Merry Christmas Eve, all y’all! It’s time for the decking of halls, a weekly/monthly/annual trip to church, and my annual AMA thread here on reddit!

I’ve been in parish ministry for a decade now—nearly seven years as a full-time solo pastor and a combined three years in two different intentionally temporary positions—and I am currently in my denomination’s search and call process for a new pastorate as I anticipate that the congregation I currently serve on an interim basis will find a permanent associate pastor sometime in 2020.

So…ask me almost anything (usual disclaimers to follow), whether it’s about Christmas, Christianity, the Bible, the church, how much wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood…whatever it is, go for it. I won’t answer a question in a way that would require any betrayal of confidences of any congregants I have ministered to, and I am not speaking here in any official capacity for any of the religious organizations I am affiliated with: my denomination, my region which issues my ministry credentials, the congregation I currently serve, or my publisher.

Speaking of my publisher, my second book, On Earth as it is in Heaven: A Faith-Based Toolkit for Economic Justice is now available for preorder direct from my publisher, Church Publishing, as well as from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and plenty of other outlets, along with my debut book, Oregon Trail Theology: The Frontier Millennial Christians Face—And How We’re Ready.

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/CCp8d14 and https://twitter.com/RevEricAtcheson/status/1209499391796498435

Last few AMAs:

2016

2017

2018

Update: Well y'all, that's a wrap on this year's Christmas AMA! I always enjoy these, and I hope you do as well. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year--have a blessed holiday season, whatever it is you may celebrate! God bless.

Comments: 1173 • Responses: 92  • Date: 

agreeablelobster937 karma

I replaced the baby Jesus in my parents nativity scene with a baby Yoda this morning. What can I say to calm down my mother when she notices that I ruined Christmas?

revanon1257 karma

Ask yourself if it is really true that you have ruined Christmas by doing this. After all, many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

TheFirstAndrew819 karma

To everyone replying to this seriously: He's quoting Star Wars, you walnuts.

revanon968 karma

I never thought to use "walnuts" as a G-rated epithet, but now that my daughter is old enough to repeat back what I say, I'm in need of some. Thank you for this unexpected Christmas gift.

IamSortaShy16 karma

You sound like Mr. Fred Rodgers with his ability to take anything as a compliment and thank the person who gave it to him.

With such a wonderful attitude your soul must be at peace.

revanon44 karma

St. Fred and I exist on entirely different levels. He had that sort of peace you speak of, and which I still seek, and one day hope to find in full and not merely in glimpses and moments.

agreeablelobster383 karma

From my point of view my mother is evil

revanon673 karma

Then you are lost.

ClassicVeterinarian290 karma

I have a question that’s been bugging me for a while and I’ve never really been able to find a concise answer for it, so I want your opinion.

I’m a gay Catholic and I’ve been struggling with how “natural” and “normal” it is to be gay. Ask anyone and they’ll probably tell you homosexuality is wrong, and it says so in the Bible.

But others will say in the Bible it says you cannot eat shellfish, pork, or combining fabrics in clothing etc., and people do these things everyday. Who says homosexual behaviors does not fit with a list of things the Bible forbids, but is now “okay?”

Some might say the Bible passage in Leviticus 18:22 ““Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”” means you can’t partake in premarital sex with someone of the same gender, and does not mean you cannot have relations with another man.

I also always find it weird that being gay is natural and it’s not a choice. Science reportedly backs this up, and I’m sure just about gay will tell you they didn’t chose this life. So if it’s natural and normal and not a choice, why is it wrong? Why give humans a tendency they cannot control, and make it a sin? It would be wrong if a gay went to marry someone of opposite gender, as the love would not be completely sincere and real.

So am I doomed to hell for being gay? Or what is the churches official concrete teaching if homosexuality? If you’re not comfortable responding for whatever reason, I totally understand.

I wish you the best, and a merry Christmas!

revanon954 karma

At top: You are not doomed to hell for being gay. Full stop. That is a destructive lie that has sadly been perpetuated for decades by queerphobic pastors and churches to incredibly hurtful effect to LGBTQ persons and youths. The church--not you--urgently needs to repent of that lie.

The "clobber passages" you speak of like Leviticus 18:22 (or Romans 1:26-27) are based, I believe, in specific cultural expectations that may have been applicable then, but most certainly are not now, and it is a profound mistake for Christians to act as though those verses translate perfectly to today when it is clear that sexual orientation and identity was not understood then as it is now.

God did not set you up to be doomed to hell. If your relationship with another person of the same sex as you is built upon consent and mutual love, I believe God cherishes that just as God cherishes the love of any other opposite-sex couple. And I think that God sees your faith and does not see it as being in opposition to your sexual orientation.

This is what I personally teach regarding homosexuality, and I hope it is of meaning for you in some way. I hope you hear me when I say that God loves you just as God loves all of us, and did not make you gay in order to send you to hell. Merry Christmas, and please reach out via DM if you feel the need.

Edit: Thank you for the gold!

unMuggle57 karma

How then do we determine what is important to follow today and what we can disregard? How do we know what god expects of us if our only manual is outdated. And why, if being gay is not a death worthy crime in God’s eyes now, did God not just set that expectation then in the Bible?

I’d appreciate your response, because I’m a Bi atheist that would like some biblical reasoning so I can show my religious family why, in their own worldview, they are wrong about me.

revanon203 karma

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked what the most important law is. He names two--love of God (Deuteronomy 6:5), and love of neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). But then He adds this: "On these hang the entirety of the Law and the Prophets."

Jesus is a rabbi debating with other rabbis, and He is interpreting the Scriptures in such a way as to say, "If you aren't doing these two things, it doesn't matter whether you think you're doing the rest or not." Now, Christians might use this to say "We don't have to care about the Law!" which is unhelpful and a pretty straight line towards interpreting the Bible antisemitic ways. But I do think we Christians would do well to approach the entirety of our tradition--Scriptures and all--with that hermeneutic. Does this thing we are doing contribute to love of God and love of neighbor? And I would say that in the case of queerphobia and all of its toxic fruit--conversion therapy, marriage bans, the works--the evidence comes down overwhelmingly that it has contributed to neither love of God or love of neighbor, and so should be discarded and repented for.

ThadPol18 karma

So I am a Christian and I'm just curious if you think that the first commission "be fruitful and fill the earth" doesn't contradict this. I know that Catholic used to think that sex outside of the purpose of making children was sinful thus the whole 12 kids per Catholic family joke.

DoctorMumbles40 karma

Obviously I’m not OP, but I would think that following that commission would be very silly and demeaning to those who just cannot bear children due to some defect.

revanon50 karma

This. Such a perspective excludes a lot of people who want to have kids but cannot, or who don't want to have kids but had that choice made for them, or people too old to have kids, etc.

hardcoreironmen219 karma

As someone who wants to learn more about Christianity purely out of curiosity and not religious intent, where can I start learning? I feel overwhelmed with the amount of books, information and testaments out there. Thank you!

revanon198 karma

There is definitely a deluge of reading material out there (to which I fear I've contributed with my own books!). Is there a topic in particular within Christianity that most piques your curiosity--i.e., the Bible, church history, etc.? I can definitely offer you some good starting points for whichever of those areas of Christianity stand out to you.

hardcoreironmen114 karma

I'm interested in the differences and similarities between Christianity and Judaism & Islam, the History of Christianity (especially around Jesus' time) and the historical accuracy in general. To be honest, I know so little with regards to religion. So it's difficult to find literature without it depending on me understanding the references it throws. So anything without relying on me knowing too much will do! Thank you!

revanon262 karma

The Jewish New Testament (a New Testament with commentary by Jewish Bible scholars) is fantastic in explaining some of the differences between Christianity and Judaism and the history of Jesus's time. It is a mainstay on my shelf and gets consulted for many of my sermons. Kristin Swenson's Bible Babel is also a good multipurpose introduction to much of what you raise here, and it's written to specifically be an introductory text.

Finally, if it doesn't offend you to have a book that was originally marketed for teenagers recommended, How Do You Spell God by Tom Hartman and Marc Gellman is honestly the best intro to differences and similarities between faith traditions that I've ever read, even now, over twenty years after it first came out. They write lovingly and respectfully of both their faiths and the faiths of others, and the breadth of information in there is such that I feel like most anyone would learn something from them.

seaweaver7 karma

You might be interested in Rob Bell’s new (ish) book, What is the Bible. Gives a lot of background. He’s a pretty controversial guy but I’ve always enjoyed his writing and his open hearted welcome to spiritual things.

revanon31 karma

TBH I think Rob Bell is controversial solely becomes he comes from evangelicalism. He is insightful in a number of ways, but if he had made those insights as a mainline pastor instead of an evangelical one, white evangelicalism wouldn't have tried to cancel him years before "cancel culture" even became a term. Just my theory, though.

cammoblammo4 karma

For sure. He didn’t say anything particularly controversial, and most of what he said was entirely within the purview of historic evangelicalism. I mean, CS Lewis said the same things a couple of generations earlier and is an evangelical saint.

Bell started writing right when evangelicalism decided to go nuts. It always had a lunatic fringe, but they doubled down during, I guess, Obama’s presidency. The gatekeepers really went to work.

revanon7 karma

All fair points. C.S. Lewis would have been farewell-ed from American white evangelicalism long ago if he had existed today. The gatekeepers are indeed working overtime.

twcochran-10 karma

Sir Richard Dawkins is a well respected authority on the subject, and has written several excellent books.

revanon9 karma

I wouldn't call Richard Dawkins "well respected" personally, for things that go well beyond what he does or does not think about Christianity.

MrKekklesworth184 karma

Do you believe the 5 billion odd people not born into christianity are all going to hell as a result of their incredibly unlikely propensity to convert? Do you really think you have the one true answer - youve cracked the code - and the religious experience and learnings of billions of others is just the devil or plain wrong?

revanon394 karma

To your first question: No. Even if we take Jesus's "I am the way, the truth and the life, nobody comes to God except through me" pronouncement in John in the narrowest possible sense (which I am not advising), Jesus also says in John that we are not judged until the Last Day, not when we die--which to me suggests that right relationship with God through Jesus is still possible even after we die.

To your second question: In my personal lived experience, the religion that contains the most truth has been Christianity. That does not mean other faiths are completely devoid of truth, or are rooted in devil-worship. It simply means that my experience of truth has come through Christianity.

Edit: Thank you for the gold!

maryg95030106 karma

I would also read C S Lewis and his opinions, who is an interesting author as he was an atheist converted to Christianity (Anglicanism) by J R R Tolkien. I like his last book of the Chronicles of Narnia as it describes hell as a separation of from God and respects those who follow a different faith.

revanon132 karma

Lewis's The Great Divorce helped me significantly in understanding the concept of hell beyond the fire and brimstone that gets bandied about by my fundamentalist colleagues.

Portarossa15 karma

Have you got any thoughts on Mere Christianity? I've literally just finished it this afternoon and, all things considered, I found it pretty interesting (although I admit, I preferred the in-the-moment sense of questioning in A Grief Observed as a way of grappling with the big questions).

Do you find Lewis's trilemma a good argument for faith?

revanon14 karma

I've read Mere Christianity several times and I think it has its uses, but it is overrated compared to the rest of Lewis's bibliography (and the wider 20th century Christian bibliography, which is a rich vein indeed).

The trilemma is an interesting argument, but I think fundamentally incomplete. Jesus took on heroic qualities to some of His followers that perhaps don't quite fit neatly into the liar-lunatic-lord trifecta.

Willnixon170 karma

How confident are you that god exists?

revanon400 karma

Confident enough to be cashing in all my chips on this hand.

Which I do think is a helpful analogy--because I may believe it best based on all the evidence around me to cash in those chips on this hand, but I still have to be humble enough to leave open the possibility that I may have gotten it wrong, even though I believe I am making the correct decision. God is big enough to confound me, that's for sure.

Offal_is_Awful128 karma

FlatcapJoe150 karma

You know, I may not have much to contribute about your question, but if like to reply if I can. I think Pascal's Wager is an interesting starting point for belief in God, but that's all it is: a starting point. It presupposes that fear is the motivation and that humanity as it stands has nothing to lose. We should understand that the existence of God means a great deal more good than His non-existence, and that "God" as a word carries connotations with it that can in themselves change how we behave, hopefully for the better. God as the metaphysical being that created us, loves us, and wants us to be with Him extends well beyond the reaches of the Wager. That is where a leap of faith is necessary, though difficult as I have personally found out.

revanon112 karma

I wholeheartedly agree that all Pascal's wager represents is a starting point, and with much of your critique of it.

revanon114 karma

I have my own bill of particulars with Pascal's wager, but I do feel that I have gained much more from my faith than if I hadn't had my faith.

n3rv0u5163 karma

Are Christmas trees a sin?

revanon662 karma

Only if you decorate them with Jersey Shore ornaments: https://www.thewrap.com/jersey-shore-christmas-ornaments-snooki-situation-pauly-d/

Too-Far-Frame159 karma

What are your thoughts on so many Evangelicals defending\flocking to Donald Trump?

revanon548 karma

I think that the groundwork for white Christians (including white evangelicals) stanning hard for this president was laid forty years ago, when white segregationist Christians formed the modern version of the Religious Right to oppose Jimmy Carter (who they saw as a turncoat for embracing school integration), and that the damage this has done to the church's image and witness will take generations to undo.

Edit: Thank you for the gold!

WithoutBlinders149 karma

I'm curious to know about your "prayer life". What would a snapshot show in terms of when/how/where you pray?

revanon234 karma

I often use time spent in movement--like exercising, walking my dogs, or commuting to/from work--in prayer time. If I'm not on the phone, I'm usually listening to jazz--which has lots of spiritual elements--or in silence before the Holy Spirit. Not that I'm incapable of praying while still, but those are the times I have found it easiest to discern and pray, so I've tried to set those aside as such. My wife and I also pray with our daughter around the table before dinner every night, and we often read Scripture together in the evenings for a bit after we've put our daughter to bed.

emily_strange58 karma

What kind of jazz are you listening to these days? I’m a big art blakey fan. Also Mingus, bill evans and Ahmad jamal.

revanon139 karma

Those guys are all great. I played saxophone for years, so I'm a big fan of Parker, Adderley, Coltrane, Pepper, et al. And I'm from the Kansas City area, so of course I could listen to Count Basie for days.

From living artists, I think Esperanza Spalding, Avishai Cohen, and Pharaoh Sanders do some really great and interesting work.

blackbeetle136 karma

I had to double check your verification. You sound like a friend of mine in Arkansas that is a saxophone playing Pentecostal minister.

revanon6 karma

LOL I'm neither Pentecostal or from Arkansas. :)

ABSelect14 karma

can you expand on jazz having spiritual elements? do you mean that specifically in relation to christianity or meditation in general?

revanon39 karma

Both, as well as non-Christian faith traditions. There is a strong infusion of Christianity in much of jazz from its black trail blazers and artists, but non-Christians also infuse jazz with their traditions. Jim Pepper, who I think I listed earlier, was an indigenous artist who used spiritual chants from his heritage in many of his songs, probably most famously Witchi Tai To.

tjkb130 karma

What do you think about the possibility of other life out in the universe? That is on par with humans?

revanon256 karma

I am completely agnostic on the possibility of life beyond Earth. I do believe it to be completely within God's creative power to make, if God has indeed chosen to do so.

cpdonny129 karma

Who is on the front lines fighting the supposed war on Christmas?

According to my loud neighbors Barack Obama made it illegal to wish Merry Christmas.

revanon216 karma

The church's front lines are a mix of true believers in this fiction and double agents like myself who are heartily sick of the "Christmas creep" on the calendar.

I'm not quite sure who is supposed to be on the other side of the front lines but according to your loud neighbors it's probably a swarm of godless communists led by Rachel Maddow.

cpdonny81 karma

That's awful! Where would one join these godless commies led by Rachel Maddow?

revanon161 karma

Presumably while attending a secular college?

RichHixson102 karma

How can I pray for you right now?

revanon117 karma

Thank you! I think I mentioned in my intro that I'm in my denomination's search and call process for a new permanent pastorate as I anticipate wrapping up my current interim gig in 2020. Search and call is simultaneously lonely and exciting, and I definitely appreciate prayers for navigating it well.

RichHixson49 karma

I will pray for you. May you be blessed with the warmth of His presence during this season.

God Bless.

revanon48 karma

Christmas blessings to you as well!

INoahABC97 karma

What is your most convincing argument for a god, and not just any god, the Christian God?

revanon177 karma

I think God as revealed through Jesus Christ is meant to be understood on the basis of lived experience at least as much, if not more so, as on the basis of any philosophical argument. For many people, that is not part of their lived experience either because they practice another faith tradition or have chosen to practice no faith tradition, and I respect that.

EspressoLove51764 karma

Opinion on “Rappin’ for Jesus?”

revanon199 karma

Is this a reference to the Youtube video from several years ago? It's funny enough, but tbh I'm not the biggest fan--not because I'm a stick in the mud about my faith (far from it) but because it doesn't feel quite right for white Christians to take a genre like rap and...do that with it, even in satire.

drmarting2510256 karma

I'm very much an atheist but do love xmas. Do u really believe this date is the birth of christ? What do u think about the coincidence of the Christian calendar with the pagan one?

Just curious! No wrong answers and Happy Christman whatever anyone believes!

revanon151 karma

As I think I noted elsewhere, there is no Biblical or contemporaneous historical evidence to state that December 25 was in fact the day Jesus was born. He could have been born in August for all we know. I personally have no problem celebrating His birth tomorrow, but then again it's not my birthday the church potentially got wrong for centuries.

Crabmeatz56 karma

Do pedophiles choose to be religious leaders, or does the unearned trust and free access to kids turn decent men into predators? Should church leaders who prey on kids be forgiven by the communities and keep their position?

revanon171 karma

I fear I lack the psychological and criminal justice expertise to answer your first question. As to your second, abusive church leaders absolutely should not keep their positions (or their ministry credentials for that matter), and whenever possible, they should be criminally prosecuted. What forgiveness looks like is up to each victim, and I don't necessarily get to tell them what that looks like.

ksr14148 karma

A couple questions from a rationalist non-believer.

Do you believe that God can affect change in the universe through a super natural force (the Holy Ghost or some other agent)? Meaning, does God routinely violate the laws of thermodynamics by influencing the universe through a non-natural means (for example, turning water into wine)?

Do you believe that God influences the fate of people - a round-about way of asking if you believe prayer has a tangible benefit, despite there being no evidence for it (for example, the death rate among Christian vs. Non-Christian cancer patients is exactly the same in spite of fervorous prayer)

If the answer to both of these is “no” - God doesn’t violate the physics of the universe on a whim and God doesn’t change the luck of people that believe in him, I ask you if it matters at all whether one believes in God or not?

My view has been that the answer to that question is “no” - the universe truly doesn’t care if you believe or not, as God cannot affect the universe in any tangible way. So faith is entirely about finding mental solace for the believer. Do you think there are other more productive ways humanity could achieve this same comfort (therapy, community building, etc)? Why is belief in God necessary?

revanon41 karma

In order:

Yes, God is capable of supernatural action, such as turning water into wine.

I believe prayer has a tangible benefit, but more for the person doing the praying or being prayed for rather than for God. Which is to say, I don't think God intervenes as a direct result of our prayers (as you note, prayer is hardly a vaccination against dying from cancer--and I think most Christians would agree with you), but rather, prayer as a spiritual discipline is capable of changing us.

I believe that certainly part of faith is mental solace for the believer, but it is by no means the only part, or even the most important part. Nor is faith mutually exclusive with therapy, and a big part of faith is community building.

To me, faith is necessary as a response to my own lived experience. Without it, my life would be demonstrably less full, and I wouldn't have been able to do some of the good I hope I have done. To me, that's a pretty important necessity.

MarveliteFreak43 karma

Were you religious as a kid?

revanon57 karma

I think I noted elsewhere that my dad is not particularly religious, but my mom is, and she raised me and my sister in the church.

woharris39 karma

Does it ever annoy you that people only come to church on Christmas and Easter and ignore the parish the rest of the year?

revanon195 karma

I mean, should it annoy the NFL that lots of people only watch the Super Bowl (and even then, some only for the commercials)? They're still taking the time to tune in when they could be doing literally anything else.

Time to sit in God's house is a gift, especially in our culture that fetishizes productivity and shames sabbath-making. To give me that gift, even just a couple of times a year, is still a gift to be grateful for.

Nubatack39 karma

How much longer do you think church is going to last?

revanon87 karma

In South America and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of Asia, the church is going very strong. If you're referring to the North American and European churches (and the predominantly white denominations within that tradition), I would say that they will continue to exist in some form, albeit much smaller unless we are well and truly willing to discard some unhealthy aspects of the church's public image and stances.

Even if we do not do those things, though, the church as the Body of Christ will continue to exist, even without the church as it once existed during the Leave it to Beaver heyday. And it's important for us in the church to remember that. As Luke said to Rey in The Last Jedi (I haven't seen Rise of Skywalker yet, so no spoilers y'all), "To say that if the Jedi die the light dies is vanity."

troutscockholster11 karma

unless we are well and truly willing to discard some unhealthy aspects of the church's public image and stances.

How much do you think the internet affects church membership. In the past, people looked to elders and religious leaders for answers and now everything can be "googled?"

revanon9 karma

Google's algorithms aren't a substitute for the advice someone with your best interests at heart can offer you. Google can definitely steer you wrong, down internet rabbit holes, into hate-filled areas, etc.

The internet has democratized a lot of information, almost surely for the better, but it has also made accessible a lot of hate and misinformation. It is a double-edged sword for sure.

k8_ninety-eight35 karma

What made you decide to get into your profession?

revanon137 karma

Even though part of me knew since I was a little kid that this is what I wanted to do (when I was in elementary school, I told an auntie of mine that I wanted to be a Biblical prophet when I grew up), I honestly for years never thought that I could be a pastor because I didn't fit in with the white evangelical backdrop of where I was raised.

It took an incredibly dramatic weekend in which I preached the morning after we got that 2:00am phone call that nobody wants to get, saying that a childhood friend of mine had been in a car wreck and killed immediately for me to really believe I could and should do this. It was the weekend of my senior prom as well as the state forensics championships and was supposed to be one of the best weekends of my young life, and it wound up being the one of the worst. But I still preached, and during, as I struggled to talk, I stepped into the sunlight that was beaming down through the skylights in the sanctuary roof, and it felt like the Acts 2 story of the Holy Spirit coming down on the apostles and travelers.

Then afterward, two different fathers--mine and my friend's--had conversations with me that really convinced me. My dad was in the audience at church that day (he's a "CEO"--a "Christmas and Easter Only" guy, but if I was preaching, he'd be there), and he said that I needed to at least consider ministry as a career. And my friend's dad made me promise to live for his son and do things his son now never could. I told him I would, and fifteen years later, I still don't want to do anything else with my life.

localhost8734 karma

How do you rationalize celebrating Jesus' birth during the winter solstice, when according to biblical events it occured during the Spring equinox?

Further, how do you rationalize that the biggest holiday you have was moved to the same date as astrological events, that ultimately were the basis of pagan beliefs that predate christianity by 1000s of years?

revanon99 karma

As I've noted a couple other places here, there's of course no Biblical or contemporaneous historical evidence of Jesus being born on December 25, but I'm still happy to celebrate Him tomorrow. We don't have evidence that the earth was created on April 22, but that's still Earth Day, y'know?

promixr32 karma

Why specifically do many Christians claim there is a ‘War On Christmas?’ Is there a specific event, public policy, group, or religion responsible, and how so?

revanon100 karma

IIRC Bill O'Reilly declared on television that there was a war on Christmas like a decade ago or so. Honestly, it's just a way for (mostly white) American Christians to pretend like they're persecuted when they really aren't. It's like the God's Not Dead or Left Behind franchises--fiction created to act as proof that white American Christians are persecuted, because actual proof doesn't really exist.

gr8artist26 karma

Why do so many people who believe in the bible oppose abortion? First, the bible describes a means and method for abortion (Numbers 5, "Test for an Unfaithful Wife"). Second, God often orders or permits the killing of children by israelites (1 Samuel 15). Third, wouldn't a child who died without committing any sin go straight to heaven, without chance of hell (ie, best case scenario for their soul)? I'm sure it'll be a recurring talking point next year, though one that I've never understood.

revanon77 karma

I see sexism and patriarchy in the church that can spill over into this particular topic, and it creates even further incongruities. Like, accessible contraception has been documented to demonstrably reduce the number of abortions in areas where it has been tried. But lots of us won't get behind that because policing sexuality is still seen as more important than reducing abortions.

HoboLazer24 karma

Which books of the Bible get the most air time in your sermons?

revanon52 karma

I keep a record of all the sermons I preach to make sure that I'm serving up a balanced diet, so to speak, of different parts of the Bible, but I probably preach on the New Testament more frequently than I do on the Tanakh (the Old Testament), not because I think the Tanakh is bad--on the contrary, it's quite awesome--but my Biblical studies background is in Greek instead of Hebrew, so I'm best equipped for interpreting the New Testament texts. Within the NT, I probably preach a bit more on the Gospels than the Epistles, but I do still like the Epistles--James, Philippians, and Philemon are among my favorites.

FlatcapJoe7 karma

With regard to your studies, how difficult was it to learn Greek? Would you consider tackling some Hebrew at some point?

revanon25 karma

Very difficult, for me at least. I probably worked as hard on my Greek as on my other classes combined and I still got lousy grades. But I also had classmates for whom it came quite naturally. If I could go back and do seminary again, I definitely would have taken a Hebrew class at some point.

Domermac24 karma

With so much discovery with regards to space and foreign objects in the past 50 Years. Why do you think there has been no contact from god regarding extraterrestrial objects or extraterrestrial matter in general?

revanon56 karma

Has there really been no contact from God regarding outer space? Buzz Aldrin took communion on the moon. Ilan Ramon brought a Shabbat kiddush text with him into space. I just saw a photo on Twitter from a Jewish astronaut with menorah socks to celebrate Hanukkah in space. Maybe God has been in contact with us in outer space all along?

Domermac27 karma

I see what you’re saying, but those examples all seem like people searching for god. There isn’t anything in gods text that prepares or instructs us what we should be doing or expect in outer space. I’m wondering why we haven’t received any instruction from Him regarding these issues now that they are real. The bible teaches us how to behave and live on earth but not outside of it. Your thoughts?

revanon28 karma

I can't speak to Jewish Shabbat tradition as any sort of expert, but significant parts of Christian tradition teach that God is in fact present as part of communion. I don't think it's problematic to suggest God is present on the moon then. If I see the moon as part of God's creation, why wouldn't I want to see God as present in that part of creation?

splitcroof920 karma

What's there to gain from "god" to do things so incredibly subtle that we can't possibly notice it. Why even bother? I like most of your other answers but this one is just way to cheesy and not saying anything.

revanon3 karma

I'm genuinely sorry that religious practices steeped in centuries of meaning for their followers seem cheesy to you.

zipippino19 karma

I live in a 99% catholic country so forgive me if i make some mistakes about that: the explanation catholic priests give to the question "Why can't you marry?" is usually "Because my love goes to Jesus only" and stuff like that. Being a pastor i think you can marry, why do you think it's fair then?

I'm atheist but as i said, i live in a very religious country so my mind has been set on this 1-million questions for a while

revanon35 karma

I am not Catholic and so I cannot really speak to the individual motives of Catholic priests and sisters who take vows of celibacy. I can say that for many of them whom I have met and become acquainted with, it is an incredibly meaningful vow to make.

zipippino10 karma

I know. I mean, what do you think it's the motivation behind the fact you can actually marry even if you're a priest?

revanon45 karma

I'm not sure. If I belonged to a tradition that demanded a vow of celibacy in order to become clergy, I don't think I could have done it. I love having a family.

zipippino12 karma

I think that's a thing that nowadays in catholic countries holds back many young people , even if they are christian, from clergy. Thanks for answering. Merry christmas to you and your family.

revanon15 karma

And to you and yours!

justz00t16 karma

What do you think about those UFOs the Navy has been chasing?

revanon113 karma

I have full confidence in Agents Mulder and Scully, under Assistant Director Skinner, uncovering the truth. Which is out there.

Zimlem14 karma

How do you feel about absurdly wealthy televangelists and mega-preachers (Osteen, Duplantis, Copeland)? I do my best to keep any and all hate from my heart, but the one subject that I can't seem to reconcile as forgivable is the use of my God, my faith, my church to prey on the vulnerable. I love everyone and I forgive these men, but I can't help but see the embodiment of evil in them.

revanon38 karma

I think they are a blight upon my faith, and I understand from familial experience the strong feelings you have about such figures and how they prey on people who often have little money left to give.

If you have HBO (or a loved one who will give you their password), The Righteous Gemstones is a pretty solid send-up of that brand of Christianity, and I have found it both enjoyable and cathartic to binge-watch.

PiratusInteruptus13 karma

How can an all seeing, all powerful, all knowing, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, et al coexist with free will?

If you tell me that god knows everything past, present, and future, then he knew that I would type this. Therefore, that is predestination and not free will.

revanon27 karma

I believe that God can see all possibilities of what we might do, while knowing that just one possibility will take place as a result of our free will and social systems. To me, that is still a form of omniscience.

DontExpectMuch13 karma

Can a wealthy Christian exist?
When I was in church I thought if I really believed the Bible, I would exhaust every resource to help others and spread the faith. How much picking & choosing can one do before they are just members of a social club?

revanon39 karma

Yes, a wealthy Christian can exist. Many rich people self-identify as Christian.

I think what you're asking me is if said wealthy people are fully living out Christianity as taught by Jesus, and my answer would be that we are very good at creating moral loopholes and exceptions for ourselves concerning many things, chief among them wealth. Jesus unambiguously condemns wealth, and early disciples who were wealthy were expected to sell all they owned and give the proceeds to the early church, who in turn distributed it according to need. That is...not what we do today, for the most part.

Renovatio_12 karma

I got a weird question.

If God is flawless and omnipotent/omniscient does God know what it feels like to sin?

revanon17 karma

God is definitely capable of regret (God expresses such regret at various points in Scripture, initially at the start of the Noah and the flood story), which I feel like is a very human feeling to experience as a result of sinning. So...yes?

darkenigma7511 karma

Is it true christ wasnt born on Christmas but the celebration of his birth was moved to this time to coincide with a current pagan holiday already in practice?

revanon25 karma

It is true that there are no Biblical or contemporaneous historical sources that state that Jesus was born on December 25, and that significant incorporation into Christianity of pre-existing European religions is part of the historical record.

It could indeed well be that Jesus was not born on December 25. But I think it's still okay to celebrate Him tomorrow. After all, we don't know what day the earth was created, but April 22 is still always Earth Day.

hubris-hub10 karma

Are there any particular verses from scripture that you like to read/think about/meditate over on Christmas Day?

For me, I like to focus on 1 Timothy 1:15 - 16:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

(Merry Christmas, revanon!)

revanon13 karma

Mary's Magnificat in Luke 1 is always one of my favorites for Christmas. "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

Merry Christmas to you as well!

PM_ME_NUDE_KITTENS9 karma

Based on some of your other comments, I would appreciate your insight here:

American Christians are often supportive of the "right to life," using this to support legislation to end legal abortion, federal abortion funding, or reproductive education and resources.

At the same time, there is not a large scale effort to provide money or resources for women who carry accidental pregnancies to term. American Christians are not flocking to adopt living children and raise them in a Christian home with pro-social values, which would help these adopted children to break the cycle of sin through better living. (I appreciate the number of critical assumptions that go with this train of thought. I'm trying to appreciate the point of view that all life is sacred, and Christian values help improve society.)

Why don't American Christians care for the living as much as the unborn? How can we create a large-scale drive to push adoption as a defining political agenda for American Christian politics, instead of the convenient answer of defeating abortion laws?

Thanks in advance if you answer. This dilemma haunts me.

revanon11 karma

I think your assessment is accurate in a number of ways, and I think the short answer is twofold: a) that much of US Christianity hasn't wanted to separate reproductive concerns with the patriarchy involved in policing sexuality, which is why you see churches opposing accessible contraception even though it has been proven to significantly reduce abortion rates, and b) that US Christianity has become very good at coming up with moral-speak reasons for not doing what Jesus of Nazareth plainly commands us to do, which is to give sacrificially to others in ways that are most meaningful to them, not us.

The common denominator I find in both those is the desire to exercise control. Which is ironic given how much Christianity talks about surrender to God. But surrender of our undeserved control is absolutely vital here. I hope this helps address your dilemma.

capiers8 karma

Do you believe those who choose to believe in the christian version of religion do so simply because they have been convinced that if they do not they may go to Hell? If so is that a justifiable reason to believe in something that is purely faith based.

It seems to me that most of the horrible things man has done to one another stems from their religious beliefs. It appears to me that this GOD thing is driven by fear.

I am positive one can be content, happy, kind, moral etc without ever participating in a religion.

revanon18 karma

I would gently push back against the premise that "most" of the horrible things we have done to one another stem from religious beliefs. The nonreligious regimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and the Kim dynasty among others have abused and killed people in truly astronomical numbers.

This doesn't negate the many violent sins of organized religion--only that the absence of religion is, I think, pretty strongly empirically demonstrated to be no inoculation against truly staggering amounts of violence.

I am glad for you that you have found happiness and contentment in your life, and I hope that continues for you.

scottyboy2188 karma

How do you explain all the horrific, egotistical, maniacal, selfish, childish, petulant things that God did in the Old testament?

revanon12 karma

The experience of God of a people 2,000 - 3,000 years ago and literally on the other side of the world may not match up entirely with mine, and that's okay.

I would also gently ask you to consider the premise of this question. "The Old Testament God is horrible" is a mindset that has led to significant amounts of antisemitism, and I think gut checks for it of ourselves and what we say and do matter a lot.

hydrusdsc6 karma

Do you think it might be worth a gut check of yourself if you are defending mass murder by saying it happened a long way away, and to people other than you?

revanon9 karma

I'm descended from genocide survivors. As are, incidentally, many of the people who take the Tanakh as sacred Scripture. I think we're doing okay at interpreting those texts in ways that don't defend mass murder.

hydrusdsc4 karma

As am I. Which makes it harder for me to wrap my head around how people can write off the actions of Old Testament God/Yahweh.

Could you expand on it a little more? Do you believe he didn’t kill all those people? Or that they deserved to die? Or am I missing something?

revanon7 karma

The tl,dr version is that different ways of ordering society existed in the ancient Near East than exist today, and I believe that led some authors of Scripture to conclude that God ordered or made happen mass killings of other peoples and have it be righteous or good in their sense of the term. As a tiny country that was perpetually the rope in tugs-of-war between Egypt and Assyria/Babylonia/Persia/etc., ancient Israel and Judah were perpetually attacked or under threat of attack by kings who didn't care a whit for the people beyond their ability to serve and be enslaved. I think turning to God as a protector amid centuries of such circumstance--even if God doesn't endorse war crimes--would have been an understandable impulse in such a context as the ancient Near East.

splitcroof922 karma

What genocide are you talking about? What genocide did your ancestors survive?

revanon9 karma

I'm Armenian on my mother's side. Her grandparents are Armenian Genocide survivors who crossed the entirety of Russia, sailed to Yokohama, Japan, and then to Seattle and San Francisco before settling in the Armenian community in Detroit.

8urfiat7 karma

If God is all powerful. Could he make a rock so big he couldn’t lift it?

revanon19 karma

What if God is powerful enough to not need things like arms with which to lift the created rock?

alare7 karma

As a non religious person myself I often wonder how "believers" justify their hateful rhetoric and reconcile it with their religion? Not casting aspersions on you just hoping for insight.

revanon6 karma

It's a very fair question, and I think a lot of it today comes down to recasting legitimate and rightful critique as "persecution," and those are emphatically not the same thing. There are certainly many other causes for this phenomenon you name, but that's the one that immediately floats to the surface.

2dissonant6 karma

what's you're view on Pascal's wager? did Anne Frank go to hell while Ted Bundy's in heaven?

revanon6 karma

I noted elsewhere that it can be a useful starting point, but it is still flawed for a number of reasons. Another redditor chimed in with a very helpful critique of it.

HorseyGator4 karma

What is the most strange/interesting thing you've seen happen during Mass?

revanon7 karma

At my first parish, while I was in seminary, a congregant's clothing actually caught on fire (she walked a scootch close to the table of votive candles and her shirttail caught one--she was fine).

ChaiTeaWithMilk3 karma

Born and raised christian, now, not so much. But I thought I'd ask; What are your thoughts on the 12 tribes of Jacob and the number given (Something like 12,000 from each tribe?) Being accepted into heaven, and how do you reconcile these passages with your current belief system?

revanon11 karma

If you're referring to the passage from Revelation 7, I think that Revelation is an allegorical interpretation of events that were contemporaneous to the author, and so has already been fulfilled. There is little that I understand Revelation as revealing about the actual End Times.

nodadwhataboutyou2 karma

Does it make you feel important spreading all of that bullshit about imaginary characters and getting people to pay you with their hard-earned money under the guise of tithing?

revanon5 karma

You must have the wrong table, I didn't ask for more salt.

revocer1 karma

  • Why does Christmas fall on the 25th of Dec? Is that Jesus' actual birthday? What is his actual birthday?
  • What symbols of Christmas are authentically Christian, and which are appropriated from other cultures?

revanon1 karma

I mentioned this elsewhere, but there is no Biblical or contemporaneous historical evidence for what Jesus' birthday was. He could've been born in the summer for all we know.

I am not a religious art expert (although I was required to take such a class in seminary), so I may not be the best person to answer your second question, but even the Cross is taken from another culture--Roman culture was certainly not Christian at the time, nor was crucifixion an exclusively Roman practice.

processedmeat1 karma

This is really the first time I've sat down since 9am. How do you find time to do an AMA?

revanon2 karma

My primary ministry right now is with youth and children, and their big Christmas events at the church wrapped up a week ago. I definitely would not have been able to pull off this AMA then!

FiveFiveWithTrample1 karma

I’m an atheist going to the evening church event with my in-laws. What should I expect going in?

revanon2 karma

Lots of folks there with their families, looking to have a nice Christmas. Hopefully the pastor doesn't use this as an opportunity for some sort of turn-or-burn sermon. If people try to get you to come back and you're not comfortable with that, just gently say that you're there for quality family time and that you'd prefer to focus on them tonight. Does this help?

DeNomoloss1 karma

How do you feel about small children in the sanctuary that make a bunch of noise?

Perfect timing on this seeing as how we just got back from an early Children’s Pageant where they didn’t seem to mind our 2 year old’s random raspberries and there was a space set up in front for kids to color and roll around. The priest gave a nice blessing to our daughter in place of communion as well. Much appreciated!

revanon1 karma

I've got a one-year-old so I'm very pro-small-children-in-the-sanctuary. Even before becoming a dad, I was. Teaching the children's sermon has long been one of my favorite parts of worship. I'm so glad your daughter in church has been a positive experience for you!

pacatak7951 karma

What influenced your choice in denomination? You mentioned elsewhere that you aren't Catholic, but there's dozens of other major denominations out there..was it familiarity with your childhood denomination, fondness of some of the traditions of a particular denomination over another, or are there true theological differences that made you go "yep, the methodists (as an example) have this right, and all of the others are wrong!"?

revanon4 karma

It's what I was born into. My denomination, the Disciples of Christ, is a congregationalist denomination, and I'm a fourth-generation Armenian congregationalist--my great-grandparents, when they came here fleeing the genocide of World War I, joined an Armenian congregationalist church in Detroit, which my mother was raised in. As an adult, she kept the congregationalist affiliation even though where we settled (Kansas) didn't have as much in the way of Armenian communities.

So the short answer is that it is what I was born into, and that I haven't felt a desire to leave even though I've experienced many of those other major denominations out there. Getting to raise my daughter as a fifth-generation Armenian congregationalist matters to me too. It doesn't mean that I think the Disciples are right about everything and all the others are wrong. In fact, our non-creedalism means that there's really very little for us to be right about!

GamezFrank1 karma

Do you notice people that just go for Christmas service? Like your attendance triples overnight and then you never see the same crowds the rest of the year

revanon1 karma

I remember at the first Christmas Eve service I ever held as an ordained pastor, a fellow shook my hand in the receiving line afterward and said, "See you at Easter, pastor," and you know what? Points for honesty, mate, points for honesty.

Zebov31 karma

I have a question that I asked when I was 6 and have yet to get an answer. If heaven is perfect, how could Lucifer sin to get thrown out? Furthermore, it was my understanding that angels have limited/no free will, which would only complicate the question further.

revanon8 karma

John Milton's Paradise Lost was a powerful work of literature, but as a theological work it sort of consolidated a lot of different characteristics of the devil into a singular Satan character. So while, for instance, you had Jesus saying in Luke 10 that He had indeed seen Satan fall from heaven, that passage contains no mention of Satan as a fallen angel, or of angels as having limited free will or no free will.

More to the point, in 1 John, where we get the term "antichrist," John uses the plural--antichrists. So what if there are multiple evil forces, or forces acting in opposition to good?

I'm not saying I have the definitive answer to What Evil Looks Like. I'm just saying that I think this answer you have been seeking may be unanswerable because the source of evil is more diffuse than a single literary character.

Zebov31 karma

Hmm, everyone I know takes this very literally, probably not realizing it's from paradise lost.

But even if it isn't "true," if Luke 10 says in effect the same thing, the question still remains.

revanon3 karma

And I guess I feel that the possibility of diffuse sources of evil remains a possible answer to your question?

redback871 karma

What do you think of the typical arguments given for the existence of God?

revanon4 karma

Are there any arguments you are thinking of in particular with this question?

redback874 karma

I just wanted to know where you stand. Do you agree with Alvin Plantinga (Christian Philosopher) that there are no successful arguments for or against the existence of God, or do you agree with someone like Richard Swinburne (Christian Philosopher) that all the arguments put together makes a compelling case for the existence of God?

revanon14 karma

So--I want to be clear that the philosophy of religion is not an area of expertise for me, and I have read neither Plantinga or Swinburne extensively, so commenting on their worldviews specifically is probably best left to people for whom that is their area of expertise.

That being said, I tend to fall more in the camp of believing that one tends to hit a point of diminishing returns in trying to argue for God on the basis of logic and rationalism, and that eventually letting the unknown into your worldview is a brave and necessary thing. I don't know if that answers your question.

PurpleDjango1 karma

How do you feel about it being called Eve when she came after and not before?!?!

revanon-1 karma

Frankly, she comes off in the Genesis narrative looking better than Adam, who tried to make her take the entire rap in front of God, so I am perfectly fine with Christmas Eve being named after her.

smaugfm1 karma

Which Christmas is a "true" one?

revanon7 karma

The one that results in good, not ill, being done, whether that is December 25 or another day when Jesus was actually born.

tugboatmcguire-2 karma

Personally, having grown up with religious people, it seems like the whole root system of belief in these stories and ideas are imbedded in our culture/society/family. Would you ever seriously consider stepping outside the bounds of your personal worldview or society to explore the idea that...well... it might just be a bunch of bullshit that we’ve just accepted as the truth for one reason or another for a looooooong time?

revanon8 karma

I lived in Berkeley for three years, doesn't that count?

agent_platypus-2 karma

How does it feel having an imaginary friend at such an advanced age?

revanon1 karma

Five stars, I highly recommend it.

labledcrazy-3 karma

The bible clearly states that satan rules the earth, why do you think satan gives his enemies(churches) tax breaks?

revanon11 karma

Just because Satan is the master of evil doesn't mean Satan always wants to play on sandbox mode.

labledcrazy-16 karma

What are your thoughts on 'santa' being an anagram for 'satan'?

Also, have you ever looked into the similarities of "santa's" representation and the biblica nimrods?

nimrod being the first to sign his name with an X, christmas shortens to xmas, etc...

Also the date we celebrate this ritual happens to ne the same date that the pagans celebrated saturnalia...

Also, just look at how xmas raises children to be mindless consumers...

Oh and let us not forget how christmas is the first time our parents and those we are supposed to trust lie to us, forever conditioning us to accept the lies of governmentus, acadamia, corporations and so on....

Can you see that this holy day is satanic as all fuck?

revanon7 karma

I would encourage you to exorcise this day in the name of all that is not Santa.