Not what they tell you in church. This is a place for facts.


New evidence in the life of the Evangelical legend

On September 19, 1997, the Evangelical singer-songwriter Rich Mullins died in a car wreck, age 41. For fans, it was a tragic end to a divine life.

Memorials were held across the country for the author of the mega-hit “Awesome God.” The newspaper at Liberty University quoted a mourner saying: “A prophet of God has left the earth.”

But details were puzzling. Why had Mullins retired from music? Why had he looked so ill prior to his death?

Rich Mullins (publicity photo; c.1994)

I was thinking about those questions last year, when doing a profile of Mullins.

I laid out the case that his life had a secret. He’d discussed himself as a “sissy,” never married or had apparent girlfriends. Had he been gay?—if in a tortured, closeted, Evangelical mode.

There were very suggestive scenes. In 1985, Mullins was in crisis over what he called his…


Take some advice from a deity?

I might give ‘religion’ a pass, but I love Jesus—that guy who was always saying nice, weird things. So of course they killed him.

While it lasted, he gave the best advice?

Cristychan96, “Jesus” (2019)

1. Be childlike

Jesus is big on the spiritual qualities of children. And children like him too. They approach Jesus in the scene of Matthew 19:14—after he tells his overgrown disciples to stop getting in the way.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

The idea went completely over the heads of his disciples. It’s rarely heard in Christian circles either. They keep trying to be “adults” all the time—even when that’s clearly not working.

2. Be present

Jesus was hitting that ‘mindfulness’…


Reading Bible scholars—I was shocked

“Thou shalt not have sex before marriage” — isn’t found in the Bible. But few of the Christian “rules” actually are.

When I looked up Bible scholarship about what they told me as a kid in church, I realized how often it was just made up.

Sara Shakeel (2017)

“Thou shalt not masturbate!”

As often as Christians have spoken against people touching their own bodies, the Bible has no references to that subject. How did a religion get away with outright deception, and for so long?

They often said dancing was bad. I look up the references to dancing in the Bible. God dances (Zeph 3:17). From Myriam to David to Jesus, dancing is divine.

But Christians moved along to their next sex obsession—as the dancing ban became…


A Bible scholar lays out a shocking case

Little is known about the authors of the Bible, and “Luke” is a particularly tricky case. The third gospel and Acts were assigned to him.

But how the name and texts relate is mysterious. Many scholars think of the “Luke” writings as anonymous. In a new paper, noted Bible scholar Joan Taylor suggests the real author has been known all along.

Vesna Valakhova (Shutterstock)

The third gospel and Acts are usually thought to be written by the same person.

The texts don’t identify an author, and seem to have circulated for years without a name attached to them. But there were two big clues. In the prologue to the gospel, the author is said to not have witnessed the life of Jesus. This person came along later.

The second clue seemed to really narrow it down. In a few passages between Acts 16–28…


Re-reading a 1980s toy story

Martha Nelson Thomas (undated; c.1975; fair use; colorized)

In 2015, an artist who’d died two years prior appeared on the cultural radar. A Vice documentary, “The Secret History of Cabbage Patch Kids,” said the creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids, the #3 selling toy line of all time (after Hot Wheels and Rubik’s Cube), was not Xavier Roberts, as usually said, but a Kentucky folk artist named Martha Nelson Thomas.

As Jennifer Lee reminded in a recent post in History of Yesterday, “Corruption Grew in the Cabbage Patch,” Xavier looked bad. As I poked around period sources, however, it was clear the Vice narrative made mistakes.

It was great to learn more about Martha

Born in…


Did a doll change the world?

One of the strangest features of the 1980s, the strangest decade ever, was a craze for a doll. Everyone wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid.

But why? The doll is “weird or unnatural, even unattractive or ugly,” as Daniel Acuff puts it in a 2010 book, What Kids Buy and Why.

It wasn’t feminine—or masculine? Looking through the history of the Cabbage Patch Kids, I wonder if I’d choose the word—queer.

Andy Warhol, “Cabbage Patch Doll” (1985)

The story was that a young sculptor from Georgia named Xavier Roberts had designed it.

That a young Southern man was sewing, and selling dolls, was already a bit unusual? Xavior was always identified as a ‘bachelor’.


A song from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus has the right wing up in arms

What did conservatives see when watching the video? A gay guy from San Francisco looking like a deranged Joker promising to rape boys.

A liberal viewer, if watching “Message From the Gay Community,” likely saw something else: a satire song about tolerance? Well-intentioned, amusing, enlightening.

I’m catching up on the online firestorm over the music video put out in early July by San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. They see themselves as the “gay community”—so what is their message?

Troy Iwata in “Message From the Gay Community” (2021; edited)

I’m trying to ‘read’ the song.

It seems to be aimed at a right-wing listener, telling them their children will be corrupted by the ‘gay community’.

“You think we’re sinful
You fight against our rights
You say we all lead live you can’t respect
But you’re just frightened
You think that we’ll corrupt your kids
If…


Was he ‘masculine’—or faking it?

I have never been sure what people mean by the word “masculine” — or why John Wayne is so often associated with this trait.

His name wasn’t even ‘John Wayne’. His name was Marion — a woman’s name. It suited him. He was rather androgynous, a dancer, and an actor. Only in movies was he a rugged cowboy, playing a character created by the director John Ford, a closeted gay man from Maine.

People go on and on about John Wayne’s ‘masculinity’

I’m reading a new book which notes the Evangelical Christian fascination with the fictional cowboy. In Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Kristin Kobes Du Mez writes:

“Throughout his films and his politics, Wayne established himself as the embodiment of rugged, all-American masculinity.”

Jonathan Poletti

religion. sex. facts.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store