Muslim Monsters

Before 9/11, Islam was just another weird world religion that the vast majority of American Evangelical Christians didn’t really think about – in the same category as Hinduism and Buddhism. But in the wake of 9/11, we realized that over a billion people in the world are Muslim. And many of the countries most hostile to America are mostly Muslim.

For the last decade, we’ve demonized Muslims. But using Dr. Scott Poole’s methodology, we know that our monsters say more about us than about those we monsterize.

What does the Monster look like?

Is this representative of all Muslims?
Is this representative of all Muslims?

The picture of Monstrous Muslims we have in our collective Evangelical imagination looks roughly like this:

Muslims are hell-bent on conquering the world. They’ve established a beachead in Detroit and are going to kill or convert every person in America to Sharia law. They hate women and freedom. They embody a particularly insidious brand of religious fundamentalism. And this isn’t just fringe Muslims. This violent fundamentalism is woven into the very fabric of the Islamic faith.

That some Muslims believe these things is certain. The question is whether those beliefs are representative of all Muslims.Continue reading

For JR.’s 32nd Birthday, I present: The 32 (of the many) reasons I love JR. and that he is the best!

This is Amanda, JR.’s wife. JR. turns 32 today, so I’m taking over his blog.

I know that it has been FAR too long since a post has been written about the lives of the Forasteros Family, so I thought since one of JR.’s primary love languages is verbal affirmation, I figured that I would start with a surprise birthday post of the many reasons I think he is the bee’s knees. Fair warning: it might get a little mushy at times, but what can I say?  We are presh.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here are just 32 reasons I love JR.:Continue reading

Obama the Muslim, Romney the Christian: Why Can’t We Vote for Someone Who’s Not Like Us?

As election day inches closer, the campaign rhetoric continues to heat up. And as in previous years, religion is at the forefront. This year, however, Evangelicals are faced with a dilemma we’ve never faced, at least not in our lifetime.

Most Evangelicals have traditionally voted Republican (74% voted for McCain in the last election), and every Republican candidate in the last 50 years has been at least Protestant if not Evangelical.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney is not an Evangelical. He’s not Protestant. He’s not Christian. Mitt Romney is a practicing Mormon.

And Barack Obama is a practicing Christian, a long-time member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

But primarily because of Obama’s views on Abortion (he’s pro-choice) and Gay Marriage (he favors it), Evangelicals as a whole – and especially Evangelical leaders – have been unwilling to support Obama despite his Christian faith.

In the last election, between two Christians, this wasn’t a problem for Evangelicals because McCain was a Christian. This election is totally different.

Because Mitt Romney is not a Christian, Evangelicals must choose either to vote for a Christian candidate whose politics they disagree with, or a non-Christian candidate whose policies they affirm.

Continue reading

Guest Post: Atheism by Matt Mikalatos

This dude is awesome.
This dude is awesome.

As faithful readers know, Matt Mikalatos is one of my favorite authors. And since I’m ripping off his Night of the Living Dead Christian for my current sermon series, I asked him to contribute his take on a particularly scary Christian monster. Check out Matt’s blog, follow him on Twitter and read all his awesome books.

Oh, and be sure to come to Beavercreek Nazarene this Sunday, because Matt is speaking! Now, without further ado, Matt’s Christian monster:

JR has been running a series on his blog about monsters we create in the Christian community, and what that says about us. I volunteered to share about that most feared and repulsive of creatures, THE ATHEIST!

AthiestOn a dark and stormy night in Christian America, families were happy, marriages were strong, and the economy was a powerhouse as God intended. But, unbeknownst to God’s people, a woman named Madeline Murray O’Hair lurked in the darkness. She hated God and hated Christians because she was…. AN ATHEIST! And she wanted nothing more than to undermine the very fabric of Christian society by outlawing prayer in schools and getting the FCC to removed “Touched By An Angel” from television. As we all know, to outlaw prayer would be the death of Christian America. What would happen next? No ten commandments on courthouse walls? No nativities on government property at Christmas? Christians being executed on the White House lawn?

For some time (even after her tragic death), chain letters and forwarded emails used to warn Christians about the dangers of Ms. O’Hair, the atheist. Today, we have to work ourselves up about the “new atheists”… the new vocal minority who are writing books about how there is not God and that if there is, he is not good. And yes, we occasionally (often?) paint them as monsters.Continue reading


The scariest monsters are those that come from within!

JR. Forasteros - October 21, 2012



Ghosts are all about our inability to move on with our lives, to put the past behind us. We are haunted by those who've hurt us. How do we learn to forgive, to begin to live again after a hurt?

From Series: "It Came From Within"

This is the season of the year when people start to think about monsters - ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. We normally don't think of monsters having anything to do with the Church, but we'd be wrong. The reason people tell monster stories is that monsters are a safe way to talk about things we're not ready to admit about ourselves. We don't want to see ourselves as selfish, unforgiving, ill-tempered. So we tell stories. We create monsters. So today, we're going to shine some light in the cracks of our lives. Expose the monsters to the light. And hopefully it'll be fun!

Sermon Manuscript     Discussion Guide

More From "It Came From Within"

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Today’s about Ghost stories. Though they appear in many forms, the quintessential ghost story involves the spirit of a dead person who’s stayed around (usually a haunted house) because they have unfinished business. Maybe they have to deliver a message or ensure proper burial or get revenge. Whatever the case, once their business is complete, they leave into the afterlife.

Unlike our previous two monsters, today we’re not ghosts. Rather, to quote Peter Rollins,

We are the haunted houses. — Peter Rollins

We move through life collecting hurts, wounds and scars, evidence of pain inflicted on us by other people. Some may be slight, exaggerated in our heads – maybe someone who cuts us off or says something cruel or who causes us harm by accident. Others could be huge, life-altering. A spouse who left. An abuser. And there’s a whole range of hurts between.

Whatever their source, however legitimate or not, these people, these hurts don’t just exit our lives.

We carry them around with us, in our heads and in our souls. They haunt us, returning again and again out of the ether to drag us through the past, to relive history, to reopen old wounds.

The problem is we don’t know what these ghosts want. We don’t know how to resolve their business and get them to leave us. We can’t escape their haunting – especially if the person who hurt you is still a part of your life.

If we want to escape our ghosts, if we want to be free from the haunting of our hurts, we must learn the difficult art of forgiveness.

Join us Sunday as we learn how to forgive and find healing.

Christian Monsters

Check out Monsters in America by Scott Poole on Amazon!
Check out Monsters in America on Amazon!

Why does every culture tell monster stories? It’s a fascinating question. An excellent book I’ve been reading lately by Scott Poole suggests that monsters are a safe way for us to talk about those aspects of our culture we’re not particularly proud of.

As Scott says:

Master narratives are, by definition, lies and untruths. This is why we need to study monsters. They are the things hiding in history’s dark places, the silences that scream if you listen closely enough. Cultural critic Greil Marcus writes that “parts of history, because they don’t fit the story a people wants to tell itself, survive only as haunts and fairy tales, accessible only as specters and spooks.”

It's everyone's favorite spiritual dysfunctions!
Everyone’s favorite spiritual dysfunctions!

Scott works wonders with this methodology in his book (which you should absolutely check out if you’re a horror movie junkie at all!

You might also recognize this approach to monsters from Matt Mikalatos’ excellent book Night of the Living Dead Christian. Matt uses traditional monster movie tropes to explore issues of spiritual formation. I’ve already written at length about how hilarious and awesome NotLDC is. In fact, I liked it so much, we ripped it off for our current sermon series.

So for the next few weeks, rather than retread ground that’s already been covered to such great effect, I’m going to follow Scott’s approach more closely. Scott says,

Seeing America through its monsters offers a new perspective on old questions. It allows us to look into the shadows, to rifle through those trunks in the attic we have been warned to leave alone. Not all of our myths will make it out of here alive.

In this series of posts, I’m going to explore some of the monsters Evangelical Christianity has created. We’ll look at how the persons (and people groups) have been mythologized and misrepresented. We’ll also ask why: what do we gain by projecting our fears onto these “monsters”?Continue reading

Our Inheritance in Christ – Matt Chandler

In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul allegorizes the story of Sara and Hagar. He speaks of those who bear children of Spirit and those who bear children of Flesh. Children of flesh are those who trust in the Law, who define their value by externals (achievement, etc.).

Some of our “kids” are born in flash: they don’t need Gods help. Some are born out of only God’s intervention.

Justification is the crown jewel of our salvation. But Justification isn’t an end in itself. Justification should lead us to Sonship/Daughterhood. As Matt pointed out,

I don’t want to go camping with a judgeContinue reading

Create High-Performance Teams – Andy Stanley

AS1 - Andy StanleyMost people in the work force don’t feel like they are part of a team. They feel like employees. ON the other hand, many leaders view themselves as team leaders and team players. Consequently, leaders are often confused when employees don’t function like a team.

Hiring a staff is not the same as developing a team. Team requires something beyond a job description, office products, and a paycheck. For those content to manage the status quo, employees will do.

But for the leader who is consumed by the desire to move the needle in his or her sphere of influence, team is an absolute necessity. Here’s why:

Synergy – when a combination of elements produces an effect greater than the sum of the individual elements.

To Create High-Performance TeamsContinue reading

Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars – Jonathan Merritt

A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars
Click to check out A Faith of Our Own on Amazon

American Christianity is experiencing head-snapping change. Specifically, Christian political engagement is changing with the emergence of the new generation. What kind of change?

The 1950s were they heyday of Christian Civil Religion. Church attendance grew from 31% in 1950 to 51% by 1957. This was the decade that saw “Under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” adopted as our national motto.

Then came the Shock. Beginning in the 1960s, a wide variety of cultural factors challenged American Christian Civil Religious hegemony: Vietnam, Environmentalism, Civil Rights, Feminism, Gay Rights and Biblical Criticism, to name a few.Continue reading

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Simon SinekTo be a leader, you only need followers. A follower is someone who volunteers to go the direction you point.

There are 2 ways to get people to follow you:

  1. Manipulate (fear, peer pressure, price drop)
  2. Inspire (Apple, Harley Davidson, Southwest)

Manipulation works but those strategies don’t breed loyalty.Continue reading