So you may or may not remember I was given a book called Christianese written by Donald E Moore. I got it after talking to the pastor at Solid Rock church. We had some conversation about the odd phrases used to describe Christian concepts. The book was a response to that. So I read it, and now I’ll tell you all about it.
So I’m not gonna lie to you, I had a lot of problems with this book. It was hard for me to keep reading to the end. The back of the book (and title) make it sound as though it’s a book explaining Christian language sensibly. In actuality it teaches a very narrow view of exactly what Christianity means. And there was a lot of really negative stuff in it. I found maybe two pages worth of anything positive or interesting. The rest was kind of a loosely arranged mish-mash of confusion and negativity. I wrote down some of the things that stood out to me and put them into categories.
Let’s start with what little good stuff I found. There is an interesting section which describes ‘Abraham’s Bosom’. This is a phrase Jesus uses in a story he tells around Luke 15:22-23. In Jesus’ story, a good man who has died goes to Abraham’s Bosom. I found many translations also say ‘Abraham’s Side’ or just ‘to be with Abraham’. He also says that a rich man who dies ends up in ‘hell’ ‘Hades’ or ‘torment’. In the story, the rich man wishes for the good man to bring him cool water and also warn his brothers to change their ways. Apparently the good man is not allowed to do either of these things as he cannot cross into ‘Hades’. This little phrase ‘Abraham’s Bosom’ is actually the origin of the idea of purgatory as taught by the Catholic church. Even though Donald Moore obviously dislikes Catholics (he calls them a cult) he nevertheless believes in a place for holding souls that is neither heaven nor hell. He just believes that it is now closed, since Jesus opened heaven to us when he died.
There is a spot in the book which mentions how Jesus loves the Jews as children of Israel. I like it when Christians make a point of loving others, and specifically when they try to combat that whole “let’s blame the Jews for stuff” business.
The author makes mention of anointing being a practice used by shepherds. They would put oil on the heads of their sheep to protect them from parasites getting in their ears and eyes. God and Jesus are both often compared to the shepherd taking care of his sheep. From this the symbolic use of oil developed and the meaning of ‘anointed’ moved to something like a ‘chosen’ status.
This author actually seems to know the patriarchs pretty well, and a lot about the festivals and sabbaths listed in the bible. I’ve always thought it strange that Christian groups ignore their Jewish roots and don’t really celebrate any of the same holidays as Jews do or did. Moore thinks we need to get back into these old-school holy celebrations. I think that might be neat. I could be up for holidays involving eating flat crackers or building a tent.
I ran into a few spots with a claim followed by a contradictory claim in the next paragraph. I find it difficult to want to follow the ideas of someone who can’t even keep his own ideas from opposing each other. One such paragraph was explaining that if you are evil, evil will come to you. Moore states “What goes around, comes around.” Then a couple sentences later he says “Trouble comes to us all.” So which is it, does trouble bother only evil people, or everyone?
In a particularly confusing section, Moore talks about “sheep that are not of this fold”. Apparently Jesus told his disciples that there are others doing good that they (the disciples) don’t know about and those are still ok with Jesus. These are the sheep not of this fold. That sounds nice, and a great way to give other Christian groups the benefit of the doubt. It’s really too bad that Moore then contradicts himself to say that we can in fact know about which ‘sheep’ Jesus approves of and which he disapproves of. It’s a really stupid way to end what otherwise would be a nice little section on openmindedness.
It is explained that old testament rules, such as those regarding sex practices, must be followed because God knows best. A paragraph later we hear the opposite regarding dietary rules.- “we can eat limited amounts of prohibited foods…under the New Covenant.” If Moore thinks I can eat pork sometimes, by his own logic he ought to think I could have non-biblical sex just as often.
There are a few claims in this book that seem to be based on incorrectly understood information. One such idea is the claim that “gene studies have proven…all came from the same mother. We call her ‘Eve’.” I would guess that this is a misunderstanding of the ‘mitochondrial Eve’ concept. It’s a term some geneticist came up with (probably thought they were being cute) to describe the tracing of human lineage using mitochondrial DNA. Nuclear DNA is the classic DNA that most of us know; babies get half from dad (in the sperm) and half from mom (nucleus of the egg) and it contributes to our characteristics and tells our bodies how to grow. Mitochondria are components of human cells and they happen to have their own DNA which is totally separate from the nuclear DNA. The DNA in the mitochondria (aka mtDNA) is pretty much just for details of making more mitochondria. Furthermore, sperm don’t carry any mitochondria, so babies get mtDNA virtually unchanged from their mom. Over time small random changes would happen to inherited mtDNA, but nothing like the complex changes in nuclear DNA. Scientists realized this could be a really easy way to trace maternal lineage. The ‘mitochondrial Eve’ is a really ancient lady, but not the very first. She represents a woman who had at least one daughter, then at least one granddaughter then at least one great granddaughter, so on until today. Any women living before ‘mtEve’ had all sons, or at some point their lineage was only sons and thus mtDNA they possessed died off. I can understand that this stuff might be a bit confusing for the non-science types, but to say that science proves a biblical Eve is ridiculous.
It is casually suggested that the ideas of the big bang and evolution caused atheism. “Our forefathers had not invented the big bang and evolution yet, so they all gave thanks to a deity.” This shows not only a misunderstanding of the big bang and evolution (ideas which did not even develop in the same field of science) but also a misunderstanding of the existence of atheism. As I understand it, atheism is way older than either of those theories. It’s also silly to believe an atheist would necessarily need either theory as a precursor their atheism.
This guy really loves to attack evolution. In one section he explains that evolution can’t be right because it is “impossible to reproduce in the laboratory”. Yeah, of course it’s impossible to reproduce in a lab. So is butterfly migration to Mexico. The scale of both things in terms of time and space could never be contained in a lab, unless we are going to dedicate an entire continent, and most of our global resources to building a lab for a single experiment. I don’t see that as a possibility really- ever.
The most striking example of the author being rather uninformed is far into the book. It follows a tirade against tolerance and how tolerance is making Christians into weaklings. We are ‘reminded’ that Jesus was intolerant of sin. Yeah I’ll agree Jesus did have some major beefs with a few things that went on in his time. But Jesus ate with sinners, and saved an adulteress from being stoned saying “I do not condemn you.” Jesus seems like he was a pretty tolerant dude who was more about helping people than judging them.
So my last example of this section fits someplace between this category and the next one. Moore says, “Great is the volume of evidence that Jesus of Nazareth lived and died.” Actually no, not as far as I know. If you are looking for evidence outside the bible there is little to none. Several historians mention the Jews demonstrating at the instigation of Christus or Cherstus, but they don’t say a lot more about this person, so it’s even possible it’s not Jesus but another dude with a similar name. Josephus mentions Jesus, but there is some debate that his work may have been altered to include the reference. Altogether that’s certainly not a ‘great’ volume of evidence . But then I guess it’s possible Moore means the bible itself and the many books therein. To me that’s more like a single source though. I’d feel the same confidence in a single news report that 20 different people described to me. I’d still just count it as one source.
So basically everything in this book that was not a biblical quote was without external reference. A few of them stood out as probably wrong or just weird, but I was unable to figure out where the ideas could have come from, making them difficult to address.
The twinkling of an eye = 1/100th of a second. I’m not sure why this was defined or where the definition comes from. Is it important to my Christian faith?
Monogamy = health, wealth, and longevity. Could be true or false as far as I know. And I definitely lean towards false based on the other ‘facts’ provided by the author.
An increase in believers from 1992-1996. What type? Is this just Moore’s denomination or all Christians, or what?
A few sections of this book were written in what I find to be the most confusing manner possible. Several sentences didn’t seem to be syntactically correct.
Soul was defined as 1) mind and emotions 2) mind, will and emotions 3) mind, will, emotions, heart, and personality… I feel like I’m in a Monty Python sketch.
Moore talks very fervently about what I can only guess is an account of something from his own church. He says that sometimes people backslide and fall into their old ‘ fleshy’ ways. Then they say things like “I’m not playing church and it’s not about me.” He repeats the phrases as though they are some magical beacon by which we will see those backsliders and do whatever it is you do to backsliders…
Towards the end of the book, I don’t know maybe Moore was getting tired or something. It starts to dissolve into long pieced together bible quotes. Most of these I can’t follow what he’s getting at. There is a bunch of stuff from Revelations including this enigmatic quote: “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” My best guess here is that God is a big fan of clean laundry. I’ll have to get myself some extra strength bleach- gotta be holy, right?
Pot vs Kettle-
Several sections had this feel that the author was trying to describe what’s wrong with other groups, but also wound up describing his own group. Mainly this was regarding descriptions of cults. The takeaway points seem to be that a cult is exclusive and rearranges bible verses. Exclusive like the way Moore says only his interpretation is correct? I also see a bunch of bible verses all rearranged in the last several chapters of Christianese. So I guess the author is in a cult too.
Demons and disease-
According to this book, demons figure heavily into our lives. Demon oppression or possession can trouble people who are either weak, or choosing sin. Mental illness is seen as a sign of demon issues. This idea strikes me as particularly dangerous, because it then makes it easy to blame the sick for their illness. Then furthermore if treatment is faith-based, those not healing are even more at fault for not having faith enough to heal.
Another section describes a second set of possible reasons for all your problems. God may have cursed you or maybe he’s just angry. Yes, it is suggested in this book that sickness, poverty, insanity, and natural disasters are all results of Gods wrath. If anything, this is worse than blaming demons because it implies you did something soooo bad, even the good guy is pissed at you. I’ve worked really hard to shed the idea that my God is one who punishes. It just doesn’t seem consistent with the many examples of good people afflicted and bad people living the easy life. So it’s really annoying and discouraging to find the idea given weight in this book.
Insulting to women-
So there’s at least one spot where Moore appears to be trying to bring in the idea of equality for women- which I would applaud if he didn’t do such an awful job of it. There is a spot in one of Paul’s letters which mentions women who are too vocal in the church needing to shut up. This is explained away by saying that yeah, that’s how society was at the time. Moore also cites a few instances where Paul says women are spiritual leaders in one church or another. And this might have been fine with me. Except that the section ends with this: “If God can speak through a donkey (numbers 22) He can surely speak through anyone.” Yeah our God is one wacky guy. Of all things he could choose to talk through he chooses donkeys and even women. What crazy thing will he do next?
I cannot believe you just said that-
Here’s a list of things I can’t believe anyone would say, much less print in a book:
“A lack of Faith is often because self-talk (thinking) causes Faith to turn into doubt.”
“how far would Hitler have gotten if the Christian world…used their free will to stop Hitler’s evil free will?”
(apparently Christian free will was the only factor in WWII)
“AIDS…seldom plague(s) those who keep God’s laws.”
(I suppose for example babies born with AIDS were breaking commandments in utero?…so offensive)
Last but not least, wacky!-
I had to end with something vaguely amusing. This entire book review has taken me two weeks and is depressing me like crazy. So here are some concepts from the book I found a bit wacky.
Christians are like Christ but not “joining a mind melt of Christ’s”.
(You are not winning over dorknerds with the inaccurate geek slang.)
Ghosts and aliens people think they’ve seen are really demons and human/angel hybrids.
Heaven is in space. Hell is in earth’s core.
Yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture are all dangerous pathways. Spirits can gain entrance, just like what happened to this one pastor the author knows…he lost his mind!
Thanksgiving was declared a holy day by government officials and atheists miss the point of the holiday because they are incapable of thankfulness. Also they are selfish.
Harry Potter leads us the wrong way, but Tolkien is just fine.
Injected microchips fit with revelations talk of the end times.
(Aren’t those for dogs? Dog rapture is near! Repent ye hounds!)
Alright so, I’m tired to death of this book. I’m surprised it exists, and surprised it was recommended to me. It seems to want to be a book to recommend Christianity to the non-Christian. As a Christian I find it to be a better recommendation against the religion. Don’t bother reading it, it will just make you want to cry.