Has modern Christianity become an echo chamber?
And is that leading us to have super bad takes on many issues that are really important?
Today we’re taking a look at a theme that we’ve noticed in evangelicalism: anti-intellectualism, and a denial of science and learning. It’s very present in a lot of Christian schools and universities (though definitely not all; I had a wonderful meeting at Calvin University this week where they’re eager to teach on a variety of viewpoints!). It’s throughout churches.
And it’s not helping us.
Last month we showed you how Nancy Pearcey’s book ignored academic rigor in her citations and research. Today we want to take a step back and look at several different incidents and see what they all show us about the dangers of echo chambers.
And a story about 10-year-old Rebecca confronting her Sunday School teacher about dinosaurs comes in too!
Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:
Timeline of the Podcast
0:10 What’s on today’s agenda
6:00 ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’
20:10 Getting too fixated on an outcome, no matter what
32:30 Interpretation vs Scripture
41:45 Viewpoints based on fear
1:00:00 Jesus realigns our barriers
This podcast was a while in the making.
We knew we wanted to talk about the problem of echo chambers, and we’ve been keeping track of different examples to show you. I hope you’ll enjoy this one as much as we did recording it!
We started with a bizarre encounter I had on Twitter which encapsulated the whole problem.
Exhibit A: A Baptist Seminary Professor’s Belief that the Bible Says Foreplay is Unnecessary
In June, I got into a very illuminating conversation with Tim Little, who runs a graduate program in Old Testament at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written a book on the Song of Songs, and was tweeting a ton criticizing my take on mutual sex. It’s hard to explain the whole conversation, especially as he has since deleted his Twitter account, but I took some screen shots.
At one point, he was arguing that women should have one-sided, painful sex where they feel used because this is the gospel, because this is how husbands are changed.
Later, as the conversation moved to how to deal with vaginismus (he criticized me because my advice to go see a pelvic floor physiotherapist and deal with the toxic teachings you may have internalized was not a “solution”, and I was ignoring the biblical solution, which was–wait for it–getting yourself aroused during the day.
I’m not making that up.
He expands later on how the “Edenic” man (the one presumably in the Garden of Eden) jumps straight to intercourse, according to his interpretation of the Bible, because foreplay is unnecessary.
We bring all this up because this man is a theology professor.
It’s okay to have bad takes–lots of people have bad takes. But when someone is a theology professor of seminary students, one has to wonder how someone can proclaim such bad takes so loudly, with so little self-awareness.
And that’s really what we want to talk about in today’s podcast:
Too often we live in a Christian bubble, and we don’t realize what we don’t know. Our education isn’t broad enough to make us realize there is more to learn, and instead we think that because we know the Bible, we know everything. And we filter out any voices that may threaten our echo chamber.
This results in really messed up beliefs.
We’ve got a lot of examples in today’s podcast, as we look at:
- You don’t know what you don’t know
- “Scripture is all we need” often leads to a denial of reason
- The quest for ideological purity can often lead to extremism
It’s a romp through Gary Thomas defending outdated research and not understanding the scientific process; Galileo; critiques of Jesus and John Wayne assuming current American Christianity= Christianity for all time; a megachurch pastor claiming that disagreeing with him means you disagree with God; the Dixie Cup Test; and so much more.
We can do better than this, and I hope we will.
Jesus is the Truth; we don’t need to shy away from research and using our brains.
Things Mentioned in the Podcast
- Join our Patreon group for as little as $5 a month and be part of the most amazing place on the internet:
- Join our email list so that you’ll be notified when I’m in your area–and so you don’t miss any of Rebecca’s amazing round-ups
- Kristin Kobes Du Mez’ Twitter thread about her critics
- Josh Howerton’s sermon where the clip came from (starting around timestamp 12:30)
- Last week’s podcast with Terran Williams on changing his mind and the impact on his family
- Tim Little’s bio at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary
- Gary Thomas’ article where he misunderstands modern neuroscience
- Our podcast where Rebecca and Connor go over the meta-analysis on the differences between male and female brains, And the 2019 meta-analysis that we quoted from, as well as the 2021 meta-analysis
- Rachel Joy Welcher’s review of Shannon Harris’ memoir in Christianity Today
- Richard Beck’s book Unclean and our recent post about disgust psychology and sex
- Our new Biblical Manhood Merchandise
- The Great Sex Rescue Toolkit
What do you think? Have we been trained not to use our brains? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila: Welcome to The Bare Marriage Podcast. I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from BareMarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage and your sex life. And I am joined today by my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.
Rebecca: Yes. Hello.
Sheila: And my husband, Keith.
Keith: Hey, everybody.
Sheila: And we’re going to have just a fun conversation about all kinds of different things. We’re going to do a romp through all kinds of little news articles and things that I have been saving. But they all have one thing in common which is we want to talk about echo chambers.
Rebecca: Yes. We want to talk about have we lost the plot, right? So here’s the thing. We’ve done podcasts before helping people understand stats, on helping you judge whether or not a book has actually been looking into the research or if it’s just kind of a whole bunch of one dude’s opinion. We’ve taught you how to go through citation lists. We’ve been trying to help a lot of people, who list to this podcast, take the next step in figuring out how to think critically about these things because so many people were raised to not think critically, right? Just accept what the pastor says. They just accept what people say because they seem in power, and a good person doesn’t question what the people in charge say. And so we know that a lot of people are like, “Okay. Now I know I need to do that. But what on earth does that actually mean?” And we’ve been trying to do that. We want to do that with this podcast too. This is the next step. We’re going to talk about areas of knowledge and qualification. And how do you kind of tell what you have?
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. And I hope it will be fun. Before we get into that, special shout out to the people who help us do our research and expand our areas of knowledge, which is our wonderful patron group. You can join for as little as five dollars a month. Get access to our amazing Facebook group, which is—I like to call it my emotional support group online. Yeah. We really love our patron group. And, again, they’re the ones who help us fund what we’re doing. And so we would so appreciate your help in that as well. And, of course, when you buy our merch and our courses that also helps to support. Those are really the big two areas that fund us. And so take a look at our merch. It makes great Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. And I will put a link there. We’ve got some wonderful new designs, and we’re going to have some more coming up for domestic violence awareness month in pink. And so those are coming soon as well.
Rebecca: Yeah. I know a lot of you have really loved our biblical womanhood merch. If you haven’t heard yet, we do have a whole new line that’s biblical manhood and celebrating everything that biblical manhood is. Yes. The strong leadership and doing what’s right and also the gardening, singing, and dancing. That’s biblical manhood in the Bible.
Sheila: Yes. And maintaining integrity like Joseph, all kinds of fun things. So you can check that out as well. And another way to help us, of course, is just to rate this podcast five star and review it and let other people know about it as well as our books. Okay. So let’s jump in.
Rebecca: So the first thing that we want to jump into is I’m going to go full nerd on you guys immediately. Okay? I know people like it when I do this.
Sheila: Yes. People love Rebecca full nerd.
Rebecca: Yeah. So I want to talk to you about Plato’s Cave. It’s an allegory in—it’s a classic philosophical allegory. It was kind of presented as this conversation between Plato and Socrates when it first—when we first learned about it in Philosophy 101. But here I want to read you a summary that I found on Wikipedia that—it was just a good summary. So here’s a summary, so that I don’t talk about this for 15 minutes. Ready? “In the allegory of the cave, Plato describes a group of people, who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all their lives facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them. And they give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoner’s reality but are not accurate representations of the real world. The shadows represent the fragment of reality that we can normally perceive through our senses while the objects under the sun represent the true forms of objects that we can only perceive through reason. Socrates explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner, who is a freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are actually not the direct source of the images seen. A philosopher aims to understand and perceive the higher levels of reality. However, the other inmates of the cave do not even desire to leave their prison for they know no better life.” So yeah. So this allegory talks about this man, who all he’s ever know are these shadows. He breaks free, and there’s the levels of knowledge, right? So he starts by just knowing the shadows. Then he sees the fire. Again, if you saw a shadow of a cat your whole life and then you actually see that actual cat passing in front of the flames, right? It’s like, “Oh my goodness. That’s not just a shadow.” And then the next level of reason and knowledge is knowing that there’s even an outside of the cave, right? Aside from the fire and knowing that there are real live objects, there is a whole world outside of the cave where there is multiple versions of these things. And there’s so much more to learn. And yeah. Really it’s allegory for the concept of increased knowledge and knowing what we don’t know.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. And I think part of the problem—and the reason we want to address this today is that there is a strain in evangelicalism that is trying to keep everybody in the cave. And they’re seeing knowledge as dangerous because it might make people believe differently than us.
Keith: Yeah. And I think that basically the thing is that it’s uncomfortable to look at things in a new way, in a different way. And people—they’re used to the shadows. So don’t talk about these things called cats that are three dimensional because that just messes everything up for me. That’s the natural response to people is to shy away from them because it’s a bit scary.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And that’s what I’m afraid of is that we’re living our Christian life basically in fear of people moving out of the cave because we feel like we have to protect the cave at all costs. And is that actually true? So we want to look at three things today in this podcast. We want to look at the phenomenon of not knowing what you don’t know. And then the whole idea that Scripture is all you need and then how this becomes this quest for purity, for ideological purity, which can actually hamper the Gospel and what we’re trying to do. So let’s start with the idea of you don’t know what you don’t know. So when you’re in the cave and you’re looking at all of these shadows, you don’t realize that there is actually something behind you. And when we live our evangelical life in little bubbles, okay? We can assume that we’re smarter than we are or that we have the entire picture. And I have an example of this. I’ve been waiting to talk about this. So this happened in June on Twitter. And I got into a big discussion with a man, who is a director of a graduate program at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. And he jumped into the conversation. He jumped in with both Beth Allison Barr and with me. He had never really been on Twitter before. But I think he was trying to raise awareness of his book on Song of Solomon. And so I had been talking about, actually, obligation sex. Sort of the same things we’ve been talking about on the blog and the podcast in the last month on how most women who decided that they don’t want sex or that lose their libido they don’t do it for no reason. There’s actually something else going on. And we need to address that, and we need to realize that there might be some good reasons and that women should not have to put up with one-sided painful sex. And he jumped in to say, “Yes. They should.” And he was saying that it is wrong for a woman not to have sex because the Gospel.
Rebecca: He really jumped in. He really just hit full send on the worst take.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. So what he was saying is that the Gospel—and I’m giving him—it may not sound like it, but I’m actually giving him the most generous interpretation. But what he was saying is that the Gospel works when we give up all of our rights and we do something anyway, and this changes the person. And so when a woman submits to one-sided sex that is painful and where she feels used, that is what God uses to change her husband.
Rebecca: Which is like—I mean show me even a single citation, buddy, because we’ve got eight for the opposite. Yeah. Exactly. Its’ like, “Oh, you mean encouraging bad behavior with the desired outcome makes them suddenly want to change the behavior from which they’re getting the desired,”—no. Of course, it doesn’t. It’s like if your kid is in a grocery store line and they’re screaming and throwing a temper tantrum because they want Smarties and you buy them Smarties every time they throw and have a temper tantrum, they’re going to throw and have a temper tantrum more. If every time a man has one-sided nasty sex for the wife, he still gets sex. (cross talk)
Sheila: So I was tweeting that Tim Little, this professor, thinks that a woman consenting to selfish, one-sided sex that may even be painful will make a husband love her more and treat her better, and he replied by retweeting me saying, “Egalitarianism is a denial of the Gospel.”
Keith: Right. So you’re trying to say women should be treated fairly and men should slow down and help women with their arousal, and his response is, “You’re a bunch of egalitarians. You don’t believe the Gospel.”
Keith: And didn’t he go on to say that women—it’s really 100% the woman’s responsibility to get herself ready for sex. So you’re a woman, and you’re—yeah. You’re a woman, and you’re married to a guy, who doesn’t care about you whatsoever. It is against the Gospel to try and talk to him about how you have needs. The Gospel thing to do is to make yourself get really, really excited to have sex with this really, really selfish guy. That’s the Gospel.
Sheila: Right. Exactly. And he actually says it.
Keith: Come on.
Sheila: So we got into this extended conversation about vaginismus and about pain. And his reply was that I don’t have—Sheila does not have any solutions for vaginismus whereas he does. So me telling women to go see a pelvic floor physiotherapist, to deal with the toxic teachings that have contributed to vaginismus, to deal with any relational things, this isn’t the way. He points out that in Song of Solomon—and he uses—he quotes a bunch of verses. That this is the way that you get rid of pain. He says, “Why does your husband have to be in charge of your arousal? In Song 8:1, the godly wife is wanting sex with her husband during the regular affairs of the day. Awaken yourself and go awaken him, and it will never be painful.” And then people asked for clarification and asked, “So are you honestly saying that she is—that she is responsible for her own arousal and he isn’t responsible for it at all? And then once she is aroused, it won’t hurt.” And he says that, “The Edenic man,”—so the man from Eden the way that God created us—“does jump straight to intercourse.” He says sex, but he’s talking about intercourse. “Because his wife already wants it.” And this is what we’re supposed to do is jump straight to intercourse because she is responsible for her own arousal.
Rebecca: Can I just say this is the fun—I don’t think this guy understands what a self own this is. This is the funniest bad take ever. It’s like, “Well, women should just understand that bad sex is because Jesus and the Gospel means that bad sex means that you’re having the Gospel sex.” We can’t expect Christians to have good sex because then what about the Gospel. And also if she wants good sex, why doesn’t she just get horny already? When I read that, I’m like, “Well, that’s what happens in porn.” That’s what I think when I read this. It’s like, “Why don’t—if the women just want to have good sex, why don’t they just get all turned on and then go find their husbands? And then have good sex. And he shouldn’t have to do any foreplay. He shouldn’t have to do any foreplay. They should just be able to go right to it and just the two-minute tango. That should be enough because we are already,”—has anyone listened to the song Business Time?
Rebecca: This has total Business Time energy.
Keith: Unironic Business Time.
Sheila: I’m going to put it in a link if you have not heard it.
Rebecca: Unironic Business Time.
Keith: That’s the thing.
Rebecca: It’s this satirical song by these two New Zealanders?
Keith: Yeah. New Zealanders.
Sheila: Yeah. They’re awesome. Flight of the Conchords.
Rebecca: They’re fantastic. Flight of the Conchords.
Keith: Flight of the Conchords.
Rebecca: It’s about this long term married couple talking about sex. And it’s clearly just—it’s all the stuff we hear about. There’s some amazing line where he says, “Making love for two. Making love for two minutes because all you need is two minutes because I’m so intense.”
Keith: Two minutes in heaven is better than one minute in heaven.
Rebecca: One minute in heaven—two minutes in heaven is better than one. And this has the same energy. I can’t imagine actually going on Twitter and saying, “Well, if her sex is bad then that’s just for Jesus.”
Sheila: It’s ridiculous.
Keith: Can I be a little snarky? And maybe ask where the grad course is. Is it at Dunning-Kruger University?
Sheila: Yes. Explain that. Explain that.
Keith: So we’ve had a podcast before where we talk about the Dunning-Kruger effect. And the Dunning-Kruger effect is—it’s called the double burden where it’s not only do you not know your subject you’re not aware enough to know that you don’t know your subject. And the only way that you can participate in the discussion like this gentleman is to have a level of arrogance that is beyond all bounds because he clearly doesn’t know the subject. And he’s coming in, and he’s lecturing women about women’s experience in sex. And he has no problems doing that, and then he tells you you need to go back and read the Bible because you don’t understand because you’re asking men to care for their wives in sex. And he says you don’t know the Bible.
Sheila: Yeah. So the Dunning-Kruger effect basically says that the less you know about a subject often the more you think you know. And then as you learn more, your confidence decreases until you become an expert. And then it starts to go up again. And so that—when you know just a little bit to be dangerous, that’s called the peak of Mount Stupid.
Keith: Yeah. Because you think you know everything and you haven’t learned enough to know that you know only a fraction of what’s out there. It’s before you realize that I’m in a cave. It’s like, “I’ve got these shadows figured out.” And it’s like the next step is where you go, “Oh my gosh. I don’t understand any of this stuff.” And you have to relearn a lot because you realize, “Oh, there’s more.” And the thing is this man is not interested in learning more. He’s interested in telling you what the truth is, so he’s a man who is coming in to tell you what women’s experience in sex is like.
Rebecca: Well, and not only that what I found so funny is that he pertains to know exactly what sex acts are happening in Song of Solomon and Genesis. And I’m like I personally missed the very explicit sex scenes.
Keith: I think God intentionally left that vague.
Rebecca: Yeah. Exactly. He’s like, “Well, no. They went straight to sex. There’s no foreplay. There’s no foreplay, guys. Foreplay is not Christian. I shouldn’t have to do foreplay.” That’s what it sounds like to me. “Why can’t they just do it? Please.” That’s what it sounds like to me. Okay.
Sheila: It was so bad. And this went on for several days on Twitter until he deleted his Twitter account afterward.
Rebecca: Well, I think he had come on because he wanted to promote his book, and then everyone was like, “Dude, this is a bad take.” He was like, “This is not helping me promote my book.”
Sheila: Yeah. This was seen by hundreds of thousands of people. And people were starting to really question his actual workplace, the theological seminary, which is problematic. And I think that’s why this encounter was so interesting to me because there is always people with super bad takes on social media. I’m not really concerned about your average Joe with the super bad take on social media. What’s surprising is that he was so confident about this bad take and he is a professor and not just a professor but someone who directs a graduate program at a theological seminary. And so people are spending money to send their kids to be educated by him.
Rebecca: Yeah. Exactly.
Sheila: And he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.
Rebecca: Yeah. I looked it up. The tuition for just one year is three times the amount of the tuition that I paid for the University of Ottawa, which is really good. I know Canada versus the U.S. but still. It’s double what Americans have to pay to go to the University of Ottawa. You could go to the University of Ottawa twice, guys. Yeah. They’re expected to pay $10,000.
Sheila: It really is a problem.
Keith: So how does a guy get to the level that he can come in and give this kind of a hot take? He can wade into the middle of a discussion by women who have done studies about the sexual response cycle, by women who have surveyed thousands of women about their experiences and found out statistically what helps marriages, and he feels he can wade into that arena and just drop the mic and say what he thinks is true and tell you you need to go back and read the Bible. What gives him the ability to do that?
Sheila: I think part of it is the way that we educate people and especially pastors in evangelicalism because so many people grow up never actually having a thorough education. And I want to say. We’re not against the concept of Christian education. We’re really not. And in many countries, some of the Christian universities are some of the best in that country or Christian schools are some of the highest academic learning in that country. There’s a huge, huge, huge wide range of Christian institutions. What worries us when Christian education is used to promote a bubble and that’s what we’re seeing over and over again is kids go to Christian schools or they’re homeschooled. Again, not against homeschooling. I homeschooled you guys all the way through.
Rebecca: I’m currently a homeschooling mom. I’m planning homeschooling.
Sheila: Yes. We’re not against homeschooling. But we homeschooled in order to give you the best education possible and expand your horizons. We didn’t homeschool in order to make them smaller.
Rebecca: Yeah. In other words, going back to Plat’s Cave, the problems that there are some schools where the goal is to get you from the Cave to the sun. And there are other schools that are there to make sure that you never, ever question whether or not there might be a fire making those shadows. And a lot of Christian institutions, especially ones that are for a single denomination or a single type of thought, their primary goal is to preserve their own thought patterns more so than to have you learn and be challenged by people who you disagree with. When I went to a secular university, I had—I was told by my highly fundamentalist Baptist youth group that everyone was going to be hyper Marxist. Everyone was going to try to persecute you for being Christian. I did not experience that. I had professors of multiple different faith traditions. I had professors of multiple different political leanings and at one of the most secular schools in Canada. I had professors from different countries and different cultures. And there was so much richness of diversity of thought that you were actually quite allowed to disagree. I wasn’t allowed to disagree at my Baptist youth group though. I was actually forced to conform my thoughts so much more at the Baptist church than I was at the university. There was so much more freedom for me to be the kind of Christian that I was at the University of Ottawa than at the Baptist church in my neighborhood. And that’s what I don’t think people fully understand is we are—when you’ve only heard about other beliefs or other perspectives from the safe little cocoon of people who think like you, you might be told lies. And that’s the problem is when you’re only taught things by people who believe the same as you, you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know because you never actually engage with someone who disagrees with you. Even if they have you read a book by someone who you all disagree with, you’re still all talking about it within this very safe community of people who all believe the same thing.
Sheila: And when you’re educated in this bubble, you don’t always realize that your education hasn’t actually prepared you to deal with a lot of the issues that we’re writing about. And this is one of the things that has driven us so bonkers when we look at the evangelical literature around marriage and sex is that people are writing about stuff that they’re actually not qualified to right about and don’t even realize they’re not qualified to write about. So I have another example. Okay. This is another one that I’ve saved. This is from last month in September. Gary Thomas wrote an article for his Substack called Every Man’s Battle? And Yes, Every Woman’s Battle Too where he was kind of pushing back at what we’ve been saying about how lust is not every man’s battle. And he was saying that we’re all sexually broken. He wasn’t arguing that everybody lusts. It was a very long argument. But in the middle of all of this, this is what we found. I found so funny and frustrating at the same time.
Sheila: Yeah. Exasperating is a better word. Is he addressed something which we have critiqued him for multiple times. We have shown him the evidence, but he keeps coming back to the same thing which is that both Gary Thomas and Shaunti Feldhahn rely on some studies from 2001 and 2004 to say that men are visual in a way that women will never understand. And that men’s brains just work different to visual stimuli. And even though we have shown both of them that recent meta-analyses do not say that and actually show the opposite, they keep coming back to these studies. And so Gary writes in this article that many people have attacked him for this, but he knows this particular psychiatrist and board certified doctor of neurology from California. And he went to this guy, and he said, “What do you think?” And the guys told him that this 2004 study is really good and that men and women do react differently to visual stimuli and that this is because of the way that the brain operates. Okay. Keith, let’s use a different analogy. Let’s say that I wanted to know when do I introduce my baby to allergens. When do I give them strawberries? When do I give them peanut butter, et cetera? And I go to you, and I ask you. I could do that, right?
Keith: Absolutely. I’m a pediatrician. Yeah.
Sheila: Yes. Because you’re a pediatrician. Or I could look up what is the academic consensus on this.
Keith: Yeah. And if I’m a good pediatrician, I’ll be telling you the academic consensus, right? That’s a particularly good one because that’s a confusing area. And it’s changed a lot in the last 10 years back and forth. So it’s a field that’s constantly evolving and needs to be reevaluated. And I think this is a great example of what’s actually going on here with Gary, right? Because in your story about introducing to allergens, what I could do as a mom or dad is go to every single pediatrician I know until I finally get the one who tells me what I want to hear. And that’s what’s happening here because they know men are visual in a way women will never understand, so they are going to go until they find the study that shows that. And they don’t understand that a meta-analysis trumps a single study because they don’t want to understand that. Because if they understood that, they would be forced to look back and see the fire instead of the shadows. And they don’t want to do that because it threatens the shadows. I know men are visual. This study shows it. Therefore, it’s true. And all of you guys are just believing what you want to believe because you want to believe men are not visual. And so therefore, you’re believing those studies, and I’m believing these studies. And they make it an us versus them thing. And Gary actually says that this man, this unnamed psychiatrist or neurologist, doesn’t want to go public because he doesn’t want to be attacked. And that’s what we see all the time. It becomes, “Well, we believe our studies. You believe yours. And it’s just a matter of opinion. And you have your opinion, and I have mine.” No. That’s not the way academia works. When a person gets quote attacked, when that means your argument has been dissected and shown to be false, that’s not a woke mob. That’s just called science. It’s just crazy. So yeah. So some people have this feeling that this is the way things are. But if the studies show that, well, your experience is part of an overall picture where not everyone thinks the way you do, you need to know that’s the case. I don’t want to get into debates and stuff. But the thing I think about is the debate with Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Rebecca: Bill. Bill. Bill. Bill. Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Sheila: Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Rebecca: That is a millennial sleeper code. Bill. Bill. Bill.
Keith: I’ve had debates with other Christians and stuff. I don’t want to get into the actual substance of the different arguments and stuff.
Sheila: Okay. Hold on. We do need to say Ken Ham is the leader of Answers in Genesis, which is a big organization. And he has—that’s dedicated to proving and arguing—
Keith: The earth is 6,000 years old. Was created in six literal 24-hour days. And if you don’t believe that, then you essentially don’t believe the Bible. Right?
Rebecca: And I will say they are directly responsible for a lot of people leaving the church because they could not not believe evolution because of the evidence and because of people like Ken Ham. They thought there was no option for them to stay in the church then.
Keith: Yeah. If you believe the earth is old, you’re not a Christian. And that’s ridiculous. But anyway but the point is that in the debate they asked them each what would persuade you to the other person’s opinion. And Ken Ham basically said, “Absolutely nothing. There is nothing you could say or do that would ever convince me that evolution is true.” And they asked Bill Nye, Bill Nye said, “Evidence.” And that’s not a lie. The scientific community looks for evidence. There’s this concept in people like Ken Ham, who say, “All of scientists hate Christianity so much that they want to find excuses to believe the earth is old.” It’s like dude. In science, if you can prove the earth was 6,000 years old that would turn the scientific world on its head. You’d be a rock star. You’d be instantly popular. It would be the most amazing thing to be able to do. There is a desire to know more. There is a desire to say, “Hey, what have we got wrong in the past?” That’s what true learning is. But what dogmatism is is I know the answer. And don’t confuse me with the facts. And that’s what we’re seeing here. And the problem is is that—and I think you’re going to get into this later, so I’m not going to—I’m going to put a bit of a pin in it. But dogmatism is not actually what God calls us to. Jesus Christ is the truth. We should not be afraid of looking for the truth. And if the truth is that some people think men are visual in a way women aren’t but actually, overall, society—men and women work this way, well, maybe I can learn and be a better human if I look at what’s actually out there. What the studies actually show because my viewpoint that men are like this is actually causing harm, which it is.
Keith: Sorry. A little bit of a rant there.
Rebecca: No. It’s great.
Sheila: Let me read to you the summary of the 2019 meta-analysis into MRI scans and into how men and women’s brains work with regards to visual stimuli. And here is the conclusion. “Following a thorough statistical review of all significant neuroimaging studies, we offer strong quantitative evidence that the neuronal response to visual sexual stimuli, contrary to the widely accepted view, is independent of biological sex. Both men and women show increased activation in many cortical and subcortical brain regions thought to be involved in the response visual sexual stimuli while the limited sex differences that have been found and reported previously refer to subjective rating of the content.”
Keith: What do you know? We’re not different species after all. Men and women are both humans.
Sheila: The 2021 meta-analysis also says something similar. It’s looking at it from a slightly different perspective. But here is the thing. We have told Gary this so many times. We have shown on this podcast, in articles, how he is relying on scientists who have been thoroughly discredited by their peers.
Rebecca: Yeah. They’re so bad they have satirical articles put out about them by other scientists because it’s such a laughing stock kind of take.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. And both he and Shaunti Feldhahn still rely on the same data, which is not accepted in academia. And here is the thing, okay? You need to know what you don’t know. Gary has an English degree and a theology degree. He has not ever learned anything about neuroscience. And I believe—as someone who writes in the same field, I feel like when you’re—when you want to quote or reference a field that you are not qualified to judge between the studies, you need to use what is the consensus.
Rebecca: Well, paging all my true crime girlies, right? Everyone who listens to any true crime podcast and listen to anything with an expert witness you know they can find an expert witness for both sides. But only one of them is a scientific consensus. Right? You can get an expert to say—you can find an expert to say anything if you pay them money. People will do whatever. There are people who are wrong everywhere.
Sheila: Yeah. So just because there’s an expert you can find who says it does not mean that you can use that expert because since you have an English and a theology degree you are not equipped to judge whether that 2004 study is better than the meta-analysis and whether this one neuroscientist that you talk to trumps the dozens and dozens who wrote the meta-analysis and worked on it. You’re not equipped to make that distinction. The fact that people think they are is just—it’s mind blowing to me.
Keith: Yeah. I know. I think that the big thing is the way that academia works is that we recognize that consensus can sometimes be wrong. The majority of people can believe something, and it can be wrong sometimes. And there is room for that in academia. You can come out and say, “I know the meta-analysis you showed, Sheila, say this, but I think this is true because,” and then you make your argument. You don’t just say, “Well, you just want to believe that, and I know this is true.” Because what you’re saying is, I just want to believe this. You’re painting people with a brush that’s the color that’s all over you. Right? So if you disagree with a consensus, make a good argument for why the consensus is wrong. Don’t just say, “Well, the people who agree with me are afraid to speak out.” That’s a cop out. It’s a total cop out.
Rebecca: That gets into the next point is why do these people think that they’re able to offer critiques because these people do. They think they’re able to offer critiques of meta-analysis. I am not able to critique a meta-analysis. It is too far above my education level. I am not trained in how to do meta-analyses. Right?
Sheila: But you have at least taken neuroscience courses.
Rebecca: Well, here’s the thing is I have at least taken neuroscience courses, and I know enough about meta-analysis to know what goes into. But I’m not going to go in and say, “Well, I think they did this particular wrong,” because I have never done one before. Right? And when you’re an academic area—one of the things that you learn when you’re in a liberal arts education is you learn all the different areas of thought, the scientific areas, the social science, the philosophical, the historical, the more creative artistic expressions such as in your English and your poetry. You learn all these different areas and areas of thought. And so you also kind of understand, “Hey, not everything is for me to weigh in on,” and that’s a gift that we don’t have in evangelicalism because we’ve begun to believe this idea that Scripture is all that we need. So if Scripture is all that you need and you can defend your critique of a meta-analysis with one verse that you misunderstand, then if you can quote—if you can just pull out of context verses that is seen as an adequate of a meta-analysis or of research. And that is utterly bizarre and laughable.
Keith: Yeah. It’s the ultimate trump card. God said it. God said it. It’s not me. And the thing is too it sounds very pious, right? Because I just believe the Bible. Right? And so, therefore—but people don’t realize that—what you’re actually believing is in an interpretation of the Bible. And people—you are unwise if you don’t know the difference between the two of those things.
Sheila: What was it that Rick Warren said? Rick Warren said, “Baptists believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, but fundamentalists believe in the inerrancy of their interpretation of Scripture.”
Keith: Exactly. And the thing is I think in a lot of places people don’t even recognize the difference between the two. Are you going to play that Josh Howerton clip?
Sheila: Yeah. Okay.
Keith: Because this is the thing is that people don’t believe when we say things like preachers get up on the pulpit and say, “God says,” and they feel that they have the right to speak exactly for God. Right?
Sheila: Mm-hmm. Yeah. So someone sent me this. Again, I don’t go looking for this stuff. Okay? People send them to me. But here is a clip from Josh Howerton, who is a mega church pastor in Texas. We’ve talked about him on several other podcasts. And here he is—well, you know what? I’m just going to let it speak for itself.
Josh Howerton: And listen. I’m going to break these things down. Listen to me. Biblically. I’m going to break them down biblically because I want you to understand that what I’m saying is coming from God’s Word. Listen. Here’s why. So that you cannot argue with me. Listen. So you like—every time I make a point I want you to see that comes from God’s Word. So you might not like it. And you might not want to receive it. But if you resist it, you’re not resisting a pastor. You’re resisting God.
Rebecca: Something that I immediately think of is when I was being raised in my fundamentalist Baptist youth group we were constantly told about how Catholics quote weren’t really Christians. And I want to be clear. I don’t believe that. This is a bad belief in my mind. Right? And the big reason why we were always told is they said, “Well, the Catholics believe in the infallibility of the pope, so they believe in the pope over Scripture or even God because they make the pope—they say that the words of the pope are the words of God. And so, therefore, they don’t even believe in God.”
Sheila: Now we want to make it clear that that is not actually the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility.
Keith: It’s a straw man argument.
Rebecca: It’s also an excellent example of everything we’ve been talking about how maybe actually you should talk to some Catholics, guys. Maybe we don’t talk to Baptists who don’t like Catholics about what Catholics believe.
Keith: But don’t preach as an alternative the infallibility of Josh Howerton which is kind of what we’re doing.
Rebecca: That’s exactly it. This is exactly what I was told that my Catholic friends believe which, by the way, I didn’t agree with even when I was 12 years old because I actually knew Catholics. You need to know people outside of your thought bubble, guys.
Keith: Yeah. Because he doesn’t say, “I’m going to tell you this. I’m going to preach from the Bible, so that we can agree that a starting place is that Scripture is important.” He says, “So you can’t disagree with me.” He’s not saying, “So we can talk about what this means together. So we can delve into it. We can agree that this is God’s Word. Let’s talk about what it means.” It’s no. No. No. I’m coming with the interpretation, and I’m telling it to you. And that is the Gospel because it’s coming out of my mouth, so, therefore, it’s truth. And it’s God. And if you don’t agree with it, then the problem is with you. He is conflating his interpretation with Scripture with Scripture. He thinks he is speaking the Word of God. But what he’s speaking is his thoughts on the Word of God. You know what I’m saying?
Sheila: Well, it’s even beyond that. It’s even beyond that. He says, “If you’re disagreeing with me, you’re disagreeing with God.” He’s calling himself on the level of God. Does he not even hear himself?
Keith: Yeah. Because when you say something to this Tim Little guy, you were saying, “Well, this is our interpretation of those passages,” and he says, “Egalitarians are a rejection of the Gospel,” it’s like you’re saying, “I interpret the Bible different than you.” And he goes, “Well, then, you don’t believe it. Because if you don’t believe like me, you don’t believe it.” And that is a level of arrogance that is just miles beyond anything that I would kind of imagine myself getting to. It’s just crazy.
Sheila: Yeah. In Wesleyan thought, John Wesley had the—what he called the—or what became the Wesleyan Quadrilateral or the four ways that we can learn and know things. And it was made up of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. So you’re allowed to use all four. And the reason is because if we only use Scripture we can get into some bizarre interpretations. We need to use our reason and our tradition and our experience to help us understand some things because you can interpret Scripture all kinds of different ways, and we need to let all of these other things be part of our faith.
Keith: Exactly. But a lot of times in some of these spaces bringing anything outside the Bible to help us interpret what the Bible is saying is seen as a threat, right? Oh, you’re going to let the world tell you how to interpret the Bible. We know the interpretation, and you need to follow our interpretation. And this has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years. I mean I think about Galileo. So Galileo through his telescope saw things that convinced him that the sun does not go around the earth. Right? And that was a massive paradigm shift. That challenged people in the church at their core. Because was Galileo saying the Bible wasn’t true? Galileo wasn’t saying that. He even said that. He said, “I can’t believe that God would give us the capacity for intellect and then deny us its use.” So Galileo believed I can look at creation, and I can see truth because God is true. And God is trustworthy. And so when I read something in the Bible that says the sun rises and the sun sets and I see with my own eyes that actually the earth is going around the sun, I need to rethink how I interpret that Scripture. None of us has a problem today reading the sun rises and the sun sets and thinking that that means the Bible is not true.
Keith: But these issues like men are visual, we think that’s a biblical truth. And it’s like we need to say no. No. No. No. No. No. The things of the world are telling us that’s not true, and you’re making that a Gospel issue. The problem is with you. Sheila is not not preaching the Gospel. Sheila is preaching the Gospel, and you’re adding things to the Gospel that shouldn’t be there. And you don’t even realize it.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. There was an interesting thread on Twitter last week by Kristin Du Mez. So Kristin Du Mez—she’s been on the podcast before. She’s the author of the book Jesus and John Wayne, which looks at how modern evangelicalism became linked to white nationalism in the United States and has really lost the plot in terms of what Christianity is. And there was a critique written by, I think, Rosaria Butterfield?
Rebecca: Yeah. By Rosaria Butterfield.
Sheila: Yeah. And Kristin was just responding to it. I’m not going to read her thread, but I’ll link to it in the podcast notes if you want to see. Her thread went really big, and she posted the next day. “I love it when my critics actually get more eyeballs on my book,” because her pushback of the critics did really well. But one of the main points she was making was this, and I think it’s so, so important. Is that her critics were criticizing her because she wasn’t giving a Gospel message. All right? So she wasn’t—instead what she was doing was saying all the reasons why Christianity was wrong. And Kristin is like, “No. I wasn’t. I was giving all the reasons why this particular manifestation of Christianity is seriously flawed and how we got there,” which is what a historian does. But if you look further into the premise there that her critics had, it is that our particular manifestation of Christianity equals Christianity. So if you are critiquing us and the way that we are living out Christianity, it means you don’t believe Christianity, and you’re undermining everything. And Kristin is like, “Do you guys have any sense of history? This is really new. This is not how people saw Jesus even 200 years ago. Even 100 years ago. And let alone in the first or second century. This is something new, and we’ve got to grapple with that.” And sometimes when you live in a cave, you don’t realize, “Hey, the stuff that I’m believing—the stuff about Jesus I’m believing, this isn’t actually 2,000 years old. This is only 75 years old. And my version of Christianity is so narrow and so tiny and is losing the whole context of the history of Christendom.”
Rebecca: Well, when your whole goal is just to keep people in the cave looking at the shadows and not looking back at the fire, it seems really, really scary to be exposed to any beliefs that might tell people, “Hey, these shadows aren’t actually real. They are just a poor imitation of something that is true,” right? And we saw another example of this in a book review put out by Rachel Joy Welcher in Christianity Today for Shannon Harris Bonne’s book, The Woman They Wanted. The book—we actually went through it in our Patreon book club, which was quite fun to do with everyone.
Sheila: Yes. That was another perk for our patrons. So if you’re a member of our patron group, we are doing some book clubs as well.
Rebecca: Yeah. Exactly. But we went through this book and at the end, it’s very clear from the very beginning—
Sheila: Let’s just say Shannon Harris is Josh Harris’ ex-wife. So Josh wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
Rebecca: And Boy Meets Girl.
Sheila: And Boy Meets Girl. And they are now divorced, and Shannon is writing her story. And Shannon isn’t writing her story from a Christian point of view. She’s left the faith. But she’s talking about what it did to her.
Rebecca: Yeah. And she’s very upfront in all of her public personas that she is no longer Christian. She is not speaking at this from a Christian perspective. She’s speaking to this point from the perspective of someone who was the pastor’s wife of one of the largest mega churches and who now completely deconverted.
Sheila: And was the poster child for the purity culture movement. Yeah.
Rebecca: Exactly. And so this review ended up giving the book two and a half stars. And the main critique was that Shannon Harris presents the wrong Gospel and that the Gospel message wasn’t correct and that it doesn’t have an accurate view of Jesus. And so it got two and a half stars. And I’m just sitting there, and I’m reading this. And I’m like this is a book written by a currently agnostic woman, who was chewed up and spat out by the evangelical industrial complex writing about her experiences leaving the church. And we’re giving her two and a half stars for not being a Christian. That’s not fair. If I read a book on engineering practices, I can’t give it a one star. Should have had more dragons? That’s not logical. It’s not logical. It’s not fair. You can’t get mad at someone for simply having a different perspective. Now we really appreciated the author of the review. Her book, Talking Back to Purity Culture, is a fantastic book and was the starting point for a lot of people’s deconstruction journeys realizing, “Hey, maybe I was given a false set of goods. I was sold a false Gospel.” But that review docking her so many points for simply not giving a Gospel message that she agreed with that’s the whole problem. Why are we so afraid of listening to people who see things differently than us? When we could also just take that information, synthesize it, learn from it. It doesn’t have to be a threat.
Keith: One of the fundamental stories in Christianity is the Good Samaritan. Right? And how do you be a neighbor. Samaritans thought very, very differently than Jews. But a Samaritan is the hero, right? So we, as Christians, really need to listen to people who are no longer Christians about what Christianity is like today. We do not—we should not be shutting their voices out. We should be listening.
Sheila: Yeah. And that’s what Beth Allison Barr wrote in response to the review. One of her points was, “You should read her book. It doesn’t point you to Jesus. It shows how we pushed her away and left her to pick up the pieces.” And I think that is something that the church needs to grapple with. And so rather than complain that she doesn’t believe anymore, we need to confront the fact that we are largely responsible for pushing her away and for pushing so many others away. And what are we going to do about it? And that’s an important story that we need to listen to.
Rebecca: And I think the question—when we go back to that idea of Plato’s Cave, is why are we so afraid that someone reads a book from someone who leaves the church and has a different understanding of the story of Eve in the garden who isn’t a Christian anymore? We don’t have to agree with them. Why are we afraid? Because they might tell them, “Hey, there’s a fire back there. These shadows aren’t real.” And then what happens if people start questioning the shadows? What if they leave? Why can’t we just have a faith that doesn’t require that we believe in false shadows? If you have a faith that’s big enough for truth, you don’t have to be afraid to talk to people who disagree with you.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. And I think that that is what has happened is that we live in this evangelical culture that’s based largely on fear, so we have to cocoon. We have to make sure that our kids never are really exposed to outside thoughts. And we’re only going to have friends from our church. We’re going to work with Christians. We’re going to only Christian universities and institutions, so that we’re never really challenged. And the reason that is often given for this is, “Well, we’re under attack. We are under attack by the whole world, and so we have to just stay strong. And we’re better together. And so we’re going to just cocoon.” And I think what’s happened—and this is our third point that we want to get to is that this quest to cocoon and for ideological purity because we’re under attack, so we need to make sure that everyone believes just like we do. It’s really led to extremism. And even to stupidity in some cases, and it’s quite sad.
Keith: I think the idea of we’re under attack, again, getting back to what I said earlier, right? So in academia when an idea is put forward, it is engaged. And if you are willing to engage and learn and see the strengths and weaknesses of the argument, then things progress. But if you are unwilling to think of the possibility you might be wrong, that’s an attack. And the problem is that we’ve loaded so many things on to the Gospel. I mean, again, ridiculous that a guy is telling you you are not preaching the Gospel because of your take on foreplay. How did we get to that point in the evangelical church?
Rebecca: And the point is that it should happen.
Keith: How did that get to be the Gospel, right? Whether the earth was 6,000 years old, how did that get to be the Gospel? How did these things become the Gospel? And, of course, you’re under attack because your ideas—some of them are crazy. And that’s the thing. Is that because my idea is crazy and I believe it anyway it shows how faithful I am. Right? And so it generates extremism because it’s like all these feminists want women to be treated like human beings, but we, in the church, we’re going to stand against that. I’m being a bit sarcastic obviously. But it’s like the more extreme you can get—the tradwife and all this kind of stuff—we believe the Bible. And the more extreme you get the more it shows that you are the true believer because we’ve made belief despite evidence a virtue. It’s like that Sunday School—the joke in Sunday School. The Sunday School teacher said to the kids, “What’s faith?” And the little kid answered, “Faith is believing what you know isn’t true.” And that should be a joke. But in a lot of parts of the church, that’s kind of their working definition, and it’s sad. There are things about my faith that I’m pretty close to 100% sure of. Right? But there’s other things were I’m like it’s kind of 50/50. And I’m okay. And I’m okay actually with things changing categories because the people talk about being afraid their kids are going to go to university and lose their faith. Your mother and I were never afraid you guys were going to lose your faith. I mean Christianity is a robust intellectual tradition. I mean it’s got chops. It’s been around for 2,000 years. I mean it’s gone through—currently, we’re in postmodernism. That’s what we’re dealing with. But we’ve been through rationalism, enlightenment, medieval—every philosophy has had its crack at it. And 2,000 years later we’re still here. But the issue is when you want to attach a bunch of stuff that’s extraneous and make it quote the Gospel and if you don’t believe this whole package you’re not really a Christian and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s all or nothing. And you tell your kids, “Now go off to university.” Yeah. You should be scared. Right? But if you teach your kids Jesus Christ is the truth, God is not a trickster. If you can see in the world something that is true, then it’s true. So if I see in the world harm being done by a Christian doctrine, even if it’s just something as simple as preaching that the sun goes around the earth, if I see with my own eyes that’s not true, it’s okay for me to say, “Maybe I need to do some more learning in this area.” The contrast is dogmatism where you say, “I know the answers. Don’t confuse me with the facts.” And we’ve somehow made that a virtue, and it’s not. It’s the things that Jesus was fighting against. I mean Jesus kept saying things like, “You know the Scriptures.” They know them, but they weren’t putting them into practice. Jesus came against people thinking they knew all the answers, but not (cross talk) what God actually intended.
Rebecca: Well, and I think that also what we don’t realize—and I talked about this in the newsletter before is that when we act like we have all the answers and we cling to things that are anti evidence and anti science, it harms our witness so much. And the first time—because it makes people not trust us.
Keith: Whereas if he said, “I believe this, and it’s really, really important to me. And I believe it, and here’s the reasons why I believe it. But I’m totally interested in hearing what you believe and why you believe it. And I don’t feel personally attacked. Let’s just talk about the issue.” We would have a much better witness.
Rebecca: We would. And I think that—I’ve joked about this in the podcast and in the newsletter and in the Patreon group quite a bit is that the reason that I was a Brio girl and grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist youth group and didn’t end up believing any of the harmful stuff is because I stopped trusting teachers when I was 10 years old. Right? So I don’t know if I’ve told the story on the podcast before, but I’m going to tell you the story of the first time that I ever stood up to church leadership. I was 10 years old. It was in my Sunday School class. I was in grade 5/6 Sunday School class, and my Sunday School teacher starts talking about how the dinosaurs would have fit on the ark. And the dinosaurs were on the—are on Noah’s ark. And, again, I am 10 years old, guys. I have no social skills yet. Okay? I am still at the Rebecca carrying rocks in her pockets phase of social skill development. Okay?
Rebecca: I just start laughing out loud at my grown teacher, who is telling us that dinosaurs were on the ark. And he’s like, “Well, Rebecca, why are you laughing?” And I was like, “Well, the dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years by then.” Right? Because I was raised in a family where we looked at the scientific consensus and that didn’t challenge our faith. Right? We believed both science and Jesus and that they didn’t—they weren’t at odds, right? Hey, Jesus made science. And that was our family’s philosophy, so I didn’t realize that there were people who believed things that were scientifically disproven. And so I just start laughing at this guy. And, again, I am 10. I wouldn’t laugh at him now. Okay? I was 10. And he gets so flustered, red in the face. And he marches our whole Sunday School class out to the parking lot, and he makes me and three of the other kids stand at what would have been the four posts of the ark times 50. It would have been this big times 50. He looks at me all smug and goes, “So, Rebecca, you see? They would have fit on the ark.” And I’m like, “I never thought they wouldn’t fit on the ark. They were just all dead already.” And he gets mad again and starts going off about how like, “No. The dinosaurs were alive, and they did all this different stuff.” And one of the boys standing on corner three was like, “Rebecca, just tell him that the dinosaurs were on the ark, so we can get out of the rain and go back inside.” Right? And I’m just standing there, and I’m like, “But they weren’t.” And I’m 10. And I don’t understand why this is such a big deal. Because why do we need to pretend like something that isn’t real is real? And that was my first experience understanding that there are people who don’t actually want to listen to the arguments. And, again, we are of the opinion on this podcast, I will say, that you can believe whatever you want. Six day creation, evolution. You can believe dinosaurs were on the ark or not the ark, and I have the social skills now that I know how to respect people and not laugh at them.
Sheila: Yeah. It doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian.
Rebecca: It doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian. It doesn’t mean we don’t respect your opinion. It doesn’t mean I have really great friends who are on both sides of this, right? The issue is that my opinion that was based in reality based on the scientific community was called a lack of faith by my teacher. And so at age 10, I was like, “Well, these guys don’t know what’s going on.” And that’s what happened for me. And if that happened to me who was in love with the church and who felt so safe and happy there, what on earth does it do to our mission when we elevate this kind of belief foreclosure where we say, “Again, I’m going to believe in something even though it’s not true. No. Look at the shadows. There’s no fire. There’s no fire. There’s no fire. Look at the shadows. If you look back at the fire, you don’t have enough faith. If you look back at the fire, do you really trust God? Can’t you just be content with these shadows? This is what God gave us. If God gave us the shadows, it must be enough. The shadows are good enough for me because I believe in God. And any of you, heathens, trying to look back and say there’s a fire, you’re just saying you’re not content enough. And you need to work on your faith.” This is what it’s like, guys. And the people who are out there at the sun are looking at us and saying, “What on earth is going on?” And I had this experience in university too. That same church that had that Sunday School teacher was the same one who told me that when I went to university my professors were going to persecute me because of my faith. I can’t let them know I’m a Christian or else they’re going to unfairly grade my essays. You can’t let them know about your faith or else they’re going to think that you just—you’re not worthy of being there. They’re just going to be prejudiced against you. And then I got to university. And for awhile, I was very afraid to tell people I was a Christian. I actually really was. A lot of my professors in first and second year didn’t know that I was a Christian. But I started to realize that my profs actually don’t hate religious people. They don’t hate religion. And I ended up just getting to know my profs and being quite open about my faith. And guess what? I was still getting 90s. I had one prof, who was this tenured guy who is one of those profs who is like really old and is hanging out because he just wants to help kids learn to love learning and research again. And so he would have these long office hours over lunch time. And I would just go in and sit with him during—and we’d have lunch together and just talk about politics and social issues and religion and philosophy and all the things that you’re not supposed to talk to your secular profs about or else they’re going to hate you and grade you harshly. And I asked him at one point. I said, “I know you’re very anti religion. So what do you think about me being a Christian?” And he said, “Well, I don’t have a problem with religion. I have problem with people being brainwashed.” And he’s like, “I’m going to be honest.” And he told me, “You’re obviously not brainwashed. You’re able to talk about these things. You have reasons for what you believe. And we might disagree, but I respect your belief.” And I think that’s what we, in the church, don’t realize the world often respects is I have never actually really been anywhere that persecutes me because I’m a Christian. I’ve had a lot of people have bad beliefs about me because of my affiliation with Christianity. But once I show, hey, I actually do like data. I actually do want to act out my beliefs. I’m not chained looking at shadows. I understand that there’s a fire and a sun. They’re fine. Our witness is in peril here, guys. Having the Gary Thomases of the world say, “Well, this study from 2004 says what I want it to say, and so I’m going to keep promoting this. And I’m not going to realize I don’t have the education to make that call,” that’s hurting our witness. Do we or do we not care about the Gospel at this point? That’s my question.
Sheila: Yeah. Exactly. And I think what’s happening as we add all of these extraneous things onto the Gospel is that we are becoming more extreme because we’re saying if you don’t agree 100% with me you’re not a Christian. And then we’re starting to say, “If anyone affiliates with anyone who doesn’t agree 100%, then they need to be shunned.” And we’re seeing this on both sides actually. It’s not just—
Rebecca: Yeah. We’re seeing this in progressive Christians and (cross talk) Christians.
Sheila: Yeah. The fundamentalism is fundamentalism, and it can be on either side left or right. And so it’s like if this is the 100% that you need to agree with and someone is 87%, well, they may as well just be 0% because disagreeing with me on even just a few things means that I need to shun you. And increasingly, we’re getting into these echo chambers. And it’s not helpful. I think about Terran Williams on the podcast last week. And, honestly, if you haven’t listened to that episode, it was just beautiful. It was lovely. He was telling his story. He’s a South African pastor. Of starting to research complementarianism to prove it and he ended up changing his mind. And the podcast really isn’t about the why he changed his mind so much. We don’t go into the Scripture. We’ve done that in others. But it’s just more what happened to him and his story. And it was just lovely. But he was able to change his mind because he was open at looking at both sides. He was like, “No. I’m really going to look into this.” And I think of all the things that I have changed my mind about in the past. And it’s because people—it’s often because people within my echo chamber were brave enough to say something because we’re often so scared to say anything because we don’t want to be ostracized. And if you’re never allowed to believe anything other than this 100%, no one is ever going to grow. No one is ever going to grow, and that’s not safe. And it’s not okay. There’s a book that we’ve been reading. Joanna put us onto this. Joanna Sawatsky, coauthor for Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better, and our statistician. Called Unclean by Richard Beck. And he’s looking at the concept of disgust psychology and how that can inform the way that we see Jesus’ mission. It’s absolutely an amazing book. You guys are—you and Connor are running—
Rebecca: Yeah. We ran a book study with it for our church because Joanna told us it was an easy read because she’s very smart. So we were like, “Yes. Totally fine thing to run with the church Bible study.” It was very difficult of a read. It was a good read and a short read. But it’s definitely got some meat. Yeah.
Sheila: Yeah. I found it just fascinating. Early in the book as he is setting up his whole argument, he talks about the Dixie cup test. Okay? Which I’m going to explain to you what it is. Imagine that I handed all of you a Dixie cup, and I asked you to spit in it. Okay? So far so good. That’s not that big a deal. So you spit in the Dixie cup. Now imagine that I asked you to drink it. Yeah. Most people would be like, “No. I can’t do that.” And so—
Keith: Our own or other people’s?
Sheila: Your own.
Keith: Even your own. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Sheila: Yeah. So here is what Beck says about this. “Consider the peculiarities of the Dixie cup test. Few of us feel disgust swallowing saliva within our mouths. But the second the saliva is expelled from the body it becomes something foreign and alien. It is no longer saliva. It is spit. We don’t mind swallowing what is on the inside, but we are disgusted by swallowing something that is outside even if that something was on the inside only a second ago. In short, disgust is a boundary psychology. Disgust marks objects as exterior and alien. The second the saliva leaves the body and cross the boundary of selfhood it is foul. It is exterior. It is other. And this I realized is the same psychological dynamic at the heart of the conflict in Matthew 9.” And the conflict that he’s talking about is the story where the Pharisees are complaining that Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners. And He says, “It is not the healthy that need the doctor but the sick. And now go and learn what this means. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” So that’s what Beck is basing this book on. So he goes on to say, “Specifically, how are we to draw the boundaries of exclusion and inclusion in the lift of the church? Sacrifice, the purity impulse, marks off a zone of holiness admitting the clean and expelling the unclean. Mercy, by contrast, crosses those purity boundaries. Mercy blurs the distinction bringing clean and unclean into contact. Thus, the tension. One impulse, holiness and purity, erects boundaries while the other impulse, mercy and hospitality, crosses and ignores those boundaries. And it’s very hard, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see this to both erect a boundary and dismantle that boundary at the very same time. One has to choose.”
Rebecca: I think everyone is very aware of how much they have swallowed their own spit in the last few seconds.
Sheila: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. So he’s saying, look. Jesus comes into this, and He says you guys are trying to set these really high bars for who is allowed in and who you’re allowed to talk to and who you’re allowed to associate with. And that’s not what God does. God breaks down those barriers, and He says, “Hey, let’s be together. Let’s show mercy. Let’s have community. Let’s talk.” And I hope that that is something that the church can do because I’m worried that we’re losing it. I’m worried that we’re losing the ability to talk across the aisle and that we’re becoming so fractured and so much into echo chambers that we’re never going to grow. We’re never going to talk to anyone else. And we’re also not going to be effective. Let’s say that you have a doctrine that you believe in strongly. For us, it might be women’s equality. For you, it might be something else. If you’re saying that if there’s an organization, a person, an entity, a church who doesn’t hold that belief then I will never talk to them or anyone who is affiliated with them, how am I ever going to spread my belief if this is something which is really important to me? And also how am I going to make sure my belief is tested well? Because if I never talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with it then is my belief even tested well? We have to be able to talk. And if we’re going to influence the Christian community to grow beyond the Jesus and John Wayne as Kristin Du Mez says or to deal with the things that Shannon Harris brought up in her book or to deal with new scientific information about the visual nature and how that’s going to be incorporated in our marriage literature, if we’re going to encourage to do any of these things, we have to be able to talk to the church. We have to be able to talk to people who don’t necessarily believe the same way that we do. And that means we have to resist the pull of echo chambers. We just have to. It’s hurting our politics. It’s hurting our religion. It’s hurting everything. And it isn’t of Jesus because Jesus doesn’t keep erecting higher and higher boundaries to keep us pure and safe from outsiders. He pulls those boundaries down because He desires mercy and not sacrifice.
Rebecca: He’s a purifying force. There’s this idea in Beck’s book where we’re so afraid of contamination. And we’re so afraid that if I talk to the wrong person then their sin will rub off on me. We have that concept of if I’m around something dirty I feel dirty even if I didn’t touch it. But the whole point of Christ is that He can’t be contaminated. We can’t be contaminated. We are purifying forces when we’re in Christ. We bring goodness.
Sheila: We’re salt of the earth.
Rebecca: We’re salt of the earth. But you can’t be salt of the earth in a tiny, little salt shaker on the top left corner of the cabinet above the stove where you don’t actually have to touch anything else. It’s like I’m over here. I’m ready to be salty. I don’t want to (cross talk).
Keith: I’m perfect salt. I’m perfect salt in its original form.
Keith: So that’s called useless.
Sheila: So that is our call is let’s stop the pull for echo chambers. Let’s realize that God is big enough to answer our questions and that we don’t have to stay in the cave and hold on to God because God created the fire and the sun and the outside too. And we don’t need to be scared of truth. And that’s the kind of faith that kids will hang on to. But if we give kids a faith that’s a house of cards where if you leave the cave, everything will fall apart. I think that’s why people are losing the faith. And so we need to do this better. Our witness depends on it. Our kids depend on it. The quality of our faith, the robustness of our faith depends on it. We need to stop the pull of echo chambers. And we need to look at the big wide world outside because God made it. So thank you for joining us on the Bare Marriage podcast. Thank you for listening to us rant about something which is really near and dear to our hearts. And if you want to continue this critical thinking journey, how can I think beyond my echo chamber, I really encourage you to take a look at our Fixed It for You book. I’ve set it up as a devotional. We’ve got 30 different terrible quotes by different evangelical authors that I have fixed. And in the process of fixing, that actually is a great conversation starter to help people see beyond their echo chamber. So you can use it to journal yourself or you can use it as a discussion starter with your spouse or your best friend or even your small group. It’s really inexpensive, and I will put a link in the podcast notes to our Fixed It for You book. But thank you for joining us. Remember to check out our Patreon group and even join our email list so that you will be notified if I’m ever speaking in your area. Just this week I was in Grand Rapids. And in November, December, I’m going to be in Australia and New Zealand, so I would love to see some of you there as well. So join our email list. Join our Patreon and just be part of this whole movement to change the conversation about sex and marriage in the evangelical church with us. So thank you and see you next time. Bye-bye.