I did feel this needed addressing. I am enclosing some various bits of literature that you may find informative. I also help moderate the local breastfeeding support group, Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition, which meets once a month. If this is a subject you would like to learn more about or know someone who is or is about to be nursing a child, you are more than welcome to join us for discussion. If you have any further questions or comments please feel free to address me in person or via phone. Thank you again and God bless!!!

Thank You!

Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Was Jesus Really A Hell Fire And Brimstone Preacher?

I have recently been doing quite a bit of Bible study on the subjects of what man is, and what/where/when hell is. I'm still making my way through. I watched a sermon about deception and how to get and remain undecieved. I've alo been reading a lot of verses about "sduying" and "proving all things". God actually COMMANDS us quite often to know what we believe and to know the scriptural basis for it. All that to say, I've been really convicted about studying the Bible for myself. It is really easy to just believe what we believe and use the verses presented to us as "good enough", but there's not a lot of subjects I personally have sat down and really studied out for myself to see what ALL the Bible has to say on them. Even if I know what I believe and am 100% set on it, it is still my responsibility to "prove" it. Which doesn't mean picking and choosing a few verses that fit or asking the preacher. 

I love God and I love truth, pure and simple. I have in the past been stubborn about my beliefs refuse to even consider the possibility that I might be wrong. Ignoring anything, including scripture that might make me question. That is what i have been taught to do and it is not right. I want truth, nothing more and nothing less.Iironically, i did originally go looking purely to prove myself right but that is not what I have found if the truth I find in God' word alone is not the "truth" that I have previously believed than I am in love with Him enough to accept what He teaches and deny what man teaches. 

So, in my studying I'm learning so many things I never knew before and I'm loving it! I'm also learning that a lot of things I have been taught and have believed and even repeated myself, are not actually Biblical. This is one of those. Being that it is such a reverberated line and one I myself have repeated numerous times, I wanted to share it. I have looked into this myself but I also came across this article that put it really well. I really like some of his lines so i'm just going to copy and paste. You can follow the link at the bottom for the full article.

"Did Jesus really say more about hell than He did about heaven?

It has been claimed again and again that Jesus had more to say about hell than hedid about heaven.It has been repeated so oft that the assertion has become anunquestioned maxim.Many preachers have made the statement, not because they knew it to be true, or had actually counted the references, but because theyheard it said and assumed it so.But is it?

So supposedly this maxim of Jesus speaking more about hell than heaven (“muchmore frequently” said one) is not up for debate, but is a fact we can’t get around,one that most Christians know to be true, and is quickly evident with a quickreading of the New Testament.Is that so? Being one who’s not willing to takesomeone else’s word for it, I decided to see if it‘s true. Or could it be anothersquawk of lazy parrots? Something false does not become true by saying it overand over.And men behind a pulpit bear a great responsibility to verify theirstatements. So, DID JESUS PREACH MORE ABOUT HELL THAN HE DIDABOUT HEAVEN?DOES THE BIBLE SAY MORE ABOUT HELL THANHEAVEN?You be the judge.

The word count in the gospels is as follows: HEAVEN – 130; HELL – 15.Thoughthat is a significant disparity, it does not actually prove anything as to thequestion at hand.So let’s narrow the search.We’ll take out the references thatinclude the word “Father” as in “Father in heaven.”That means 130 – 28 = 102.So now we’re down to HEAVEN: 102; HELL – 15.That’s still greatlydisportionate; so let’s remove the references that include the word “kingdom,”thus 102 – 32 = 70.
Yet all 70 are not the words of Christ, or a reference to heaven as other than skyor space.Now if we take out all references to heaven as sky or space, and onlyinclude the words in red, we are down to 31, so it’s now 31 – 15.This is more thanfair, especially considering that we are leaving out “Father in heaven” and“kingdom of heaven.”But now of the 31 – 15, how many are duplicates of each(i.e., are quoted by more than one gospel)?That would leave us with HEAVEN –21; HELL – 10.

Now if we add other references to heaven or hell that do not quote the words (orthat have “Father” in it but give other details about heaven), we have eight moreapiece, thus HEAVEN – 29; HELL – 18. Christ speaks of heaven (not theatmosphere and not “Father in” or “kingdom of”) 29 times, while He speaks ofhell 18.This would be generous to hell being that some of the verses included,such as Matthew 3:12 which says “burn up” or 13:40 which says “as tares areburned” would not even be claimed by many as speaking of hell.And even if youincluded any mention of wailing and gnashing of teeth at the judgment (7 times),the count would still be in favor of heaven.

If“most Christians know that the Bible says more about hell than about heaven,” itis because they know the unsubstantiated, thought oft repeated, assertions of lazyparrots- not because they know their Bibles! (I was guilty!)

This is a very remarkable contention, considering that the gospelsrecord Jesus using the word life 71 times (39 in the gospel of John alone).Christspoke of “eternal life” 10 times and “everlasting life” 11 times.Again, keep inmind that though many equate or associate these phrases with heaven, we are notincluding them in the overall count for heaven.Also not included are the times Christ says “I go to the Father,” or any mentions of “the kingdom” in a final, future sense that most would associate with heaven.LIFE: 71 to HELL: 18.
More than death, Brother Dolphus?In some form or fashion, Christ spoke ofdeath and dying, especially His own, and the resurrection from the dead, over 50times.The Gospels record Christ also using the word perish 14 times.DEATH(and perish): 64+ to HELL: 18.

But there is one subject that He so obviously and absolutely preached more about“than He did anything” else that it is a wonder that the editors who includedPrice’s sermon in The Baptist Vision periodical, and in the book Great Preachingon Hell, would not have readily realized that this was an utterly false statement.Even a casual reading of the gospels should make this apparent (“even with just aquick reading of the New Testament it quickly becomes evident”- see above).Perhaps Christ said so much about this subject that many miss the obvious.

What is it? “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the KINGDOM of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).“And Jesus went about allGalilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the KINGDOM” (Matthew 4:23).“And he said unto them, I must preach the KINGDOM of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43).OurLord commissioned the apostles, “Preach, saying, the KINGDOM of heaven is athand” (Matthew 10:7).“Kingdom” is included 9 times in the Sermon on theMount, including twice in the “Beatitudes” and twice in the “Lord’s Prayer.”Seven “kingdom parables” are recorded in Matthew chapter 13 alone, where theword is found 12 times.Many other times Christ would say “the kingdom ofheaven is like…” (Matthew 18:23; 20:1; 22:2; 25:1, 14).
Remember these classic statements?“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs isthe kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).“Suffer the little children to come untome, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).“Howhardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23).Christ taught His followers, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33),to pray “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10); and that “the kingdom of God iswithin you” (Luke 17:21).From His conversation with Nicodemus (“Except aman be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” – John 3:3) to His OlivetDiscourse (“this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world”   Matthew 24:14), Christ preached more about the kingdom than He did anything else.Peruse the listing under kingdom in a concordance.Look down through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.It will be evident.

Why does this matter?It matters because it reveals a serious problem with manyfolks understanding of endless torment. Instead of finding out what theScriptures actually say, they are content to repeat what they have heard without making a Berean search to see whether those things are so (Acts 17:11).Theyhaven’t bothered to investigate how Scripture consistently uses the word perish.They haven’t searched the Scripture concerning whether the soul is immortal, orif it can and will die.They haven’t made the effort to study the comprehensivecoherency of what all of the relevant texts consistently teach.

But they don’t mind glibly repeating that Christ taught more on hell than he didon heaven, even though it’s not true. For you that have been so persevering to read this to its conclusion, I must ask you: What else is not true about what you’ve always heard about hell, judgment, and endless torment? Will you continue to repeat, or will you endeavor to verify?"

I don't know about you but I find that last statement pretty convicting!

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