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Tackling faith, politics, relationships, writing, & other impolite topics. Teacher. Podcaster. Newsletter: @Eric_Sentell on Twitter

Bible Study

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I have a confession. I’ve never read the Bible cover to cover.

I’ve read parts of the Bible many times, but large chunks of the Old Testament and some books of the New Testament have eluded me (okay, I eluded them).

I’m now working through the Bible from beginning to end, looking for recurring themes, dwelling on less familiar stories, and exploring details left out in Sunday School, Bible studies, and sermons.

The experience has produced many surprises and insights. Among them, I find the contrast between David and Solomon to be fascinating, revealing, and encouraging.

A man after God’s own heart

David, of course, is…

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert, a psychologist, or a therapist. The following advice comes from my therapist and experience. It should not replace advice from professionals.

My breathing shortened, my chest tightened, my head felt heavy and off-balance.

A rope inside me pulled tight. I thought it would snap, I couldn’t imagine what might happen if it did. I felt trapped in my own living room.

What if, what if, what if.

What if I paid only the interest on this month’s credit card bill? …

Photo by Christoph Schmid on Unsplash

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Judas, his motivations for betraying Jesus, or his relationship with Him.

We know Judas was one of the twelve disciples called by Jesus. We know Judas followed Jesus during His three-year ministry, heard His teaching, and helped spread it through Israel and Palestine.

His motivations for betraying Jesus are much less clear.

Satanic possession?

The Gospels state, “Satan entered Judas” (Luke 22:3, NIV). That language conjures images of a demon spirit flying into his body and taking over his mind and body.

The Gospels also say that Judas regretted betraying Jesus. He went to the…

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Listening to an old episode of Slate’s podcast Mom and Dad Are Fighting, one of the hosts echoed my childhood and provided some healthy perspective on parenting.

The host argued for “letting kids be kids.” He claimed, perhaps with some exaggeration, that he spent his summers watching professional wrestling. Yet he had published successful books and worked for Slate.

His sisters similarly wasted their free time as children but became a doctor and a lawyer. “Why don’t we just let kids be kids?” the host asked.

I shared this anecdote with a friend in her mid-forties who has three kids.

Bible Study

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Last week, I helped lead Bible study for junior counselors at a traveling Day Camp at my church. The junior counselors were 7th-9th grade; the curriculum included the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet after the Last Supper.

Reading John 13:1–17 aloud to the teens, something jumped out of the story that I had never noticed before.

Jesus washed the feet of Judas.

[Jesus] got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. …

Friends or Lovers?

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Until now, I’ve argued that the Bible doesn’t condemn same-sex relationships as clearly as people think.

I argued that we misunderstood and mistranslated the “clobber passages.”

I argued that not fully affirming same-sex relationships imposes an unequal, troubling power imbalance on LGBTQ people.

I argued that we should interpret the “clobber passages” as flexibly as we interpret the scriptures that appear to endorse slavery.

And I argued that flexibly interpreting the “clobber passages” does not amount to “catering to culture.”

All of those are “negative” arguments in a sense. …

Bible Study

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Growing up, my family and I attended church sporadically, and I went to the occasional Vacation Bible School. Still, I was very familiar with the story of Cain and Abel.

But until recently, I didn’t learn about how Cain and Abel’s story repeats “the Fall” of Adam and Eve. Thanks, Bible Project.

The Cain and Abel Story

In Genesis 4:1–8 (NIV), we learn that Adam and Eve conceived a pair of brothers. Abel became a shepherd while Cain farmed.

At an unspecified time, Cain brought a grain offering to God while Abel brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.”

The Lord…

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The philosopher Stephen Toulmin developed a very detailed form of syllogism. I love the Toulmin syllogism because it reveals that even the most mundane fact depends on faith.

A typical syllogism has three parts:

  • major premise
  • minor premise
  • conclusion

Perhaps the most famous example is:

  • Men are mortal.
  • Socrates was a man.
  • Socrates was mortal.

If both premises are correct, then the conclusion that flows from them must also be correct (logically speaking).

Stephen Toulmin supercharged the basic syllogism.

Toulmin begins with a fact that has an underlying warrant backing it up. The warrant itself also has some backing. …

(Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash)

Southwest Missouri is best-known for Branson, one giant tourist trap that can be best described as a hybrid of Appalachia, Las Vegas, and Nashville. The Bass Pro HQ in nearby Springfield may also be familiar to outdoors people.

But southwest Missouri may soon earn a legacy as the textbook example of how to let COVID devastate your region and a harbinger of trouble for rural America.

A couple of my elderly, Fox News-addicted relatives who live in the Branson-Springfield area serve as a microcosm.

Both were elderly and in poor health. Yet they refused to get the COVID vaccine, citing…

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Anna Mercury’s proposed solution to right-wing denialism will never work.

The article, “How to Deal with the American Right” by Anna Mercury, nails the fear underlying conservative denial of climate change, COVID, systemic racism, gender inequality, or anything else perceived as a threat to the status quo they enjoy and prefer.

It’s like she read some conservative minds and peeked into their souls.

In her analysis, Anna Mercury ascribes the rampant, blatant denialism of conservatives to their fear. …

Eric Sentell

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