Thursday, May 10, 2018

Discussing Why I Left, Why I Stayed by Tony and Bart Campolo

If you've seen many of my posts this year you probably know that at the end of 2017 I started an online Theology Book Club by creating a Facebook group and inviting people I thought might be interested. And that led to opportunities to be on John Weldy's podcast, Reclaiming Christianity, where we talk about the books we are reading in the book club. So our book for this month is Why I Left, Why I Stayed by humanist Bart Campolo and his father, evangelist Tony Campolo. And last night John Weldy, Thad Crews and I discussed the book and our own faith journeys.

Listen to this episode here.

(Subscribe on iTunes)

Panelists: Jennifer Neyhart, Thad Crews

The Panel gives their book recommendations:
Book review of Why I Left, Why I Stayed by Tony and Bart Campolo:

Thad and I both felt like Tony and Bart talked past each other a bit. Thad doesn't think Tony understands what Bart's real issue is: that he just doesn't/can't believe that stuff anymore.

When I was reading Bart's chapters I kept thinking that I agreed with him on a lot of his criticisms of evangelical theology, but I wanted to say what about this? What about these other interpretations? These other options? Contrary to what some of them (conservative evangelicals) may say, it's not their interpretation or nothing.

John asked me and Thad to give our responses to the following questions:
  • Tell us a bit about your background.
  • What does leaving/staying mean to you?
  • Why did you leave/stay?
  • How have you responded to pressure to stay/leave?
Then John read one of Bart's chapters in the book (p89-95) and we discussed it.

I really liked something Tony said in the next chapter, responding to Bart's issues with the errors and contradictions in the Bible:
"Sure, if you try to read it literally, the Bible contains some mistakes and inaccuracies, but that is not how its ancient authors expected it to be read, and that is not how it has been read by Christians for hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact, the idea that the Bible is literally and inerrantly true is a relatively new one, introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century by a small group of American Protestants in a series of tracts called “The Fundamentals.” Unfortunately, those fundamentalists and their followers have led lots of people—including lots of skeptics—into reading the Bible the wrong way. 
As I see it, the Gospel writers were not as interested in the details of Jesus’s life as they were in the truth of it. Like their Old Testament counterparts, they carefully constructed their stories to give their readers insights about the meaning and purpose of life. To ask if this or that really happened the way it’s described is to miss the point. What matters isn’t whether each of those accounts is scrupulously accurate and consistent with all the others. What matters is what they collectively reveal about the nature of God." (137)
I also agreed with this quote from Tony:
"the penal substitutionary doctrine of the atonement is only one explanation of how our salvation was accomplished by Jesus on the cross, and [...] none of them alone can contain the whole story. What happened at Calvary is far too profound to be reduced to a simple formula." (131) 
Panelist Goodbye - Where can people find you?

Thad Crews:

Theology Book Club:
June: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
July: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans

If you would like to join the Facebook Group you can click here to email me. Or click over to the Theology Book Club page and submit the contact form you will find there.

This is a link to an Amazon list of the books we have been reading/will be reading in the book club.

Previous episodes that I have been on:
35: Evolution of the Word by Marcus Borg, part 1
30. Axioms of Faith (Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue)
29. The Cosmic Christ (Love Wins by Rob Bell)
27. Women and Evangelicalism (Rescuing Jesus by Deborah Jian Lee)
20. Living Through a Faith Shift (What is the Bible? by Rob Bell)
19. God and the American Empire (What is the Bible? by Rob Bell)
18. Anakephalaiossathai (What is the Bible? by Rob Bell)

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

What I'm Into (March and April 2018)

This is the stuff I've been into over the past two months: the movies, the tv shows, and the books, along with some highlights of the IRL stuff too. =)


Ranking of the 2018 movies I've seen so far (and yes, first place is a tie):

1. Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (so many thoughts and feelings!!!!)
2. Ready Player One
3. Love, Simon
4. A Wrinkle in Time
5. I Can Only Imagine
6. The Miracle Season
7. Peter Rabbit


These are the shows I am caught up on at the moment:

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Young Sheldon
  • The Flash
  • Supergirl
  • Krypton
  • Rise
  • Modern Family
  • The Middle
  • Will and Grace (season has ended)
  • This is Us (season has ended)

And if you saw my last post you know I've started watching Battlestar Galactica (2004). I've only watched season one and the first two episodes of season two as of right now, so no spoilers, please!

I feel like the past two months have flown by. I've been CRAZY busy with homework for the past month and will continue to be for the next three weeks. Then I will have a glorious three-month break. Here is a list of all of the TV shows I would love to watch or re-watch this summer:

  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Legends of Tomorrow (finish season 3)
  • Will and Grace (finish seasons 6, 7 and 8)
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • Star Trek
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Star Trek: Discovery (re-watch)
  • The Good Place
  • Doctor Who (re-watch)
  • Black Mirror
  • Lost in Space
  • Smallville (re-watch)
  • The Orville
  • Black Lightning
  • Timeless
  • Schitt's Creek
  • Parenthood
  • Arrow (catch up from s5e8)
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  • Star Trek: Voyager
  • Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Boy Meets World (re-watch)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (re-watch)
  • Angel
But realistically, at least Battlestar Galactica, Legends of Tomorrow, and The Handmaid's Tale. And maybe Star Trek and Star Trek: TNG =) (and maybe Doctor Who, ;-)

Books - Read and Reading

Favorites from March:
Favorites from April:

Currently Reading:
Connect with me on Goodreads to see what I am currently reading and keep track of the books you are reading, have read, and want to read: Jennifer's Goodreads Profile


As usual, I'm way behind on listening to podcasts. But I am on these podcast episodes of Reclaiming Christianity from March and April:

Axioms of Faith (Episode 30)
John Weldy, Jennifer Neyhart, and Beckett Hanan discuss “Science” Mike McHargue’s Axioms of Faith as presented in his book Finding God in the Waves. Can God and science coexist? Can God be experienced without certainty? Is there a framework by which a rational person can believe in God?

Evolution of the Word, part 1 (Episode 35)
John Weldy, Jennifer Neyhart, and Jason Armold discuss how the New Testament and Christianity evolved during its first century through the lens of Evolution of the Word by Marcus Borg. This episode we introduce the concept of studying the NT in the order the books were written, look through Borg’s timeline, and discuss the first five books: I Thessalonians, Galatians, I Corinthians, Philemon, and Philippians.

BSG1: Season 1
As I mentioned in my last post, I had never watched Battlestar Galactica until now. But it sounded like something I would enjoy, so when I was asked to watch it and discuss it on the podcast, I said yes!

Our first episode covers the miniseries and season one, so if you haven't watched those episodes yet, you probably want to do that first to avoid spoilers!

Some of the things we discuss:

• When humanity can create life in their image, how does this affect theology?
• Do Cylons have souls?
• How is Battlestar Galactica influenced by Mormonism?
• Is Cylon theology essentially Calvinism?
• Who are the fundamentalists and who are the mystics in the show?

You can check out the other podcasts related to the Theology Book Club by clicking here.

Theology Book Club:
In November of 2017, I started an online Theology Book Club. These are the books for the next three months:

May: Why I Left, Why I Stayed: Conversations on Christianity Between an Evangelical Father and His Humanist Son by Tony Campolo and‎ Bart Campolo
June: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
July: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
(I am REALLY excited to read Rachel's new book!)

If you want to join the Facebook Group you can click here to email me. Or click over to the Theology Book Club page and fill out the contact form at the bottom. In addition to the online discussion within the group, we also have monthly (and weekly for those who are interested) chats where people can participate by talking over the voice channel (using Discord), or they can choose to just listen and engage via text if they so wish.

You can follow me on Instagram @jenniferneyhart.

Bookish friends are the best!!! I just had the loveliest time with a group of people who love books/reading as much as I do. We did a book exchange party where everyone brought a copy of a book they love, to give away. We randomly picked a wrapped book and then the person who brought it told us a little bit about it and why they chose that book. Super fun! Afterward, we played "Ex Libris" (think Balderdash with a literary twist).

Happy Spring? #kentuckyweather
I got a new toy/decoration for myself! Justice League nesting dolls!!! So then I had to set them up on my shelf and take pictures of some of the other fun decorations on my shelves!
At this time I also realized that every time my brother comes over to play board games, he moves some of the minifigs around. So in this instance h,e moved Hagrid from the Hogwarts castle to the shelf with lots of superheroes. Also, do you see the Weeping Angel in front of the Hogwarts castle? @bneyhart strikes again...
celebrating Ema's 9th birthday!
This is my brother. He is a high school history teacher and this is what he wore to work today. It was Spirit Week and today was "thrift day". I love it! So did his students! #mightymorphinpowerrangers #powerrangers #throwbackthursday
Megan's baby shower!!!! So exciting!!!!

Painting with Julie! "Starry Night over Churchill Downs". #pinotspalette #starrynight
Celebrating my Dad's birthday on Sunday!
On the Blog

This post is linked up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Podcast on The Theology of Battlestar Galactica

I had never watched Battlestar Galactica until now. I've still only watched through the first season at this point, so no spoilers, please! But my friend John Weldy already had me convinced to start watching it at some point. And then another friend, Chuck McKnight realized that there seemed to be a lot of us who really like theology and science fiction and fantasy, so he started a new facebook group: Theology, Science Fiction and Fantasy And when John suggested we watch BSG as a group and have a few of us discuss it on his podcast, I said sure. Why not? Sounds fun! 

We recorded our first episode on Saturday night. It covers the miniseries and season one, so if you haven't watched those episodes yet, you probably want to do that first to avoid spoilers!

We plan to record six more episodes over the next several months as we watch the rest of the show. Out of the four of us on the podcast, I'm the only one who is watching the series for the first time.

Some of the questions we talk about are:

When man can create life in his image, how does this affect theology?
Do Cylons have souls?
How is Battlestar Galactica influenced by Mormonism?
Is Cylon theology essentially Calvinism?
Who are the fundamentalists and who are the mystics in the show?

Listen to this episode here.

(Subscribe on iTunes)


A couple of interesting quotes from the miniseries:
“The Cylon War is long over, yet we must not forget the reasons why so many sacrificed so much in the cause of freedom. The cost of wearing the uniform can be high ... [after looking at crowd] but sometimes it's too high. You know, when we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question, why? Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we've done. Like we did with the Cylons. We decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn't our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore.” - Adama, decommissioning of the BSG
Leoben: "Maybe the Cylons are God’s retribution for our many sins. What if God decided he made a mistake, and he decided to give souls to another creature, like the Cylons?"
Adama: "God didn’t create the Cylons, man did. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t include a soul, in the programming."

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright

The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 3, 2018 by Convergent Books

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Basically, I loved it.

I first stumbled across Jamie Wright's blog in March of 2011. I immediately loved her writing, her stories, and her perspective.

If you are offended by "profanity", this might not be the book for you. (However, as one of the reviewers on Amazon said "if you are a Christian and have watched a rated R movie recently, you can handle this book. And you should." - which made me laugh, but it's also a valid point!)

Jamie's memoir is hilarious, but also honest. I think she is asking good questions and pointing out things that need to be brought into the light regarding short-term missions and the Missionary Machine in general.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Madeleine Lambert, and I didn't want to stop listening. It's just under 5 hours and I could have kept listening for 5 more. I hope Jamie writes more books in the future. (By the way, if you tend to buy books on Kindle, and you buy this one on Kindle, you can add on the audiobook for $7.47, which is what I did.)

One of the many parts that resonated with me was when Jamie was talking about reading through some awful book with the church ladies and it was saying ridiculously wrong stuff about how medication and professional therapy are not the answer for clinical depression, and how a man should have strict authority over his wife, and they got to a part about the importance of "quiet time" and how "you can sleep when you're dead". So the leader was admonishing these young sleep-deprived mothers to forgo even more sleep so they could have their precious "quiet time" in the morning. And Jamie finally lost it on them. (I was cheering for Jamie. :-D) Here is part of what she wrote in response to the legalistic idea of a mandatory "quiet time":

“I don’t think that’s how it works. I really don’t. I think God is with us. Like, day in and day out, in the chaos and the noise and the silliness of life, He is there. The God of your precious, untouchable ‘quiet time’ is a present witness to our nonstop lives, never absent for the clamor of our kids’ laughter, their squeals, their skinned knees, their fussing and whining and raging fits in the Target parking lot. God is not withholding Himself from us, waiting for us to come to Him in the wee hours of the morning as a measure of our devotion!" (82)

Other favorite quotes:

"Lies hide us, secrets isolate us, partial truths confine us, but through the most blatant and bare honesty we are fully known, genuinely connected, and utterly freed." (xv)

"Our lives unfold in ways that are both plain and mysterious, because God’s equipping is practical, but His redemption is magical." (187)

"I am certain of only two things. The first is that when Jesus told me to love my neighbor, I’m pretty sure he meant, like, my actual neighbor—the person or people nearest to me at any given moment. At home. At work. On the subway. In the supermarket. On a street corner. Y’know, neighbors. And the second thing is this: The only way to know how to truly love your neighbor is to truly know your neighbor." (207)

"Many of us have been hurt by the church, but to be redeemed by God is to understand that, though you have been wounded, you don’t have to keep bleeding. You are redeemed. Now you can see. Now you can stand. To trust God is to stretch out your hand." (211)

"To bring light and hope, you and I must show up for life in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, and in our schools not as “missionaries” and self-proclaimed blessings but as imperfect parents, genuine friends, competent professionals, and messy people. We must show up as safe havens, not as mini saviors. We must bravely show up in our everyday lives to do our best with what we have, listening carefully, serving sensibly, and loving fully as active participants in the story of who God is and what God does." (211)

Official blurb:

"Wildly popular blogger "Jamie the Very Worst Missionary" delivers a searing, offbeat, often hilarious memoir of spiritual disintegration and re-formation.

As a quirky Jewish kid and promiscuous punk@$$ teen, Jamie Wright never imagines becoming a Christian, let alone a Christian missionary. She is barely an adult when the trials of motherhood and marriage put her on an unexpected collision course with Jesus. After finding her faith at a suburban megachurch, Jamie trades in the easy life on the cul-de-sac for the green fields of Costa Rica. There, along with her family, she earnestly hopes to serve God and change lives. But faced with a yawning culture gap and persistent shortcomings in herself and her fellow workers, she soon loses confidence in the missionary enterprise and falls into a funk of cynicism and despair.

Nearly paralyzed by depression, yet still wanting to make a difference, she decides to tell the whole, disenchanted truth: Missionaries suck and our work makes no sense at all! From her sofa in Central America, she launches a renegade blog, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and against all odds wins a large and passionate following. Which leads her to see that maybe a "bad" missionary--awkward, doubtful, and vocal—is exactly what the world and the throngs of American do-gooders need."

The Very Worst Missionary Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Fundamentalism and Biblical Literalism

Image by David Hayward at

Part of my homework assignment this week for one of my seminary classes was to answer this question:

What is the connection between biblical literalism and fundamentalism?  Do you consider yourself a fundamentalist in the classic and best sense? 

Here is my response:

The fundamentalist movement started in the early 1920’s (in the USA) as a response (backlash) to liberal theology that had been arguing for a non-literal, non-miraculous interpretation of Jesus’ life (Wood 27-28). The fundamentalist overcorrection was to interpret the Bible as literally as possible, emphasizing “the plain meaning of the text”, as if there is such a thing. Fundamentalists created a house of cards kind of faith where if you take one card out, literal six-day creation, for example, the whole thing falls down. If it’s not all literally true than none of it is.

Do you consider yourself a fundamentalist in the classic and best sense? 

I take this part of the question to be referring to the five fundamentals of the faith mentioned on page 28: the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent and visible second coming. But even with that, I am wary of what is meant by verbal inspiration. I assume it means “verbal plenary inspiration”, and while I certainly affirm that the Bible is inspired by God, I do not believe that God dictated every word that was written down. Dynamic inspiration, as mentioned on page 36, is closer to my view. I also have a wider view of the atonement than the penal substitutionary theory. So no, I do not consider myself a fundamentalist, even in the classic and best sense. Nor do I think that word is even helpful at this point unless we are using it to be synonymous with biblical literalists, none of which describes me. I’ve seen the idea in a couple different places now of taking the Bible seriously, not always literally. I also advocate for reading the Bible literarily, that is to say, according to the genre and literary conventions. Notice the metaphors and poetic language. Don’t try to make Genesis 1 into a history text or a science text when it is a poem.

(The text I refer to is Theology as History and Hermeneutics by Laurence W. Wood)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Ten Books that Surprised Me

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Surprised Me

1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - I read this back in 2011 and I was not expecting to love it. I was expecting it to be difficult to wade through, but instead, I was caught up in the murder mystery and deeply moved by the theological and philosophical discussions.

2. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry - I read this one in 2013 and I was surprised by how much I loved it. It's outside of my favorite genres. From what I can remember it was rather slow-paced, but I know that I loved it. I suppose I need to re-read it and see if I still do.

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I'm pretty sure this was the first book I read by Neil Gaiman, and I didn't know what to expect, and I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

4. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series (5 books) - I discovered these books in 2011 when a friend sent them to me in a care package while I was living in Mexico. And again, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them, especially considering their intended target audience was a middle school age boy.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - read in 2013. I was hesitant to read this because I usually don't like to read books where I basically know that one of the characters is going to die. I mean come on, it's the cliche kid with cancer story, right? Except it's more than that. Here is what I wrote on Goodreads right after I read it: "Just read it. Seriously. You will laugh and you will probably get teary eyed at the very least. It is worth it."

6. Rysa Walker’s Timebound trilogy (The Chronos Files) - I found this through Kindle Unlimited and so I didn't have super high expectations, but it was a delight!

7. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - This one came highly recommended but I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It is a sci-fi thriller that plays with the idea of the multi-verse and a big twist.

8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, (Audiobook Narrated by Wil Wheaton) - I don't really remember how this first landed on my radar, but I loved it so much that it surely exceeded my expectations.

9. Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 #1) by Scott Meyer - this was another series I found on Kindle Unlimited that I really enjoyed.

10.  Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt - A fun fantasy story featuring a magical house full of magical things, and a strong female leading character. (also discovered through Kindle Unlimited)

Monday, March 05, 2018

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (Theology Book Club - March 2018)

As you may know by now, at the end of 2017 I started an online Theology Book Club by creating a Facebook group and inviting people I thought might be interested. This group is intended to be a safe space to discuss books and theology from more of a "Progressive Christian" point of view.

This month we will be reading and discussing Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (aka Science Mike on Twitter).

Blurb from Amazon:
From the host of the popular podcasts, The Liturgists Podcast and Ask Science Mike, a story of having faith, losing it, and finding it again through science—revealing how the latest in neuroscience, physics, and biology help us understand God, faith, and ourselves.

Mike McHargue understands the pain of unraveling belief. In Finding God in the Waves, Mike tells the story of how his Evangelical faith dissolved into atheism as he studied the Bible, a crisis that threatened his identity, his friendships, and even his marriage. Years later, Mike was standing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean when a bewildering, seemingly mystical moment motivated him to take another look. But this time, it wasn't theology or scripture that led him back to God—it was science.

Full of insights about the universe, as well as deeply personal reflections on our desire for certainty and meaning, Finding God in the Waves is a vital exploration of the possibility for knowing God in an age of reason, and a signpost for where the practice of faith is headed in a secular age. Among other revelations, we learn what brain scans reveal about what happens when we pray; how fundamentalism affects the psyche; and how God is revealed not only in scripture, but in the night sky, in subatomic particles, and in us.

​If you would like to join the Facebook Group and join the discussion you can click here to email me. Or submit this contact form below: