Monthly Archives: May 2010

What Proportion of Christian Leaders are Self-Righteous Deceiving Sex-Obsessives?

One of the blogs I read is Throw Yourself like Seed, the blog of Andy Pakula, a skeptical Unitarian minister from London. Who says a lot of things that make a lot of sense to me. In a post this week, he reveals that he’d received an email this week from someone enquiring about his church.

I am going to be in London over the summer with my girl friend Amy and we are interested in your fellowship. The issue is we are both people in the arts and grew up in conservative churches .. me Roman Catholic, she Protestant fundamentalist and we really got hurt. We found a Unitarian fellowship in America and this was healing for us both. Would we fit with you? We are “out there” in terms of style. I (Chad) wear short skirts and tall boots and Amy goes bra-less and wears very very short dresses. We have been rejected in our home churches and wonder if we would be welcomed dressed as we are in your church.
—Chad Bradford

If that sounds odd, it is because it is. It was actually written by Canon Mark Pearson (who’s contact details are publically online as He is the pastor of the Trinity Charismatic Episcopal Church in Kingston, NH, USA. Read Andy’s post for a full blow-by-blow of the events surrounding this email.

In particular Mark Pearson’s weasely attempts to keep up the pretence and make out like the two characters he’d invented were actually staying with him. Needless to say, both Chad and Amy would be very welcome at Andy’s church, and both he and I would eat our words if they ever visited.

I wanted to post about this, not because it is unusual to find a Christian minister who’s sex-obsessed, self-righteous, and willing to lie for it. But because I wanted to help make sure that anyone who searches for Canon Pearson in the future will at least be able to understand that he is one of that proportion.

But it did get me thinking. There seems to be a lot of it out there. Now I know a lot of ministers, and I know most of them aren’t like that. But there’s a sizeable proportion who are, even (as Mark Pearson seems to be) the quiet ones. I wonder if there is something specific in the process of ministering a oppressive and frankly irrational religious creed throughout your career that correlates with that. Is it that it attracts sociopaths initially? Or is it that a lifetime of preaching intolerance tends to make you an obnoxious person?


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Two Faces of My Atheism

Two little clips to share with you today. But they show two important and sometimes conflicting sides of my atheism. First there is the intellectual side.

One of my favorite things is to listen to smart people discuss ideas. Blogs are good for that, and readily available. But there’s no substitute for the tenor of the voice. I love to listen to BBC’s “In Our Time” which is a radio program about history and culture. The format is simple, a moderator (Melvyn Brag, doyenne of media intellectualism) and a set of academics discuss a topic in a way that is accessible for a general listener. This season has been very good, I’ve particularly enjoyed the episode on Sparta and The Siege of Munster. Today’s is also a blinder, on William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience. I hope it isn’t just UK surfers who can download or listen to it: at the BBC website. I know some BBC programs aren’t available outside the UK unless you do some jigging with proxies.

The second is the side of me that has a juvenile temptation to mock religion:

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal


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Peter: Feed My Sheep, A Group Bible Study — John 21:15-17

I’d like to try something new. I’m not sure if I’ve got nearly enough commenters on this blog, or if enough of them are former or current Christians. But hopefully we can get started. I want to think about the rather odd passage in John 21:15-17, where a ressurrected Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, and each time, when Peter agrees that he does, Jesus tells him some variation on ‘feed my sheep’.

The passage is:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

— John 21:15-17 (NIV)

Christ 's Charge to Peter by Raphael

Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael 1515-1516. Currently in the Victoria and Albert museum, London. This stunning piece is a combination of two scenes: Matthew 16:18-19 (giving Peter the keys to the kingdom), and our John 21:15-17 (pointing to a flock of sheep to feed).

I haven’t used my translation of this. I’m using the NIV translation because I don’t want to introduce my bias onto the text at this point (although I did select the translation to use, so I’m not entirely innocent).

So the question I want us to answer is this: what does this mean? What is Jesus saying, what are the significant elements to the story? Is there an explanation of why it is in this format (why three times, why sheep, why Peter emphasizes Jesus’s knowledge, why love, why ‘Simon son of John’, etc). No explanation will cover more than one or two of these features, but I’m interested to see the gamut of interpretations.

Please add in the comments, but can I ask you to state carefully whether your response is a personal intepretation, or one you’ve been taught (if the latter, can you say where: a sermon, a bible study, sunday school). You can add as many comments as you like with as many interpretations.

Anyone is welcome to contribute and your intepretations will not be ridiculed (not by me, anyway – comments are always free to disagree). There is no correct answer I’m looking for, and I don’t have any bombshell to undermine the text. You don’t need to know the original greek, or be a bible scholar or theologian. Simple explanations are as welcome as complicated ones. I am curious because I know of several different ways of reading this passage, and I suspect there may be many, many more. If you are a believer and lurk here, please contribute.


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