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Response to “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything”

A Latter-day Saint on my Facebook feed has posted a link to Greg Trimble’s blog post: “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything“.

It’s partly a response to the Kelly/Dehlin excommunications, but also a call-to-arms for conservative Mormons to hold fast to their intolerance and authoritarianism. It says, in part:

I don’t care whether you’re Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, or any other type of Christian…one thing is for certain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ‘buffet’ that you can compile your perfect plate from. There is no salvation in building your own religion or customizing Christ to suit your needs and wants. The popular trend is to determine how you’d like to live your life and then to conform Christ to that lifestyle. It is done by appealing to Christ’s infinite love and mercy. But you can’t just go around rehearsing that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) and then be done with it. John 3:16 is awesome…but it’s just one verse! God wouldn’t have given you all of those other verses if he didn’t want you to read them and apply them.

In my response, I decided to ignore the fact that conservative Mormons are cherry-picking just like the liberal ones are, and to focus instead on the inflexible ‘iron rod’ mentality that I see in this piece.

Here’s my Facebook response, written to a wall full of Mormons:

I’d like to respectfully share my thoughts, even though I’m coming from the perspective of an ex-Mormon atheist.

In a way, I completely agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. So many times, I’ve seen liberal religious people saying, “Jesus would have loved everybody! Jesus was all about the lerrrve.” And my response has been, “While it’s admirable that you’re trying to emulate those good qualities, ‘love everybody’ is by no means the sum totality of Jesus’ message.”

Jesus was a 1st-century rabbi who knew the law of Moses, which required (for instance) gay people to be killed. While he was somewhat revolutionary in his willingness to teach women, there’s no indication that he would have been aligned in any significant way with 21st century political liberals.

I confess that I have an ulterior motive in pointing this out to people: I secretly like it when religious conservatives (like the author) give voice to sentiments like these, because I know that this is the one thing that is driving people away from conservative religions like the LDS Church. The more hardened and stuck Latter-day Saints are in these attitudes, the fewer people will be attracted to the LDS Church and to Christianity, and as an atheist, I think this is a good thing. My biggest nightmare is that the Church will liberalise, because then it will become more appealing to people and actually become stronger. There is a lot that is (or could be) good about the church, but currently a small constellation of political issues and actions are making it less-than-appealing to potential converts, and churches who take this course are not surviving. This may not be a concern if you think that the church is true, inspired, and can’t fail. From my outside perspective, I think members should be very alarmed.

I will say one thing about the liberal religionists: Yes, they are cherry-picking the good bits, and ignoring what’s in the scriptures. But they are generally nicer and better people for it; less authoritarian, less likely to have oppressive attitudes toward women, less likely to reject their gay kids. I agree that a strict reading of scripture lends itself to the kind of conclusions that this author is arriving at. But I’d say, so much the worse for the strict reading. I don’t think it leads to a good place.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

For religions like the LDS Church that fight social justice and inclusion in a world where doing so is less and less acceptable, there’s only one way for the numbers to go. It will shrink and harden into a rump. Yes, it’s sad that good people are getting harmed by the dogma of this church. But if it refuses to change, then I’m happy to watch it drive itself into the ground, and drive away its younger and more tolerant membership.


  1. Hi,
    It's been a lifetime… but I saw this and thought of you and your blogginess….
    Hope all is well

  2. If I may stuff a Zen perspective in here: an enduring challenge for all sincere religious practitioners is the fact that our founders were products of their time, and the human race moves on. Take somebody like Jesus, whose teachings were far ahead of his time, but can look laughably backward now. Leaving contemporary follower with a quandary: defend the backward, or go deeper.

    When I walked a Quaker path, I did a statistical crunch of Christ's first-person comments from the Gospels (setting aside the issue of which of them are authentic…) and established a few main themes. And the results were provocative. One example: I found exactly one direct quote saying only Christians are saved. (The famous "I am the way, the light… etc." questioners always get thrown in their face.) And thirty-odd other quotes saying, in effect, "Nobody knows who's saved. Get over yourself." I concluded that George Fox's classic summation — "The Letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" — is exact. The "do this, don't do that" in the Bible is of limited value; you're supposed to divine and act on the intent.

    From my now-Buddhist perspective, anybody who views religion as a "how to behave" thing is lazy and misled. You're supposed to get your orders straight from the source. It's scary and difficult, but there you are. There aren't any short cuts.
    And while the fellow above would say it leads to "perfect plate" theology, as a devoted meditator I can tell you it's actually the opposite; most of the time I end up NOT following my first (egotistical, self-satisfied) inclination.

    Food for thought.

    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

  3. Hey, Laura — don't know how I missed your comment. It's great to hear from you! Let's catch up and you can tell me what you're up to.

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