Atlanta, GA – Thousands of Atlanta singles poured into Germinate Georgia Church this weekend to attend a conference on Singlehood, Dating, and Marriage by visiting pastor Rev. Bobby Jehosephat Murray. Intrigued by the enthusiastic tweets that had popped up on my twitter feed (“Revolutionary!” and “Murray on Fire! #SDMConference”), I loitered outside of Germinate Georgia Church on the night of the last session and was able to snag a few attendees for an interview.
Amanda Jackson, who drove all the way from Chattanooga TN to attend the conference, raved “Reverend Murray did an excellent job explaining how romantic relationships fall outside of the overarching message of Christianity. If I hadn’t attended the conference, I never would have understood these special exemptions.” Intrigued, I asked her to expand on this idea. “Well, I was always taught that Jesus’ death, life, and resurrection meant that I didn’t have to live in guilt and shame about my past, but could live in freedom. But Rev. Murray explained that while that’s mostly true for all other types of behaviors that hurt myself and others, there’s no true forgiveness for sexual sin. And, we should make sure that we frequently remind and judge each other for our past mistakes.”
She rolled up her sleeve excitedly, to show freshly inked tattoos that she had felt led to get after a particularly guilt-inducing conference session. I peered closely to read the delicate cursive in neat rows, surprised to find a list of juicy tidbits, such as “Made out in the backseat of C.S.’s car, 04/03/09” and “Allowed E.C. to cop a feel, 03/25/10”. Amanda continued glowingly “I got these to ensure that I never get cocky about where I stand in the family of God. Now if I ever start to feel free, or a good man starts to pursue me, I have an easy reminder of who I really am and how I don’t deserve any blessings.” An additional bonus, she added, was that now her brothers in Christ could quickly read through her past failures and save themselves from being tainted by her waywardness.
Amanda’s friend Dan Bowman, a friend of Amanda’s who attended the conference with her (they drove in separate cars), was particularly approving of his friend’s tattoos. “As a man who has protected himself from impurity my entire life, I was always a little bummed by the mainstream Christian message that my good works are like filthy rags to God– and that some philandering frat boy who literally decided to follow Jesus yesterday would have the same access to God and His blessings as I did. It never sat right with me.” Dan blew out his breath in exasperation. “But Rev. Murray was so encouraging. Now I know that my behavior has earned me the right to a flawless Christian woman as my wife.” He added, “It’s relieving to know that my hard work is worth something.”
Both Dan and Amanda agreed that another enlightening session had really relieved their anxieties about how to treat anyone they dated. “It was always so messy to try to figure out how to honor someone as a human being instead of just looking at them through the lens of their past,” chimed in Amanda. “Now, I am free to quickly judge instead of bothering with the drudgery of loving someone who has made mistakes.” When I asked them about how Rev. Murray explained the role of Mary Magdalene, Rahab the prostitute, Tamar and others, they both replied in unison, “Liberal propaganda.” Dan then offered me a gloved hand – kindly explaining he has a strict rule of no skin-to-skin contact with a female outside of his family – and he and Amanda headed off into the night (Amanda asked me to pointedly note that her Dad was also present).
For more information on this new theology, stay tuned for Rev. Murray’s new book “Sexual Sin: Debunking the grace myth” coming out this Spring.