Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Recognize the Holy-Man Cred

In a previous blog post I mentioned that I had been in a very short internet conversation with a pastor by the name of Scott Cheatham.  The reason I know he’s a pastor is simple: a minister named Brian Kirk had written the initial Hell House blog post, and Scott made it a point to mention in one of his first comments that he was a pastor.  Scott also did a little name-dropping by mentioning yet another pastor who he claims is a founding father of Hell Houses.  You know, for holy-man cred.

Anyway, it didn’t take much Googling to figure out exactly who this guy was.  Scott Cheatham is the Lead Pastor at Rangeview Church in Thornton, CO.  “Oh, groovy,” I thought to myself, “I’d like to hear what the leaders of small churches think of this kind of thing.”

Okay, before I begin my retelling, I want to explain what I’m going to with my post.  I’ve decided that I’ll focus myself on just one topic, since both Scott and I seemed to spiral our comments into tangential topics.  Also, I’ll do my best to keep this blog entry from being brutally long.  (Sorry, no TL; DR – you lazy bums.)  Later on, when I feel like focusing my attention and blog space on any of the other topics that Scott and I covered, I’ll make sure to include this one for reference.  But here I plan on just hitting the highlights and then at the end I’ll provide links to the entire conversation.  Anyway, on with the show…

Scott begins with a fairly bold first statement:
“Everyone is entitled to their opinions but I believe one of the problems we as pastors are facing is the fear of talking about hell for fear of being labeled as fundamentalist whackos when Jesus spent more time discussing the topic than he did anything else.”
See the, “we as pastors,” shout out?  That’s right bitches… respect his authority.  He’s a PASTOR.  But that’s not the issue here; it’s that bit about Jesus spending more time discussing the “hell” topic than anything else.

So as any good reader with a couple of science degrees would do, I asked Scott – a pastor if you recall – for a citation of this assertion.  I did this by first quoting him – pastors love that – and then giving him the universal sign: "** [citation needed]."

The younger, internet savvy generation should certainly recognize this sign, but even old fogies like me know what that means.  Scott knew, too; because this is when he started to get irritated with me.  He asks:
“Have you went [sic] to one of the original hell houses? Based on your assumptions here, I would say no....

Jesus discussed ‘hell’, ‘hades’, and the ‘lake of fire’ well over 1000+ places in scripture so it must have been pretty important wouldn't you think?”
Well, what do you know?  In asking Scott for a reference for his claim, he answers with another assertion.  It’s sad, really.  I was looking forward to vetting the first unsubstantiated claim and now I have two.  Crap!

(Just as a side note, Scott either forgot or purposely left out one vague expression from the Bible that’s often used by religious types as a euphemism for hell: “Gnashing of teeth.”  I've slipped into this digression in hopes that this helps Scott with any future unsubstantiated claims he may make, because it simply does nothing to help me with vetting his assertions.  It’s just an FYI, Scott…)

I point out my dilemma to Scott by explaining to him that his rebuttal contains yet another unsubstantiated claim, for which I’ll also need a citation.  This one is even more specific than the first with, “… well over 1000+ places in scripture.”  Again, I didn’t ask him if it was important, I asked him for a citation.  And here’s where Scott starts to get really sassy.  He typed:
“You seek specific citation but a simple search in any bible will turn up the references I mention. Go online and search the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts and count them yourself. There...Now I've broken it down to its simplest form. If you put as much work into this as you did in your vain attempt to belittle me you should easily have your answer. Any further response in this arena would expose your baseless temerity and any rational person can dismiss it. Years ago, I did the research. I could quote others but why? The best knowledge is that which you have worked for yourself.”
Is it me or do you also get the impression that maybe I struck a nerve?  It's a good thing that we no longer live when the Bible was written, or I'd be put to death.

Not only did I just get told to do his research for him, but I also got lectured about my work ethic, my vanity and how he shouldn’t expose my baseless temerity.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd like to keep my temerity right where it is.  So I'll quote a great ass, “You cut me deep, Scott.  You cut me very deep just now.”  (Shrek, 2001.)

All kidding aside, did anyone notice that?  Scott still doesn’t provide any specific reference material I can use to research his claim.  Sure, he says I can go do a simple Bible search and count them myself.  But in the world according to Scott, I am to take him at his word because he has done the research and I simply haven't done the work myself.  How quaint.

Well, I know he's wrong because I've heard this regurgitated claim from several people before, all of which were summarily refuted.  But I did some looking anyway, and what I found vastly contradicted his claim.  Here, for instance; or this discussion that I found with a few quick trips to Google.  It was just that easy.

Forget the fact that Scott dismisses me like it's beneath him to have to justify himself when it comes to the Bible.  Also forget the fact that he immediately resorts to an ad hominem attack when I ask for a citation of the second assertion.  What offends me the most is Scott's assumption that I just couldn't know the Bible as well as he does simply because... well just because!  Is it because I pressed him to provide some evidence of his claims?  Come on!  He's a pastor, it's in his book, and he's done the research... Right?  Quite honestly, I would have thought this would be the moment he's been waiting for his entire professional career: the chance to prove a naysayer that he knows his stuff.

Our discussion then managed to bleed into another online network, Twitter.  (You may have heard about it.)  Scott hit me with about five tweets a couple of days ago telling me that he’s not returning to the other thread and that I shouldn’t have called him disrespectful because, in essence, I started it.  Now, I should admit that I was really brutal to the guy when I tweeted:
“Cracking my knuckles getting ready to respond to another fear mongering Pastor: @ScottCheatham. This should be fun.”
Did I call his ass out with THAT tweet or what?!?  I can hear it now, “That was harsh, bro!”  Seriously.  Don’t laugh.

He sends me this:
"Not going back to the thread Larry but you first called me a 'fear mongering' pastor and now call me 'disrespectful'?"
Oops, Scott just made a very serious mistake.  He told me he wasn't going back to the thread, yet I know that he DID go back to the comment thread and read my final post.  I know this because that's where I said I was, "... offended by his lack of respect."

Be that as it may, it doesn't take a genius to see that Scott Cheatham is a fear mongering (this is a tactic, and is not an insult) pastor.  I mean, he even used his book to justify it by providing a verse from Matthew, even though there are far better examples than this one:
"Don't be afraid of people. They can kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul. The only one you should fear is God, the one who can send the body and the soul to be destroyed in hell. (Matthew 10:28)"
And finally, we've come to the quote I've been waiting my entire blog post to share. After I told Scott that I wasn't insulting him, just calling him out regarding his tactics, he tweeted:
"Yes...I teach the whole of scripture. Not just select passages. It's not fear-mongering if it's part of the Bible."
WOW!  Why didn't I think of that?  Teaching people to fear god is not fear mongering for the baby Jesus because it's in the Bible.  That's right kids, if it's okay in the Bible, it's okay for Scott!  (Oh sure, I could ask him if stoning an adulterer isn't murder since it's in the Bible, but that would be too easy...  Okay, I'll admit it.  I did tweet it.  Sue me.)

If you’re wondering why I’m doing all of this, it’s simple: just in case someone looks this guy’s name up on Google, and just happens to stumble upon my blog, they’ll get a glimpse into the kind of egos our society is dealing with.  And I realize that not too many people will even care about my interaction with this pastor from Thornton, CO.  But I do.  And quite honestly this kind of isolationism is how guys like Scott Cheatham are able to seize and maintain power over people that simple don’t know any better.

So that’s it.  The entire discussion thread can be found here, in the comments area at the bottom of the blog post.  I’ve also pasted the twitter feed for Scott’s replies below:
"My last mention @ScottCheatham, all babies are born atheists until the adults around them convince them they were born broken and worthless."

"@larrymathys Not going back to the thread Larry but you first called me a "fear mongering" pastor and now call me "disrespectful"?"

"@scottcheatham That's too bad. "Fear mongering" is not an insult, by the way. It's a tactic. You even quote Bible verses mentioning fear."

"@larrymathys Besides that you started your debate by posting a tweet about "cracking your knuckles" to go after me. #disrespect"

"@larrymathys Yes...I teach the whole of scripture. Not just select passages. It's not fear-mongering if it's part of the Bible."

"@scottcheatham That's incredible! Claiming the Bible isn't fear mongering because the Bible says so is flawed, circular logic."

"@larrymathys In your world perhaps. But not in mine."

"@scottcheatham You book cannot excuse itself. Taking pride in teaching people they are worthless is sadistic and wrong. Bible or no Bible."

"@larrymathys You are spewing tautological nonsense. Discussion done. I have a job to do. Take care and may God open your eyes."

"@scottcheatham Wow. You sure make a habit of assuming too much. My eyes were opened when I took the time to read your book. Take care."


  1. You definitely exposed him as a moron, but I'm finding these conversations are useless because of how brainwashed these people are. I was a happy Christian for many years--it's brainwashing. I recently tweeted a debate with Mars Hill pastor Justin Holcomb, who holds one PhD and 2 Master's degrees from both seminary and public universities. He made a claim about agnostics being "committed to not believing." I called his BS and told him the correct definitions of agnosticism and atheism. He kept insisting that there was a burden of proof on atheists. When I finally convinced him that I was right, he said, "I understand what you mean now, but I don't think other agnostics would agree." Um no, I think the issue is Christian ignorance, plain and simple.

  2. Burden of proof is on atheists? Imagine how many people he said that to, who believed him without question, before you were able to prove him wrong...

    I really don't understand how he could make that assertion anyway, simply because if there was any proof whatsoever, I'd change my opinion in an instant. But, what should be obvious to any rational person seems to make Christians pull the silliest excuses right out of their backsides.

    Your Pastor seemed to have the same type of inflated ego that mine did. It makes me wonder if this kind of ego is what creates pastors/priests or if it's a result of having so many unquestioning people dangling on your every word.

  3. Haha! Love that last paragraph. My dad was a pastor for about 15 years. He couldn't handle the drama of it. Actually, the stress gave him medical issues, and he ended up in the hospital for heart problems when I was still pretty young. Shortly thereafter, we moved to a different state, and he started working as a software engineer. He's still a Christian and teaches classes and such in church, but I wonder if he has the nagging doubt in the back of his mind like I had, too. He's such a smart man. He must suspect something is off... I do know that my deconversion has shaken him terribly. We'll see how things play out.

    And Justin Holcomb thinks the burden of proof is on atheists since we're claiming to "know" there isn't a God. I told him atheism is not a concept built on positive belief or knowledge. It merely states that we lack the knowledge to believe. The default supposition of humans is non-belief, since we were unaware of any idea of God when we were born. God is learned. One thing that goes over almost every Christian's head is the difference between knowledge and belief.

  4. I like your "God is learned" point - and I'm hoping that Justin recognized your point as well; we are all born atheists.

    As a scientist, I usually present myself using the Dawkins scale where I'm right around 6.9 out of 7.0 simply because I cannot say with absolute certainty that there are no gods, just like I cannot say with absolutely certainty that there are no purple dragons in your garage. (Thanks, Carl.) But that doesn't leave much room for their version of god even if all they have is an argument from ignorance.

    Hey, I'm a software engineer too! I worked as a chemist for the state of Arkansas for several years but saw the writing on the wall that chemists were being replaced by automated lab equipment. So, I went back to get my CS degree about 11 years ago. I'm in TX now, and the CS people around here are the worst apologists on the planet. They give a whole new meaning to the phrase, "mental gymnastics." No real background in science other than some high school math, yet most of them are somehow convinced they're geniuses IN science. (No offense meant to your dad - most of the programmers I'm talking about are in their late 20's to early 30's.)