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Abandon all hope, Christians [an open letter from "Losing My Religion" author William Lobdell]
Pasadena Weekly ^ | 03/05/2009 | William Lobdell

Posted on 03/10/2009 12:31:41 PM PDT by Alex Murphy

Imay be the most prayed-for atheist in America.

Since my memoir, “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace,” was released last week, I’ve received scores of emails and phone calls assuring me that God hasn’t given up on me and that I’ve been put on various prayer lists around the world. So far, it’s not working.

“Losing My Religion” details my journey from a gung-ho evangelical Christian who became a religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times (I thought God had answered my prayers) to a reluctant atheist because of what I saw in eight years on the faith beat. Because the book isn’t a rant against religion — it’s more a story of a love found and lost — I’m seen by many as re-convertable. And if I returned to the fold, my testimony would be a valuable commodity within the evangelical community. Several Christians boldly predict that my next book will be “Finding My Religion Again,” or something along those lines. To that end, I’ve been sent a small mountain of Christian books, pamphlets, DVDs, CDs and workbooks that the senders promise will hook me back up with God.

To save everyone time and effort, let me tell you what absolutely won’t work.

Sending me scripture verses

This super-popular approach is problematic. First, I’ve studied the Bible quite a bit, so it’s not like there’s a passage I haven’t read that will instantly restore my belief in God. And more to the point, I no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God, so passages of scripture no longer hold supreme meaning for me; they’re fascinating from a sociological or literary perspective, but they’re not history. Sending me a Bible passage would be like a Latter-Day Saint sending you — an evangelical Christian — a passage from the Book of Mormon to prove Mormonism is true. It just doesn’t work.

Handing me a book by a believer

As a Christian, I’ve spent two decades reading the best Christian works throughout history. Like you, I hope, I’ve read Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, G.K. Chesterton, St. Theresa of Lisieux and others. If those giants can’t convince me God is real, no other author will.

Threatening an eternity in hell

This is another standard tactic, filled with Christian love. The emailers are usually succinct, writing something along these lines: “I hope you’re prepared for an eternity in hell.” I’m not sure whether I’m headed for hell, but do know that someone can’t magically believe in Jesus just because they are threatened.

Giving me a Christian movie

“Left Behind.” “Facing the Giants.” “One Night with the King.” Do you understand how awful popular Christian movies are? Any film in that genre would tend to reinforce my atheism. Stop sending them to me.

Asking me to have lunch or to attend a specific church It took me four years of investigation, study and internal struggle before I could finally admit to myself that I had lost my faith. Ninety minutes over a cheeseburger with your pastor isn’t going to bring it back.

Debating the truth about Christianity with me

Look, Christian apologists (defenders of the faith) can be very intelligent. So can Christian critics. Generally, debate in this area changes no one’s mind. Having read the arguments on both sides, I put in with the critics. For me, there’s no point in rehashing it all — unless someone comes armed with a new argument or evidence.

Perhaps you can sense a double standard here. An army of Christians is trying to pry me away from atheism by any argument necessary, with no invitation or apologies. (An email just landed in my in-box with the subject line: “I have all the answers to your questions.”) But you wouldn’t expect to see a high-profile Christian bombarded by atheists trying to ruin his faith. Unless provoked (conservative Christians’ influence on politics and society sparked the recent New Atheist movement), atheists have a live and let live mentality. Christians can learn from them.

But wait, my Christian friends say. We believe Jesus has commanded us to bring lost sheep back into the fold. It’s our duty. If that’s the case, I’d suggest you follow the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

In other words, make Christianity attractive to outsiders through your actions. And retire the rest of your conversion material.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Evangelical Christian; Ministry/Outreach; Skeptics/Seekers
KEYWORDS: lobdell; spiritualjourney; williamlobdell
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But you wouldn’t expect to see a high-profile Christian bombarded by atheists trying to ruin his faith. Unless provoked (conservative Christians’ influence on politics and society sparked the recent New Atheist movement), atheists have a live and let live mentality. Christians can learn from them.

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1 posted on 03/10/2009 12:31:42 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy

I haven’t read the article yet, but it sounds like he lost his faith in humanity.


2 posted on 03/10/2009 12:33:17 PM PDT by nickcarraway (Are the Good Times Really Over?)
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To: Alex Murphy

What a wimpy Christian to have caved to the LA Times! I guess it doesn’t take burning at the stake or getting in the arena with hungry lions for the insipid 21st century “Christian” to renounce the Faith.


3 posted on 03/10/2009 12:36:21 PM PDT by kittymyrib
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To: Alex Murphy

This underscores Jesus’ words, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it is granted him from the Father.”

The man tried, and couldn’t find repentence even with tears because, “... Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” We should let him be.


4 posted on 03/10/2009 12:36:29 PM PDT by Dutchboy88
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To: Alex Murphy
Do you understand how awful popular Christian movies are?

As an atheist, I don't see the efforts of Christians to convince me as a bad thing, as they seem to want to save me from burning in Hell or something. But this is a weird kind of article--he spends a lot of time telling people to stop trying to convince him to be a Christian. And that line above is a dumb inclusion if he's trying to be serious, not funny if he's trying to be humorous--I happen to agree with his assessment, but who cares?

5 posted on 03/10/2009 12:38:36 PM PDT by Darkwolf377 (Pro-Life atheist behind enemy lines in Boston and Cambridge)
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To: Alex Murphy

Since my faith and beliefs are based completely on the thoughts and opinions of man I have now been converted by this man. I can be manipulated and convinced by the serious reasoning of an intellectual arguement. (Sarc. completly and totally intended)


6 posted on 03/10/2009 12:39:18 PM PDT by danmyte (dana)
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To: nickcarraway
...became a religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times ...

Ah... I see the problem...
If you join forces with satan's army -- you might not come out unscathed (unless you are prepared and are wearing the Full Armour of God)...

7 posted on 03/10/2009 12:39:31 PM PDT by El Cid (Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house...)
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To: Alex Murphy

“Him who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

Prayers up for this man.


8 posted on 03/10/2009 12:39:36 PM PDT by 444Flyer (Don't beLIEve Obama.............................Never give up, never give in, never give out!)
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To: Dutchboy88

Freewill is the ability to choose life or death, and he has made his choice.


9 posted on 03/10/2009 12:41:23 PM PDT by Kackikat
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To: Alex Murphy

The live and let live argument is poor. They want freedom from religion, and are pretty militant about it.


10 posted on 03/10/2009 12:41:31 PM PDT by esquirette (If we do not know our own worldview, we will accept theirs.)
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To: Alex Murphy

rocky soil


11 posted on 03/10/2009 12:44:17 PM PDT by anniegetyourgun
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To these cases I apply the parable of the seed. Some lands on rocky and thorny soil, springs up and withers away. Sad, but it is what it is, and if it couldn’t happen, it would not have been pointed out.

Many struggle with their faith through many adversities. Some will not make it, its a fact.


12 posted on 03/10/2009 12:45:11 PM PDT by wombtotomb (since it is above his paygrade, why can't we err on the side of caution about when life begins?)
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To: Alex Murphy

I’m not an atheist, but I gotta admit that “Left Behind” was really really bad.


13 posted on 03/10/2009 12:53:38 PM PDT by Seruzawa (Obamalama lied, the republic died.)
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To: Alex Murphy
Unless provoked (conservative Christians’ influence on politics and society sparked the recent New Atheist movement),

That is to say, atheists are "provoked" by the existence of those who disagree with them. Now what other religion does that sound like? (Hint, another one that kills a lot ...)

14 posted on 03/10/2009 12:55:39 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("There are more enjoyable ways of going to Hell." ~ St. Bernard)
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To: Alex Murphy

what planet has he been on?


15 posted on 03/10/2009 12:56:49 PM PDT by GeronL (Will bankrupting America lead to socialism?)
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To: Alex Murphy

I wouldn’t waste five seconds trying to convert this guy back. In a free society, he is free to believe or not.

Plus, this is considered by some to be the “unpardonable sin”. To believe and then renounce God. So he may have blown it anyway.


16 posted on 03/10/2009 1:02:11 PM PDT by Retired Greyhound
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To: anniegetyourgun

I was thinking rocky soil too. But I was also considering Wolf out of Sheep’s clothing...


17 posted on 03/10/2009 1:02:56 PM PDT by 444Flyer (Don't beLIEve Obama.............................Never give up, never give in, never give out!)
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To: Darkwolf377
But this is a weird kind of article--he spends a lot of time telling people to stop trying to convince him to be a Christian.

He's right about Christians quoting Bible verses though.

I've never understood how Christians hoped to convince people with verses from a book that non-believers don't hold as the word of God. You and I have read the Bible and found it to be the work of man; you must admit that no single verse is going to change our minds.

18 posted on 03/10/2009 1:04:33 PM PDT by GunRunner
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To: Seruzawa
I gotta admit that “Left Behind” was really really bad.

That's (in part) because the Left Behind series was heavily padded to increase its length after the first couple of volumes came out. It was originally intended to last for only six books, not the sixteen+ that it ballooned into.

19 posted on 03/10/2009 1:04:44 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ( "Every country has the government it deserves" - Joseph Marie de Maistre)
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To: Alex Murphy
He didn't loose his religion, he is selling it one book at a time.
20 posted on 03/10/2009 1:07:26 PM PDT by Between the Lines (For their sins of 50 million abortions God gave them over to be an ObamaNation {Romans 1:24-32})
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To: Alex Murphy

The only thing that can save him is an infusion of the Holy Spirit. And, if his heart is not open to it, I doubt it will happen.

Still, prayer is always good for anyone on earth. I do hope he returns to Jesus Christ.


21 posted on 03/10/2009 1:14:28 PM PDT by Gumdrop
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To: Darkwolf377

It depends on how they measure success. Maybe you were never intended to go to Heaven. Maybe God has a section of people that belong to Him and there’s another section that does not. The Bible refers to His people as the Elect.

If God wants you to be Saved, you will get Saved and it will be by His timing.


22 posted on 03/10/2009 1:15:41 PM PDT by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: Retired Greyhound

Heb 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
Heb 6:5 and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come,
Heb 6:6 and who have fallen away; it is impossible, I say, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify the Son of God afresh to themselves and put Him to an open shame.


23 posted on 03/10/2009 1:17:58 PM PDT by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: Alex Murphy
Sending me a Bible passage would be like a Latter-Day Saint sending you — an evangelical Christian — a passage from the Book of Mormon to prove Mormonism is true. It just doesn’t work.

LOL! Well said!

24 posted on 03/10/2009 1:21:47 PM PDT by TheDon (B.O. stinks!)
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To: Alex Murphy
So far, it’s not working.

You better hope it works before you pass on, fella.

25 posted on 03/10/2009 1:27:28 PM PDT by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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To: Alex Murphy

Well, yeah, that and the fact that they used really bad actors.

I remember seeing a film done on the tribulation over 30 years ago that was much better done. It used real actors and was about 20 minutes long. I wish I could remember the name.


26 posted on 03/10/2009 1:29:47 PM PDT by Seruzawa (Obamalama lied, the republic died.)
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To: Alex Murphy

He looks gay to me.


27 posted on 03/10/2009 1:34:07 PM PDT by WashingtonSource
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To: GunRunner
I've never understood how Christians hoped to convince people with verses from a book that non-believers don't hold as the word of God.

Unless God draws them, they can't be convinced. But we are called to share God's word anyway.

28 posted on 03/10/2009 1:34:18 PM PDT by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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To: WashingtonSource
He looks gay to me.

He may be, but he does have a wife and four children.

29 posted on 03/10/2009 1:36:07 PM PDT by Between the Lines (For their sins of 50 million abortions God gave them over to be an ObamaNation {Romans 1:24-32})
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To: Alex Murphy
“Left Behind.” “Facing the Giants.” “One Night with the King.” Do you understand how awful popular Christian movies are? Any film in that genre would tend to reinforce my atheism.

Yes, as a Christian, I understand exactly how awful those movies usually are.

(And, < ahem>, "Walmart sermons" (premade, "ready to eat") about Christian movies. They're preaching through that particular series at our church right now. Just, wow.)

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

The always say that when they don't want to hear the words. The gospel is a message, news about "that Jesus guy" and what he did.

I do understand what probably happened to him. A lot of American Christian "stuff" is surface level, cheezy, schlocky, trivial. As a religion reporter, he got hit with it all. A steady diet of that did him in.

30 posted on 03/10/2009 1:55:32 PM PDT by Lee N. Field ("How can there be peace when the sorceries and whordoms of your mother TBN are so many?")
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To: Kackikat

Where is that verse that says, “Man has free will, unaided, unmanaged by God.”?


31 posted on 03/10/2009 2:20:17 PM PDT by Dutchboy88
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To: Alex Murphy

Abandon HOPE? But, but, Hopey Changey is in the White House. If I abandon HOPE do I have to give up Change? If I give up Hope, will I have to vote Republican?

/Sarcasm or Satire? I get confused.


32 posted on 03/10/2009 2:22:55 PM PDT by HighlyOpinionated (The Constitution & Bill of Rights stand as a whole. Remove any part & nullify the whole.)
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Comment #33 Removed by Moderator

To: HighlyOpinionated

It must be sarcasm, because satire has officially been retired as a literary genre. It is no longer possible to write about a “satirical” scenario that has not literally occurred or been seriously proposed as legislation.


34 posted on 03/10/2009 2:49:52 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("There are more enjoyable ways of going to Hell." ~ St. Bernard)
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To: 444Flyer

The former reflects the affect of the gospel on his hard heart. The latter reflects the intent of his hard heart.


35 posted on 03/10/2009 3:51:11 PM PDT by anniegetyourgun
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To: GunRunner; Darkwolf377

“I’ve never understood how Christians hoped to convince people with verses from a book that non-believers don’t hold as the word of God.”

Because they (and I) would insist that the Bible is different from any other book in that it has the power to transform the lives of any who are even slightly open to it’s message.


36 posted on 03/10/2009 4:05:52 PM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: Dutchboy88; Kackikat

“Where is that verse that says, “Man has free will...”?

Matthew 5:29
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.


37 posted on 03/10/2009 4:08:12 PM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: Alex Murphy
As a Christian, I’ve spent two decades reading the best Christian works throughout history. Like you, I hope, I’ve read Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, G.K. Chesterton, St. Theresa of Lisieux and others. If those giants can’t convince me God is real, no other author will.

Just an observation ... for a self-described "gung-ho evangelical," it's interesting that there was not a single evangelical or Bible-believing Protestant on his "giants" reading list.

That's not a criticism of those he mentioned, it's just interesting that there is no Luther, no Calvin, no Spurgeon, no Owen, no Ryle, no Schaeffer, no Charnock, no Benny Hinn (just kiddin') ... just great Catholic authors and one great hybrid (C. S. Lewis).

Not sure the significance of that, but it calls into question the neatly-packaged narrative of "gung-ho evangelical" who saw bad stuff in churches and lost his faith.

Just saying ....

38 posted on 03/10/2009 4:20:59 PM PDT by Oliver Optic
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To: Oliver Optic

Without having read his book, we can’t say exactly how he presents his transition from faith to faithlessness. I don’t recall ever reading such a story without finding it intellectually shallow, though.


39 posted on 03/10/2009 4:45:06 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("There are more enjoyable ways of going to Hell." ~ St. Bernard)
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To: PetroniusMaximus

So, let me get this straight...that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that you believe? Perfect obedience or damnation? Interesting.

The Bible I read locates this in the time when Jesus was teaching the weight of the Law, culminating in the caution that if the Jewish audience did not keep the entire Law of Moses, they faced the ultimate of punishment. When the rich young ruler left after a similar lecture and the remaining disciples complained, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus gave them the Gospel you have overlooked...What is impossible with man is possible with God. Check your hermeneutics.


40 posted on 03/10/2009 5:08:47 PM PDT by Dutchboy88
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To: Oliver Optic; Alex Murphy
for a self-described "gung-ho evangelical," it's interesting that there was not a single evangelical or Bible-believing Protestant on his "giants" reading list.

Lobdell first joined Mariners Church, an evangelical megachurch pastored by Kenton Beeshore. He later switches to St. Andrews Presbyterian, pastored by John Huffman. Eventually he finds himself drawn to Catholicism, and he and his wife enroll in catechism classes.

He was on his way to becoming a "cafeteria Catholic" (his description of himself, not mine) when the editor of the LA Times orders him to do some investigative reporting into the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Orange Diocese, involving Father Michael Harris.

Lobdell became disheartened at the way the church hierarchy covered for abusive priests and vilified their victims, using what he called "strong-arm legal tactics" to silence them. He was also appaled by how congregations rallied to the side of the abusive priests rather than to the side of the children those priests had molested. As he began reporting on clergy sexual abuse in other dioceses, Lobdell saw the same pattern of cover-up, vilification, and strong-arm legal tactics play out over and over again. This pattern delivered a “spiritual body blow” to Lobdell’s faith, which never recovered. And despite completing catechism, Lobdell decided not to join the Catholic church, though he continued to attend mass for years.

Later he decides to do some investigative reporting into television evangelists and considered most of them sinful. He studied statistics on evangelicals and was discouraged to find that "Christians, as a group, acted no differently than anyone else, including atheists."

The corruption in the Catholic church, combined with the sinfulness of television evangelists, is the main reason he offers for his loss of faith. He raises additional objections based on the problem of evil, the ineffectiveness of intercessory prayer, and some stories of the Bible which he found hard to believe.

In my opinion this is a case of seek and you shall find. He sought out what was wrong with Christianity and found his faith too weak to withstand the evil that permeates even the church. Perhaps had he not decided to become a Catholic at the same time that he was ordered to report on clergy abuse, the story may have ended differently.

41 posted on 03/10/2009 5:11:09 PM PDT by Between the Lines (For their sins of 50 million abortions God gave them over to be an ObamaNation {Romans 1:24-32})
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To: Alex Murphy
atheists have a live and let live mentality. Christians can learn from them.

Humor post of the day!!!

What . . . ? He's serious???

42 posted on 03/10/2009 5:19:26 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator ( . . . HaShem, HaShem, Qel rachum vechannun; 'erekh 'appayim verav-chesed ve'emet!)
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To: Seruzawa

Boy you said it. In fact, the “Left Behind” series was proverbial stake through the heart of my rabid dispensationalist beliefs.


43 posted on 03/10/2009 5:26:21 PM PDT by arielguard (Fasting without prayer is vainglory.)
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To: Alex Murphy

His final thought:

“In other words, make Christianity attractive to outsiders through your actions. And retire the rest of your conversion material.”

Being friendly but not doing anything else is not how people develop a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

How can a Christian be friends with a person like this and not share anything else about God or what it takes to be saved, and be a true friend to that person? It is not possible.

He just wants to have ‘friendly’ people around him that won’t ever bring up anything about God, Christ or salvation. Be my friend, but don’t mention anything that could possibly save me. It’s nonsensical.

It’s as weird as saying “I want you to be my friend, just don’t tell me anything about your personal life and don’t ask me anything personal.” It just don’t work like that.


44 posted on 03/10/2009 5:28:55 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: Zionist Conspirator

Oh yeah, the russian commies and the chinese commies have been so successful showing how ‘live and let live’ works. They’ve just moved millions around whether they want to be moved or not, they’ve killed tens of millions of their own citizens in purges and ‘re-education’ and work camps.

Oh yeah, let’s look to the atheists for ‘live and let live’, the very same people who can’t help but bring lawsuits against Christians for having a monument somewhere or having a slogan on the money. Much less in our Declaration of Independence.


45 posted on 03/10/2009 5:32:25 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: Alex Murphy
That's (in part) because the Left Behind series was heavily padded to increase its length after the first couple of volumes came out. It was originally intended to last for only six books, not the sixteen+ that it ballooned into.

Don't forget the kid's book series. Or the prequels. Or the computer game (pray, and shoot at the AC's Hope&Change thug squads). Or the movies. And didn't they go with more movies straight to video after the first 2.

In the 5$ bin, at fine Walmarts everywhere.

They showed LB1 in a Sunday School class I was in (on the Apocalypse. Standard dispensational stuff.). I laughed out loud at the cliche moments. The car blew up at just the expected moment.

Back on topic: Don't, Do Not, show Mr. Lobdell the Left Behind movies.

46 posted on 03/10/2009 5:41:00 PM PDT by Lee N. Field (2)How many things are necessary for thee to know,..? the first, how great my sins and miseries are;)
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To: Between the Lines; Alex Murphy
Lobdell first joined Mariners Church, an evangelical megachurch pastored by Kenton Beeshore.

Mariner's Church. Name's familiar. I looked into it a bit when our church started to use materials put out by them in small groups. Looks like your cliche megachurch.

He later switches to St. Andrews Presbyterian, pastored by John Huffman. Eventually he finds himself drawn to Catholicism, and he and his wife enroll in catechism classes.

From there, to a PCUSA church, and then into Roman Catholicism. That tells me what kind of evangelical he was -- one that likely didn't pick up much in the way of substantive teaching along the way.

I would guess that along that way he heard mostly law of one sort or other. He may never have heard the gospel.

47 posted on 03/10/2009 5:57:12 PM PDT by Lee N. Field (2)How many things are necessary for thee to know,..? the first, how great my sins and miseries are;)
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To: Secret Agent Man
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." - Colossians 4:5-6

Yep, we are not the salt nor the answer unless we tell them the reason why.

48 posted on 03/10/2009 6:25:22 PM PDT by Between the Lines (For their sins of 50 million abortions God gave them over to be an ObamaNation {Romans 1:24-32})
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To: PetroniusMaximus

II Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentence.” (NIV)

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, THAT WHOSOVER believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal life”.

That’s everyone, and God did not leave anyone without the freewill choice to believe. period. There was no discrimination in God. We choose life or death, curses or blessings.


49 posted on 03/10/2009 6:36:21 PM PDT by Kackikat
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To: Dutchboy88

II Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentence.” (NIV)

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, THAT WHOSOVER believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal life”.

That’s everyone, and God did not leave anyone without the freewill choice to believe. period. There was no discrimination in God. We choose life or death, curses or blessings.

I apologize for duplicating, as I did not know there were more people who did not know they could choose to believe. I could have lumped you together in same answer..lol


50 posted on 03/10/2009 6:39:36 PM PDT by Kackikat
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