Am I wicked because I don't go to church?

I went to church with a friend this past Sunday. I'm not religious, but I find it enjoyable to occasionally sit in on religious rituals to learn about different people and cultures. This particular service consisted of lots of joyful singing and a teaching from the Bible. The pastor who led the teaching read the following passage from Psalm 1 and broke down its meaning:
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
It means, he said, that if you want to be happy, you should surround yourself with people who are not wicked, sinners, or mockers. The company you keep is a direct reflection of what kind of life you will live. I thought it was a really nice message. He gave a few anecdotes to illustrate this idea. Then came the kicker: the wicked, he said, are those who don't believe in God, who don't come to church regularly, and who don't believe in God's word.

Is that really what this passage means? I would have interpreted it differently, but then again, maybe I just don't want to admit that I'm wicked.


  1. This kind of thing is the reason I jumped out a long time ago. I guess the balanced response would be to point out that the definition of wicked is going to be different for every person slinging the word. Probably most of the people in that service wouldn’t consider you so, but some of the people who are most invested may need to think of you as such in order to justify their own fervent devotion to the rituals you eschew; ie, if you’re not wicked for only coming occasionally, why do they bother coming three times a week?

    Related but for a different conversation: this kind of artificial othering is a source of a lot of the problems with religious groups as voting blocs.

    1. I love it when Religion is being discussed! So much fun. I am one of those rare “right wing / christian” Boing Boing readers, and I’d like to share a little perspective to clarify some things. The frequency of an individuals attendance does not determine an individuals holiness or wickedness. That implies salvation by works, and if this pastor is reading from the Bible than he is a hypocrite. Yes yes, I know most Christians are. In the old testament God gave Moses the 10 commandments. It was like saying “here, you wanna know what you gotta do to get to heaven? do not break these!” Much later Jesus comes along and says “You guys really never got it did you? you can’t keep those 10 commandments! have you been angry? then you murdered! Your salvation comes from God.” Now in relation to the wickedness and not liking the idea of being wicked. Keep in mind, we are all wicked. The Bible tells Christians that we were all haters of God. That should shut down any arrogant ideas straight away of being a good person. If you would like to talk more feel free to email me at .

  2. Jesus must not have been blessed. He hung out with rapists, whores, and murderers frequently. Feel sorry for the dude who has to sit in your seat next weekend.
    Heh, i think it is just some guys opinion, and it may have differed from jesus’… they just both happen to be compiled in the same book.

    1. I agree completely with trevcaru. Am a Christian myself and I think that guy really misinterpreted and more specifically misapplied the passage.

    2. Actually the way I read this is that you are blessed if you are not wicked, a sinner or a mocker.
      “Blessed is the man
      who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
      or stand in the way of sinners
      or sit in the seat of mockers.”

      If you walk in the counsel of the wicked, you are acting according to the advice of wicked people. Presumably this would involve acting wicked. Similarly “standing in the way of sinners” or “sitting in the seat of mockers” strikes me as describing your behavior rather than the behavior of those you associate with.

    3. Exactly.

      The pastor was incorrect. Perhaps he should have clarified his position. Hanging out with “the wicked” is not necessarily the issue, it’s when they begin to influence your thinking and actions. Additionally, those who do not go to church are not necessarily “wicked,” they are considered “lost.” Big difference.

      If Jesus had not preached to the “wicked” and “lost” and would not have died and risen for the wicked, where would that leave us? (As Jesus put it, the sick need a doctor, not the well.)

      Bad pastor. No cookie.

    4. “Jesus must not have been blessed. He hung out with rapists, whores, and murderers frequently.”

      And that is why people like the priest killed him.

    5. Not true. Read the gospels. The sinners, tax collectors, etc that he “hung out with” were repentant sinners. And no cited ‘rapists’ or ‘murderers’ are recorded.

  3. I may be biased in what I’m about to say, as I’m also non-religious, but I like to think it has some truth in it. The bible I believe is often cited as a collection of moral stories, and often times these stories are adapted to promote Christian ideals, or in this case, going to church more.

    Your perspective on the statement makes total sense to me, and is what I believe the passage is really referring to, rather than “go to church” propaganda.

  4. This brings back memories of middle school. In fifth grade at my parochial school, our religion teacher told us skipping church was a mortal sin. Those are the sins that prevent us from going to Heaven. Being an impressionable altar boy at the time, I forced my mother and younger sister (not my dad cuz he was an unbaptized infidel =D) to start attending Sunday mass for the safety of our immortal souls!

    Fast forward a decade and a half, and I’m still going to church every Sunday (mostly for the social aspect then fear of eternal damnation), but I had some great religion teachers since then that tell me that what matters most is (and I hate calling it this) the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. I can stick by that. I don’t believe in a lot of things the Catholic Church preaches, but I can believe in that, and I don’t feel much of a sinner if I skip church every once in a while for a nice Sunday brunch.

  5. I personally would have interpereted that passage similarly, but with a different conclusion. First off, I don’t want to tear down a pastor who I don’t know, so please don’t take this as being against the pastor referenced above, I just have a different viewpoint than he does. I think anyone would agree that the company you keep is a pretty good indication of the life you lead, but there are numerous new testament examples of Christ hanging out with tax collectors, thieves and prostitutes, (often generic terms for criminals when used in a first century jewish culture.) I don’t agree that people who don’t believe in God are wicked, and if we (people with a relationship with God) are not to hang out with people who don’t go to church, how can we fulfill the greatest commandment?

    There are verses that talk about how all people have fallen short of what God intended (Romans 3:23) and I personally think that people of faith should be the first to realize that we’re still in that category. We’re trying to move closer to God, but we’re still just humans who make mistakes just as often (or more frequently) than anyone else.

  6. Well, Jesus never went to church, if that’s any consolation. (He did go to synagogue once, though; but he almost got lynched by the congregants.)

  7. I don’t know if there’s a schedule or what, but I’d like to book some time in that mocker seat. In the meantime, consider yourself wicked awesome.

  8. What that passage means is up to you to decide for yourself. It sounds like it resonated with you in a positive way, and then the Pastor’s interpretation stung a bit, because he managed to frame it as a cheap ad for his Church.

    Stick with your first impression, and perhaps reconsider that particular Church if you find his interpretations unsettling.

    It sounds deliberately exclusive to me, without any appeal to merit outside of being in a certain place at a certain time. Christ wasn’t a big fan of that approach.

  9. One of the fundamental doctrines of most branches of Christianity is that they have a duty to convert the unbelievers. Telling someone that there is something wrong with them that you can fix is often a first step to getting them to convert to your religion. This is why he’s saying that unbelievers are wicked. Generally wicked means sinful or immoral, but Christians, like many religions define disbelief as a sin. But if you become a believer in Christianity, you’ll still be an infidel in Islam. And if you convert to Islam, you’ll be back to being a heretic in Christianity (heresy is a sin too). Generally, you can please at most one major religion. The rest will tell you that you are wrong and flawed and that they know how to fix you.

    If you were to let a Scientologist give you personality test, you would find out that there are things wrong with you and that they can solve them if you sign up to take some classes at their center. You wouldn’t fall for that and you probably shouldn’t give similar statements from any other religion any more weight.

    But in the end, it’s your opinion which matters. Do you feel wicked? Is your own conscience troubled?

  10. I don’t know. I don’t have a good history with this sort of thing. Even if you’re just there to socialize or enjoy the culture, it’s pretty darn hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. (yes, I know that’s a biblical reference. I like irony.)

    Personally, I can’t see past the parts of religion that I find objectionable, illogical and offensive. My loss, perhaps. All I see is smoke and hokum.

    From my perspective, either you believe none of it, or you believe all of it. Trying to only believe and follow the parts you agree with seems… hypocritical, perhaps. It’s a harsh word, but oh well. I have more respect for the ‘extremists’ than I do for people who just pick and choose which parts they feel like agreeing with.

    Then again, I’m an atheist, so the parts I follow are simple: none of it at all.

    1. mkultra said “From my perspective, either you believe none of it, or you believe all of it. Trying to only believe and follow the parts you agree with seems… hypocritical, perhaps.”

      It is, but ultimately you don’t have a choice. Things don’t add up. It doesn’t make sense. We require order to function, so we impose it as best we can.

      You will always need to be accepting some contradictions. If you’re not, you aren’t trying hard enough.

    2. As someone coming from the other side of the theism question (latter-day saint), I appreciate mkultra’s statement about believing being a “none of it” or “all of it” sort of deal. I am most impressed, and always happy, to meet someone who is committed to his or her faith even if there are areas that are difficult to explain. And while I don’t want to minimize the role that the reality check plays (“can I really believe this?”), there may be something to be said for humbly struggling to understand rather than outright rejecting a belief that doesn’t agree with one’s modern sensibilities. If everything else about the faith seems right, perhaps the difficult belief is too.

    3. I completely agree with you, even though I do not consider myself an extremist. As a matter of fact, I am not a regular in my church too, even though I know this is wrong( but not wicked). I prefer to see myself as a careless lover. Going to church is an act of worship and I am not worshiping as much as I should. I particularly don’t like this kind of rhetoric. Worship cannot be forced with guilt. You should feel it, even though you may be occasionally bored, you should feel nice when the mass is over.

    4. You have an interesting point, there; and ironically (given your status as an atheist), it’s the same one raised my most religious leaders: either you believe ALL we teach, or none of it- there’s no middle ground in matters of faith.

      In truth, however, I believe this to be complete bunk. Even the Scriptures tell us not to take everything we’re told at face value, but to carefully consider what’s being said (that was a paraphrase, I know).

      To the OP:
      I am firmly in the camp of “You are not wicked because you don’t go to church”. First of all, as many others have pointed out here, that belief is not consistent with either the life of Christ, or general Christian doctrine; and secondly (and much more importantly), one of the core tenets of Christianity is that ALL mankind is wicked. Not just you, for not attending church, but myself as well, and the lady playing the piano, and Sunday school teacher. It has nothing to do with the adherence to particular rituals such as regular attendance of church, but rather, it is because we are a fallen race and in need of God’s mercy and grace. Pretty much everything else is really just bullshit made up by people who run the various denominations of Christianity in order to convince people to stick with their particular flavour. Don’t forget- those preachers have an obligation to fill the seats in their sanctuaries (and by extension, their offering plates), so don’t be surprised to hear them say things that will encourage folks to show up every week.

      It took a long time for me to break out of the church habit (no pun intended- I’m a Mennonite, not a Catholic), but I found that once I was out of that environment for a while, I was actually able to start experiencing my faith in a real, personal way, not just what was being spouted off by the leadership in my church. I’ve also discovered a lot of things I didn’t know before I left the church and started “standing in the way of sinners”: Conservative political policies hurt the vulnerable people in our society; gay people make excellent friends, as do people from other faiths; and Trinity Broadcasting Network is pure, distilled evil on Earth. Well, I knew the bit about TBN before…

      Christ never said you had to go to church (or synagogue) every week. In fact, he caught holy hell from the religious leaders in his day for NOT “honouring the Sabbath”, and his response was basically to tell then to get stuffed. It turns out (according to Jesus), that people are more important than rules.

  11. I find it refreshing to hang out with people who don’t believe they have all the answers; who challenge preconceptions; and entertain alternative viewpoints.

  12. I believe the wicked are those who build an organisation to control something which is (in my opinion) very private and personal. Like, say… how you should believe…

  13. If you’re not a believer you will burn, and should be killed (according to multiple passages).

    “Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12)”

    “Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed. (Exodus 22:19”

    “If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12)”

    So it doesn’t really matter what we do in life. I treat my wife and children with love and respect, but to true christians I am nothing but a rabid dog who should be slain.

    Jesus said: “Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men and blasphemies, however they shall blaspheme, but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation”

    So if you’ve ever blasphemed against the holy spirit (for instance, said that god does not exist) then even JESUS won’t forgive you.

    Let me get my blasphemies out here….. any god who would say this is an evil god, I do not believe in this awful, hateful, god of the bible. (I think this should do it..)

    1. How is stating that God doesn’t exist blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in particular?

      I think that’s an interesting interpretation. In fact, I know of a Catholic who have come around to the Protestant view (everyone is saved regardless of faith, hurray) because of precisely the line that you quote, and the seeming impossibility of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit that you quoted.

      He’s a theologian. And no longer a Catholic.

      Churches that claim that they are Protestant but still insist upon damning sinners to fiery torment, aren’t Protestant. They’re just dicks.

      1. blasphemy |ˈblasfəmē|
        noun ( pl. -mies)
        the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk :
        he was detained on charges of blasphemy | screaming incomprehensible blasphemies.

        I think denying his existence counts, so is calling that god of the bible evil. That’s pretty much the definition of blasphemy.. double whammy..

        1. blas·phe·my
          Insulting that which is non-existent

          ridiculous isn’t it? That the word blasphemy is even taken seriously by some.

    2. Actually, most theologians would interpret that phrase “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” as having no conscience. The unforgivable sin then, is that of no longer being subject to feelings of guilt for immoral behaviour. It is logically circular (if we don’t feel guilt we cannot ask God for forgiveness).

  14. i totally agree with trevcaru – jesus hung out with all sorts of social outcasts and ‘sinners’. among his own disciples was a tax collector and bawdy, rough, tough talking fisherman. in fact the only bones he had to pick were with the religious jews of his day. notice the words ‘walk, stand, sit’ in the passage your highlighted. it means to identify with as to be one with the group, to join hands and seek advice from. the passage goes on to say that those who delight in God’s instructions (for our own good more than anything else) will flourish like a tree by the rivers. i personally hv little regard for preachers who are quick to emphasize the ‘sin’ part of a passage in v1 without expounding the other positive ‘blessed’ side of it in v2, 3 – in this case, how those who, in my own words, ‘walk, stand, sit’ in God directed wisdom can prosper in all areas of their life. I find this to be so persoanlly true in my own life and many others too! the point is, u shdn’t worry abt whether u are wicked, as much as those who don’t worry abt being dirty simply enjoy taking a shower. be blessed :)

  15. No, I think the pastor might be more than a bit off in his reading.

    Psalm 1 is, first off, from the Old Testament, the Torah to the Jewish people. It’s a fairly core bit of the Torah as well, as it serves, to many scholars, as a sort of guidepost for how one should comport one’s life in relation to God. Study and prayer, day and night, a devotion to the righteous path. All this in the knowledge that God knows the righteous from the wicked, and in some respect the righteous does as well. Judaism embraces this concept of avoiding and shunning the wicked, the unclean. Even extending to dietary laws like keeping kosher.

    In the Christian faith the idea of avoiding the wicked is actually something Jesus speaks almost directly against. He speaks highly of the Samaritan (a group who were despised at the time by many Jews for their role in the Babylonian captivity) his relationships with people of ill-repute (prostitutes, tax collectors). Jesus message was far less one of keeping good company and more one of reaching out to those who would be rejected by religion of the day.

    Now that’s classical Christianity. What you experienced is more of the “Great Revival” modern Protestant branch. The “by faith alone” and “Christ as personal savior” breed of Christianity. This is where you find your literal readings of the Bible, you’re lack of theological muscle and some very off interpretations of scripture.

    So no, I’d say that, if anything, your friend should be inviting you in, not casting you out.

    My Bona Fides? I’m a former Catholic seminarian and current Unitarian Universalist with an MA in Islamic history who grew up as a Shabbos Goy in my largely Jewish neighborhood. So yeah, I get around.

    1. I really hate to nitpick but Psalms is definitely not part of the Torah. Maybe you meant Tanakh?

  16. In an old technicolor swashbuckling movie, a page reports to a king that a traveler has come to the gate.

    The king replies his hospitality is open to anyone, “be they Norman, Saxon, Celt, or Dane”. The page reports it’s a Jew.

    The king grumbles not to let the “infidel in”.

    His court jester admonishes him, “For every Jew that’s not a Christian, I’ll show you a Christian that’s not a Christian.” The king wises up.

    I think that’s what you are saying, now. Tx.

  17. I disagree with the pastor’s interpretation. The passage warns against joining in harmful activities, not in associating with sinful people, per se. While there is wisdom in watching the company you keep, Christians are called to help those in need – the marginalized, the oppressed, and the sinner. After all, this is the type of community where Jesus spent most of his time ministering – he loved them, saving most of his rebuking for the religious leaders.

    The pastor’s definition of the wicked is also rather disheartening. The Bible says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Wickedness has as much to do (more?) with one’s selfishness and treatment of others as one’s attitude towards God. Consider the Bible story of Rahab (wiki page: She didn’t believe in God but she did the right thing, and was considered righteous. It had nothing to do with her going to church, reading or believing the Bible, or believing in God; she did what was good.

  18. Given that Christianity over the last few decades has been moving from Repentance & Redemption to Get Out Of Jail Free, it would seem likely that churches are gathering places for the wicked in need of their forgiveness fix, and that staying at home on Sunday morning may be evidence of virtue.

  19. I believe you were raised in Japan, which has about 2% Christians. I’d be surprised if you went to church there. But I’ll bet you went to the temple every New Years’, right? You know one kami from another and I’ll bet you pay attention when you get the feeling there’s something going on.

    Does that mean you qualify? I bet so.

  20. If you’re not visiting church regularly and putting money in the collection basket, you’re wicked.

    Always follow the money/benefits.

  21. I take it to mean: Don’t take advice from wicked people, don’t try to get up in the face of sinners, and don’t be one of those A-holes who mock people. All good advice, nothing about believing or unbelieving.

  22. You were sitting and having a wonderfully positive experience. Good for you. Then the pastor spouted his interpretation. HIS. No more or less valid than yours. Because the Bible was absolutely and completely made up by man, and it can mean any little thing anybody wants it to mean. [Insert endless discursions on Constantine and how he decided what would be in the Bible.] And if the Christians get to decide every little thing (like people who go to church are this and people who don’t are that) then the world is exactly 6,000 years old, and the Sumerians were hoisting their freshly-brewed beer and watching God make all the little animals.

  23. Am I wicked because I don’t go to church?

    No, and going to church wouldn’t make you righteous. If you are wicked, it is because you are not in fellowship with God through his son Jesus Christ. Old Testament characters like Abraham were counted righteous in God’s eyes because of their faith in God and his promises. Here in the New Testament era, the answer is the same, with Christ being the ultimate incarnation of God and his promises.

    That’s a pretty solid evangelical answer for you.

  24. Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 go together. Notice the theme of blessing at the beginning of 1v1 that comes back at the end of chapter 2. ‘The man’ in these two chapters is God’s anointed, who very clearly from Psalm 2 (and where it is quoted) refers to Jesus. So I’d read Psalm 1 as “there’s only one guy who’s sinless and his name’s Jesus. He’s like a healthy tree next to streams of water. Turn to him and trust him for your salvation.

  25. If you’re going to hell because you don’t go to church regularly, please save me a seat, because I’ll be on the same train.

    I was taught to believe that you will be judged on how you lived your live — kindness, respect, charity, etc., and not where your butt was come Sunday morning (or Friday night, or Saturday afternoon…whichever.)

    I’ve known far too many people whose butt was right there in church (or temple, or mosque, or meetin’ hall…whichever) who were unmitigated assholes the rest of the week — and I really don’t want to be associated with them in this life or any others that might exist.

  26. Well, see, I’m a Muslim, so I’m not fully qualified to comment on this.

    But I do note that yes indeed, if you surround yourself with wicked people, it’ll be mighty hard to not be wicked yourself.

    Certainly being good in a disadvantageous environment is not an impossibility — after all, Jesus surrounded himself with sinners, rapists, murderers and whores. But it’d be hard, which makes the act in itself praiseworthy.

  27. I feel sorry for anybody who follows the words of a man who ‘interprets’ words by adding whatever meaning he feels like, even when it is totally unsupported by the text he claims to be “breaking down”.

  28. Fucking assholes twisting the word of god to benefit the fucking church. Fuck them. Douchebags, the lot of them for turning off so many people to what it really says:

    And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

  29. I was raised Catholic and my parents are still very much Catholic, so I might have some lingering perception issues. Oh and having been raised Catholic I have never looked in a Bible. So this is merely my uneducated opinion:
    Like you I probably wouldn’t want to be considered wicked. And I guess the part of avoiding “wicked” people is what the passage is saying is exactly what it is saying. But the definition of “wicked” is what I don’t agree with, and just from that passage alone there is no telling what the book says is “wicked”. I’m not saying this is the way you should look at it, or that the Bible says you should look at it this way (never looked in it so, yeah) but it’s all about what you think “wicked” is.
    Personally I’m on the fence about the whole God thing, and I definitely don’t fit into any of the religious molds. Assuming God exists, I’m sure it’d appreciate a “good” non-believer over some crackpot (think WBC) using God’s name for their own negative intentions. Furthermore I wouldn’t get too hung up on scripture. I mean the Bible is like a bad research paper, it was created as a result of cherry-picked sources (New Testament stuff in particular) and then revised by other people based on that same not-so-good source material. There’s just so much room for error in quoting, in translation, in interpretation etc. that I think it is useless to try to take it in any literal form and get hung up on trying to fit into every bit of that book.

  30. Wicked generally means extreme, so if you do vert ramp skating then yes you are wicked. However not going to church is only extreme if you are a nun, a priest, or a monk. For the pope to not go to church and instead surf blogs or play video games, would be wicked.

    This is generally true unless you are a candle in which case you are always wicked. I hope this helps.

  31. This is the thing that kills me about religion. The words are beautiful, amazing. And they can be interpreted in such wonderful ways that give life lessons and the sum of which can function as a network of life lessons that will lead a person to live a good life. But tribalism always comes into it. A religion is among other things and I hate to say it, but usually first and formost it seems, a way of creating a tribal identity. So he gave good life lessons to his flock and then ended by saying that all who are not part of the group are evil. This has a sad way of tying people who do not belong to the group to all the negative elements he highlighted before it as well I think.

  32. Well, Art is Art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.

    In other words, do you believe everything you hear just because it’s spoken from a pulpit?

  33. 1 Corinthians 11:9 says that women’s purpose is to keep men company so being a boring tea partner might be considered wicked.

  34. Everyone I know, and certainly all the commenters here, are sinners and mockers. But it’s okay because We Just Can’t Help It.

  35. A pastor’s stock in trade is telling nonbelievers that they’re wicked. It means nothing.

    When the Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on the door on Saturday, I make sure to invite them in so that I may tell them about *my* religion. They don’t accept my offer.

  36. Wicked, by all the definitions I can find, simply means immoral. Are you an immoral person? You’re going to have to define that yourself instead of relying on people who follow a book in which their supposedly omniscient god is, as Dawkin’s puts it, and I agree after reading the old testament, “a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    Not to mention if he’s saying you shouldn’t surround yourself with sinners, that doesn’t even agree with most Christian based belief, which says that everyone is a sinner. But reading what quote I don’t think that’s the intended meaning of “or stand in the way of sinners”.

    I agree that the people you surround yourself with have an influence on your life, but they are by no means a determinate. If you only surround yourself with people who will nod at all of your beliefs, how will you ever grow? Look at Lincoln (and read Team of Rivals). When he was elected, he filled his cabinet with his rivals!

    I can agree with the mockers, though. I have no patience for people in my life that will provide only mockery and not constructive criticism and discussion about opposing beliefs and views.

  37. Buddha —

    “All things are the manifestation of Buddha.”

    And, accordingly, all things are Buddha meditation. “Church” is pretty Western. Your “Church” is your social group. Your “God” is your life.

    Not difficult if you don’t want it to be.

  38. Wickedness requires wicked intent. Murdering, stealing, infidelity, lying, etc. – those can be wicked acts. Just as going to church doesn’t make you righteous, not going does not make you wicked. This is just an unfortunate anecdote that continues the misconception that organized religion is ridiculous.

    For the record, I’m devout to my chosen religion, believe it to be true, and that truth is not subjective. But I know I’m speaking for my religion when I say that to believe someone who doesn’t attend church is wicked is in itself a form of wickedness, and as others in this thread have pointed out I think Jesus would agree.

    Do I believe regularly attending church will make you a better person and more righteous in the eyes of God? You bet. But please, being wicked makes you wicked – not choosing to respectfully abstain from attending a church.

  39. Sounds like the pastor is running a sales drive.

    Perhaps the better questions to pose would have been “When did attending church automatically make people not wicked?” (it didn’t do much for paedophile catholic priests, did it?) or “by whose definition of wicked?” or – best of all – “Does going to church mean I am deluded?”. With more than a nod to Richard Dawkins

  40. I would imagine that this very passage was thrown in Jesus’
    face by the Pharisees for socializing with tax collectors and prostitutes and other
    persons of low status. If I am correct, and if you feel somehow targeted by this reading, then I’d suggest that such a perspective may make you feel better about it.

  41. Get a good, little girl to throw a bucket of water on you. If you don’t melt, you’re good to go.

  42. I have great faith in both science and God. I believe they are both equally valid ways of navigating life. Science is like a map, drawn from experience and exploration. Spirituality is like a compass, which you *believe* points North, and can provide some guidance when the map ends. Most of the time, it works pretty well… though there are times when (like a compass) it can be off.

    I also believe, however, that other people are just fellow explorers. We all interpret the map and compass our own ways, and can certainly share our interpretations – but some people are pretty damn lost even though they may claim to be our guides. Your pastor is case in point. He’s not following any kind of scientific process of deductive reasoning, nor any kind of godly interpretation of Christianity, in jumping from that passage of text to his own conclusions about who (he claims) is wicked. He’s got a map and a compass, and he’s not looking at either, just deciding for himself on what he thinks is the right direction of leading his congregation down the garden path.

    Not the best habit to form for any shepherd. :p

  43. The passage does not define ‘wicked’, the preacher chose to define that word in his own terms (not going to church, not believing in God/bible). Entirely his own opinion, which, from what you’ve said, he was passing off as God’s word.

    He was using a biblical passage (possibly out of context) to justify his own morality. See also Leviticus 18:22.

  44. perhaps it was just the version he read, but mine says “blessed is the man who does not take the counsel of the wicked.” which is to say “you’re better off if you don’t take bad advice from bad people.” the problem with the old testament in churches is that christendom as a whole does not keep the jewish law because Jesus changes all of that, according to christianity…but what happens is that churches pick and choose what they want to believe and take old testament verses wildly out of context in order to push a personal agenda instead of what Jesus actually taught.

  45. Raised Anglican, now Orthodox Christian. We’ve gone from a family that spent Sunday sleeping and at the movies to – well, we still do that but with hours of church added. We try to go three times a week and spend a lot of time in religious stuff, reading, talking etc. Church is the formal part of a faithful life for us. The pastor above – Protestants have quite different theology so I’m not touching what he might have meant but the question of whether non attendance is wicked.

    Yes, it’s wicked. If – and this matters – if you know and believe church matters. If you believe in a faith, and you wuss out on practicing from laziness, low priority etc, then you’re contradicting what you say/think, and that’s a sort of private hypocrasy. If you don’t know about the faith in a real way – my personal caveat here is having been taught and understanding from good and kind people, as it was not pamplets or Sunday school that brought me to church, but Christian friends I respected, and shallow exposure is in many ways worse than not knowing, then you’re at no fault for not attending.

    Faith shouldn’t be lukewarm. Far better to be a true and thoughtful atheist than someone who goes to church at Christmas only, and deliberately doesn’t sort out or honor their own moral beliefs.

  46. although i dont know alot about the bible, im kind of a spiritual guy, and i try to live my life by spiritual principles. my philosphies are fairly eastern (tantric) in nature. So, I kind of have a problem with the idea of wickedness all together. But that is another issue. But really what i would do, since I have a scholarly bent to me, is i would research learn a bit about the original language that the bible was written in (aramaic?) and i would dissect the psalm word by word, in aramaic, and i would find out what each word meant, and i would study different translations, and read commentary written by numerous experts. Then i would piece all of that information together, and make my own decisions, and begin to have a living relationship with the spiritual text. And then if some idiot tried to tell me something that was patently absurb, i would know why, and could ignore or refute it, as i desired. This is how yogis study the Yoga Sutras, they live with it, and chant it, and argue it, and own it. No real yogi would be content to be spoonfed the contents of the sutras. I encourage you to be proactive.

  47. Sadly I got in late on the comments, but I think I would like to add the definition of sin and how God judges people.

    Post #1’s balanced approach is also supported by St James: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

    This approach does not condemn the cannibal who didn’t know the 10 Commandments included a “Thou shalt not kill”. Rather it defines sin, not in specific actions, but rather how you utilize the knowledge you have.

    The preacher that day is in no position to judge those who don’t go to church only God can look on a persons heart and know his or her reasons. There are various verses such as 1 Samuel 16:7 (and Luke 16:15) “For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart”

    So the wicked are those that know to do good but don’t. If church is lead by people that know to do good *and* try to do good then it might be worth attending. If not, then it might be better to sing praises to God in some other location or spend your time mistering to your fellow man at a worthwhile charity. As long as you don’t know in your heart what is right and after praying about it, do the exact opposite, then you should be right. :-)

    Side note: arikol’s Post #15 and St James do not agree, if you treat your wife and children with love, you are probably* not a sinner. (*only God can judge) The unforgivable sin is not speaking against God, as arikol suggest, but refusing the existence of the Holy Ghost so many times that the brain becomes chemically hard wired reject what is essentially God’s voice among men today. This is logical, it’s the way the brain works. If you ignore that voice in your head that tells you to do right it will one day disappear.

  48. It isn’t so black and white. You have to deal with the nuance. Do you still rape little boys and play like you are the victim, then get into the bedroom of others and tell them they are going to burn in hell?

  49. Nope, I think the pastor misinterpreted and your impression is closer to the real intent of the passage. Jesus was the original hippy after all. See, this religion stuff has a few nice messages and all, but all the guff that goes along with it such as people who preach intolerance like the pastor in question makes it very much more work than its worth. Not to mention the frankly absurd amounts of suspension of disbelief it takes from any sane, sceptically minded individual to actually swallow the ‘fluff text’.

  50. Yes, the wicked in this context means the ungodly. Proverbs is a book of advice mostly written in a father to son perspective. The idea is exactly what you’ve guessed, Lisa. You should surround yourself with those who you aspire to be like. If, like me, you aspire to be like Jesus, then you will try to seek out those who believe and follow God.

  51. Blessed is the man
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
    or stand in the way of sinners
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

    What does it sound like it says? Seriously.

  52. Given that “church” didn’t exist when this was written, it’s hard to believe that that is what the author had in mind!

  53. I don’t think he was interpreting it correctly. The church has long employed a text that predates its existence to justify its existence.

  54. I’d say going to church and thereby helping to support a unenlightened, close minded, conservative medieval view on life and interpersonal relationships makes you wicked. Every organization that deems belief to be of greater importance than concrete need has failed the ones that they are trying to help.

    Religion does not have monopoly on ethics even if they do their best to make it seem that way since they lost the scientific angle in the 1600’s.

  55. Let me try to take a stab at a little armchair exegesis here:

    “Blessed” = fortunate
    “walk in the counsel of” = follow the advice of
    “the wicked” = those with evil motives
    “stand” = be committed to (firmly, unwaveringly, stubbornly)
    “path” = a course of action
    “sinners” = the misguided [the literal meaning of the Hebrew word translated as “sin” is “to miss the target” — it was originally an archery term; so, “sinners” are literally people with bad aim]
    “sit” = remain (for a long time, without leaving)
    “seat” = an established position within an assembly (group, organization, movement, etc.) where people get together to conduct various types of business (e.g. a “seat” in Congress, a “seat” at the negotiating table, a “seat” on the board of directors)
    “mockers” = those who habitually slander and ridicule that which is good

    So, to paraphrase the whole passage:

    “How fortunate is the person who does not follow the advice of those with evil motives, who is not stubbornly committed to a misguided course of action, and who does not belong to any group, organization, or movement that goes around slandering and ridiculing good people who are trying to do the right thing.”

    Sounds like pretty good advice to me. But I don’t see anything in there that would even remotely suggest that it’s somehow wrong not to go to church, or to associate with people who don’t.

  56. Well, garsh, I can read Hebrew. But I’ll give you the text from the Artscroll edition of the Tanach (very popular in Orthodox circles):

    “Praiseworthy is the man who walked not in the counsel of the wicked and stood not in the path of the sinful, and sat not in the session of scorners.”

    And the rest of Psalm 1, for context:

    “But his desire is in the Torah of Hashem, and in His Torah he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree deeply rooted alongside brooks of water, that yields its fruit in its seasons, and whose leaf never withers; and everything that he does will succeed. Not so the wicked; rather [they are ] like the chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked shall not be vindicated in judgment, nor the sinful in the assembly of the righteous– for Hashem attends the way of the righteous, while the way of the wicked shall perish.”

    Cupla things:
    1) While Hashem will actively aid the righteous, the ways of the wicked will perish on their own.
    2) It’s “praiseworthy” (ashrei), not “blessed” (baruch).
    3)If the church is cautioning people not to “stand in the way of sinners,” it sounds like its saying, “don’t get in their way, just let them go about their business.” That’s just not what the text says.
    4) Your original interpretation IS more correct than what the church is saying. But #60, saying that Jesus was involved in this psalm is as chronologically accurate as having the Flintstones coexisting with dinosaurs.

  57. Lisa, the pastor is kind of right, although “wicked” is a poor translation, and the KJV’s “ungodly” is nearer the mark.
    In Hebrew the word is “resha’im”, which means those who stray from God’s path, as opposed to the tzadikkim who follow it rigorously. If you are of the faith, but don’t follow doctrine absolutely at all times then you are one of the “benonin” (people in the middle).

  58. At the end of the day if there is a God and they made me, then they also made me NOT believe in them. As Richard Dawkins said, “you cannot make someone believe in God”. They can say they believe but if they don’t really believe then what can they do about it?

  59. “Is that really what this passage means? I would have interpreted it differently, but then again, maybe I just don’t want to admit that I’m wicked.”

    It doesn’t matter what the passage means.

    Currently, to belong to this social group (church on Sundays) you need to attend every Sunday, believe in God and believe in God’s word. The “wicked” are all those that fail this test in the eyes of the pastor and so will no longer belong to this group.

    By debating the meaning of the passage with the group, pastor or the internet, you no longer believe in God’s word. The pastor is reinforcing the group’s boundary. By not obeying the test, you’re outside the social group and so are “wicked”. Quote: “if you want to be happy, you should surround yourself with people who are not wicked, sinners, or mockers.” In other words, stick with this social group.

    Being “wicked” (in the eyes of the pastor and this group) is simply not doing everything as the group does. The degree of “wicked-ness” you have is roughly how far you’ve deviated from the group and it’s activities.

    More simply put, the “wicked” part is just negative reinforcement to prevent you from straying from the group. The positive reinforcement is quote: “to be happy, you should surround yourself with people who are not wicked, sinners, or mockers”.

    Currently by discussing your concerns on Boing Boing you are surrounding yourself with people who are wicked, sinners and mockers.

    By the way, I’m a former christian, now Aethist.

  60. Jesus did actually not ‘say’ anything. Everything was written down by some people very many years after his assumed dead.
    God created man in his own image and man, being a gentleman, returned the favor. —Mark Twain

  61. This is the 21st century.

    Modern, educated people should not concern themselves with what religious people say, unless it affects them directly in the enjoyment of their own freedom.

    Religous people’s opinions are badly flawed on many instances by a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the things around us.

    Getting worried about their interpretation of a book written by people that could not possible know any better 2000 years ago is an exercise in futility.

    As you say, enojoy their rituals for what they are, excentric celebrations of people living in the past, but don’t pay much attentions to what they have to say about how people should lead their lives.

    To be honest, and in light of recent developments, to be in the company of sinners and mockers is way more respectable than sitting in the company of the hypocrates, the downright criminal abusers of innocent trust or the hate mongers.

  62. No that’s silly; an evil person is someone who has not received God’s gift of righteousness which one receives for believing His testimony about His Son (e.g. the miracles).

    1. If you’re a believer then you’re blessed ergo you do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, you do not stand in the way of sinners nor do you sit in the seat of mockers. You can go to church if you want to but if you don’t, don’t: its called freedom and Jesus died for you so that you may have it.

  63. Lisa, I really hope you read _all_ of the comments. There are lots of good statements from both sides, and I think it makes for some good thinking.

  64. Sounds like that pastor is used to speaking to a sympathetic audience where he is rarely challenged.

    Looking at this comment page it looks like you took your opinions about that message to a sympathetic audience that would tell you that you were right and he was wrong.

    Do you feel better?

  65. You’re not wicked – He’s just afraid of death. That’s where it all comes from – fear of death.

  66. For every great pastor there may be 5 mediocre ones and 10 bad ones. This is likely a grave exaggeration, but… even the great ones give awful interpretations at times.

    It’s… often best to interpret the meaning of subjective-leaning passages from the Bible by using Christ’s life as an example. Christ’s tale is leadership by example. “WWJD” really is an applicable religious philosophy because in questions like this the interpretation you’ll find the most success with is the one that applies to most closely to the story of Christ.

    In this case… it is a LOT more likely advising people to surround themselves with good people for positive reinforcement and good examples as needed… rather than a justification for borderline xenophobia as it was explained by the pastor. “Keep good friends with good hearts around you” seems like a much more valid paraphrasing… which is a more vague instruction than many leaders with a specific message are comfortable interpreting to their followers.

    Social conservatism runs deep in the church, and social conservatives hate nothing more than leaving the company of their own minority of society and being forced to face the fear of seeing examples saying: they aren’t actually the ideal of “normal”, or even a majority for that matter, in their own country. This is going to steer their interpretation of scripture towards keeping to themselves and hardening their faith by pretending that’s all life is for most people here.

  67. Those are the sins that prevent us from going to Heaven. Being an impressionable altar boy at the time.The pastor is reinforcing the group’s boundary. By not obeying the test, you’re outside the social group and so are “wicked”. Quote: “if you want to be happy, you should surround yourself with people who are not wicked, sinners, or mockers
    flash drive

  68. Very sharp interpretations, #64 and #65.

    I considered this:

    “Blessed is the man
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked”

    also to mean “Lucky is the person who’s never followed stupid advice”. We *all* get fooled sometimes – going against our better principles, our wiser selves, our best intentions – and you’ve got to be pretty sharp and self-aware to avoid that. Cultural and social pressure can override internal wisdom with crushing subtlety.

    And when you can stand firm and yet not self-righteously in your own truth…and not be fooled by your own or anyone else’s ego trips…then I’d say you are pretty remarkably blessed.

    Sounds like the pastor was caught up in a pretty wicked self-righteous ego trip.

    or stand in the way of sinners
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

  69. If you aren’t religious, then why did this pastor’s definition of “wicked” have any relevance at all?

  70. This advice reads to me as more complicated version of “each to themselves”, which is just a more religious version of facism.

    As for the word wicked itself, it derived from wizard, e.g. someone practicing unholy rituals. The church has a long tradition of calling everything they do not approve of evil, bad, sinful, unholy, devillish… or wicked – and they do not approve of people who fail to frequent the church.

    Therefore: yes, you are wicked, if viewed seen from the church’s very own perspective. No, you are not if seen from the point of sanity. Case solved.

    Greetings, LX

  71. Religions are the most successful corporations of all time. They sell products for the alleviation of threats that are based on manufactured fears that are beyond the real world. This is brilliant – it means you can never disprove them, never argue with them. Social engineering at its best.

    Rule by fear is a common method – as we see in the US and UK now, but those fears are built from apparent threats of terrorism – something tangible. It had to come, as the fears built on the threat of nuclear war and/or communism are no longer as scary. Religion has really taken this to a new level – threats from the unknown, post-life dimension. Better put coins in your eyes if you want to get across the Styx.

    To me, all the religious events and traditions are steeped in propaganda – convert more people, bear more children, die for us, and don’t forget to donate your cash (10% to be precise).

    So, enjoy participating and learning about others’ traditions. My Asian wife loves this too. Don’t take it too seriously though, and don’t support financially these religions that are responsible for human rights violations and genocides that would make Hitler blush.

  72. I’d say this very civil, thoughtful discussion should be in a “directory of wonderful things.”

    Thus far, this has been a well rounded conversation with comments flooding in from both sides. Frankly, I find it refreshing.

  73. All right, enough, so be it. So be it, then. Let all Oz be agreed, I’m wicked through and through…

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist. :P

    *hums “No One Mourns The Wicked”*

  74. Consider who the church considers the wicked sinners… Now welcome to hell!

    The leaders of the church that calls others wicked likes to sodomize children and then cover it up.

    They embrace a religion that says if you rape a woman you have to pay the father 30 silver pieces and you can never send her away. That says to stone homosexuals to death. Some people will say that is part of some old deal, but nothing ever repealed it. If a kid accidentally sees his dads nuts he’s to be stoned to death. (There are not 10, but some 600ish commandments btw)

    The god in the bible is psychopathic murderer. Not even the crimes of hitler deserve eternal suffering.

    These people believe that the only reason to be good is because hell awaits them if they arent… Not because its the right thing to do. This world is meaningless to them, its the afterlife that matters. So they dont have to care about making the world a better place, or how they impact the planet.

    Science is wicked… Live and let live is wicked… Cory is pretty wicked…

    Enjoy church for the cultural voyeurism, but dont let their poison infect you.

  75. Nobody’s opinions of what – if anything – this passage means are any more valid than anyone else’s, including the pastor. He doesn’t have any special insight into printed words

  76. The Old Testament is the record of God’s chosen people (Israelites) making promises and falling away from them. One of the things they always go back to is the promise to not intermingle with other nations and faiths in an attempt to keep their heritage and lineage preserved and closely intertwined. Every few generations they turn their backs on this, which always leads to their enslavement in one way or another. The Psalms were written at a time when Israel was at its political and spiritual peak, and the author is reiterating the importance of maintaining their purity for the sake of their kingdom.

    The New Testament doesn’t negate the Old, it enriches it. Jesus intermingled with the outcasts of society because he offered a new definition of what was to be considered God’s chosen. The advice from the OP’s sermon to be careful about from whom you seek counsel is valid advice from within the faith to those who believe in it. While the word “wicked” may conjure up all kinds of things, within Christianity it simply means anyone who does not follow God and Christ. Christianity, when boiled down to its core, is socially and personally confrontational. If you don’t follow Christ you are the wicked, and there’s no way to soft-pedal that (despite the efforts of most churches). It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person in society, it means you’re lost in the eyes of God and won’t share in His eternity. It’s certainly not a directive to Christians to treat you differently, but to deny that the faith discerns on a single criterion, whether you believe Jesus is the risen Christ and son of God, would be wrong. I would suggest that if a good person doesn’t understand why God sees them as wicked, they should seek to learn more. I recommend reading the book of Romans.

  77. Quite the opposite! To cite chapter and verse check out Matthew 6:

    1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

    2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

    4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

    5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    That about wraps it up for the megachurches!

  78. For 20 plus years my nick name has been Wicked Wendy because of my twisted sense of humor. I am proud of the nickname. I would rather be laughing in hell than crying and afraid my whole life.
    I really dislike being preached to although on very rare occasions I do go to different types of church’s. It is the experience and maybe some learning that appeals to me through certain people I meet. I try very hard not to get angry at the ignorance of humans. To believe the crap that comes from corrupt cowards. It’s an opinion.
    The Bible’s are not from Jesus. Jesus preached love and forgiveness not hate and sins. Then I remind my self that whatever you believe in is your choice. Who am I to judge anyone? Who is anyone to judge me?
    I am Eclectic as far as “religion” goes. Faith in myself and those around me is the base. When I say eclectic, I use different outlets. I pray to different gods and goddess’s. When I am am working on my spiritual inner being I could use Buddha, Feung Shui, etc. but I prefer Shaman. I am a craftsman in all but a master in none.

  79. There will always be people who believe you are wicked for not believing/doing as they do.

    It’s a big world with a lot of ideas, that often don’t agree, so no mater how hard you try you will always be wicked to some.

    Luck for you being wicked is not an absolute.

  80. I do not see any mention of atheism or anyone openly stating this so let me add to the meme by my public declaration “I am an atheist”.

    Looking at some of the comments and interpreting the passage then, apparently, I am therefore ‘evil’. How can ANY religion, regardless of its type, be considered ‘good’ if it apportions a ‘bad’ trait upon someone who is doing the believer no harm whatsoever. Similarly, trying to convert someone to a specific ‘faith’ by wishing harm upon the individual is certainly not ‘good’.

    If someone wishes to be a god-botherer I do not go around trying to persuade them otherwise or decry their personal belief. I believe this is far more ‘christian’ than any form of radical declaring that I will be looking to a future of hellfire and damnation, if I follow a virtuous life there will be a line of virgins to look forward to, or whatever.

    Note that I am not even writing in a derogatory manner or belittling any belief.

    Some people believe in unicorns and bananas… ;-)

    Meme? Me Me ME Meh!

    1. There was at least one other self-declared atheist further up the thread. Make me #3. Well said, Hot Pepper.

  81. I don’t think you are wicked if you don’t go to church regularly. The Bible says where there is two or more in my name… I am there the church is a building but God doesn’t just go to the church he is everywhere.

  82. That’s obviously a conservative view, even by Christian standards. Buddhists have a similar idea of spiritual friendship, and taking refuge in a spiritual community, but only their most conservative strains define that as avoiding the company of the unholy. More enlightened strains see the holiness/voidness in all things. One of the big debates in Buddhism is whether or not every single human being can be awakened in this very lifetime — some say all, some say a few need a few more lifetimes of suffering before they’re ready. Certainly none say you have to follow the one particular historical buddha to get that good fortune. Meanwhile they agree all sentient beings, from gods to humans to animals to beings in hell have an inalienable capacity for awakening and thus salvation. If anything, they believe it wicked to think otherwise.

    As one Zen master said, “the great way is not difficult, it simply abhors picking and choosing.”

  83. I suggest: A wicked person wouldn’t be concerned about whether or not they were wicked.

    As a matter of fact, I have known people who self-identified themselves as wicked, and who religiously attended church.

    That, and the rich variety of replies in this comment thread, just shows that there’s a lot of interesting variety in the world.

  84. People need religion so that they do not have to think and at the same time have a so-called valid excuse to hate people.

  85. Jesus was killed for hanging out with the ‘wicked’. Shame on that preacher – he has it totally backwards – the Kingdom of God is open to everyone – there are no outsiders! Jesus had said well folks don’t need physicians – along those same lines – ideally churches are hospitals not social clubs.

  86. Bummer interpretation. The meaning of the reading is basically that you should not become a sinner or a mocker yourself, as that is bad for you. These follow the encouragement to avoid bad advice and guidance from wicked people.

    As church worship did not exist at the time of the writing, the preacher could perhaps have taken a different approach!

  87. Wicked is as wicked does. Is it not wicked to take advantage of an innocent child for indecent purposes? Is it not wicked to deny food and shelter to the poor? Is it not wicked to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others? Is it not wicked to covet goods and money above all else?

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  88. Institutional churches are disintegrating. People are discovering there’s more inspiration in the world around them, more opportunities for mission in the secular world (and if it’s all God’s world, then there is no secular world), the worship is stilted, and people can unpack scripture in community including Boing Boing. Clergy know their singular authority is waning, so many are using their positions and pulpits to validate their jobs. I started a blog as therapy to write about why I don’t go to church any more and don’t feel wicked at all! The Hopeful Episcopalian: Because hope comes from despair.

  89. I didn’t go to church today,
    I trust the Lord to understand.
    The surf was swirling blue and white,
    The children swirling on the sand.
    He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
    How brief this spell of summer weather,
    He knows when I am said and done
    We’ll have plenty of time together.

    -Ogden Nash

  90. This is exactly the kind of church I was taken to every Sunday growing up — a United Methodist church to be specific, which is a very odd branch of Christianity indeed. In any case, if we missed a week due to something important going on or sheer laziness, my dad couldn’t care less but my mom would be wracked with guilt, saying things like “what if God is watching me right now, seeing me cook lunch instead of going to church?” until she finally had to at least turn on a church service on TV. Her view, which is similar to many, is that church is a “spiritual refill” that you need to avoid going to hell. If you run low on your spirituality, your good graces in the eyes of God, you’re going to hell. Church visits restore that to ‘full spirituality’; so does tithing. Watching a church service on TV helps tide you over until the next Sunday for your full refill.

  91. As a Christian, I would disagree with that definition. Christ stated that everyone is a sinner. We are all, including all Christians, broken creatures. There is only one difference. Christians have accepted Christ into their life. He sacrificed himself and stood in for everyone as an atonement for our wrong doings. As a perfect sacrifice he made it possible for God to overlook an imperfect person … me.
    Don’t let anyone tell you, Christians included, tell you that church going folks are not wicked. We most definitely are still sinners. We have just been forgiven. I believe that this passage is just saying that we are a product of the people we hang out with. Nothing more … nothing less.

  92. Another way to view this is to believe that Satan is at work – even just as an exercise. Satan is the deceiver, sowing doubt. Satan also is more like counterfeit, twisting the real meaning of Holy Scripture. The Temptation in the Desert is a perfect example. You left church doubting your true intentions, your innate goodness. When Jesus taught, there was no church to go to. Sounds like Satan-like tactics were being used in that pulpit.

  93. Trans. from Hebrew–

    “Happy the man who is not involved with those who knowingly do evil, or who wander astray because of foolishness, or who mock everything and believe nothing.”

    Translated and rephrased in “An Enlightened Heart”-

    Blessed are the man and the woman
    who have grown beyond their greed
    and have put an end to their hatred
    and no longer delight in illusions”.

    I have no doubt that when Jesus began the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you…”, listeners thought he would recite Psalm 1.

    Regarding Buddhism, the Dhammapada, one of the core Buddhist texts, begins with very similar sentiments; and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism endorses the same approach.

    The issue in the Psalm is not who’s good and who’s bad; the issue is how you develop wisdom, and what effect it has on your life.

    Parenthetically, the Hebrew word translated as “wicked” describes someone who is fundamentally dishonest, someone who knows the right thing to do in a situation and then does the opposite, who act out for personal gain. To my knowledge, it’s not used to describe people outside of the religious community; it’s only used for the deliberately hypocritical within the community.

    Or, as Zen Master Ikkyu said, “what’s the use of religious garb in the heart of the man who wastes it?”

  94. They re-assert things to guilt you. Yes part of it is true, don’t follow GOD’s word and your wicked. But, what is GOD’s word. Love thy god and love thy neighbor as you would love yourself..and love yourself!

    Don’t do harm to others….

    Religeon makes GOD seem so intollerable when it is the opposite, he is quite tollerable. If you really look at it, most people beleive in those values! Problem is organized religeon! How can a message so simple from GOD go through a ministers mouth and alienate everyone!

    Remember to tell em’ “It’s GOD’s word, and anytime you bend it to your meaning to oppress, you are actually breaking the commandment you were tasked with protecting”

    It’s taking the lords name in vein! It’s not just the word “GD”, it’s also quoting GOD and what he will do as if you are commanding it yourself…that is breaking a commandment and is almost mostly done by Priest, pastors and clergy!

  95. Going to church no more makes you a non-wicked person than sleeping in a garage makes you a car. The argument the preacher is making is essentially a high-level marketing tool, along the lines of the idea that since national brand foods spend money advertising they are somehow better than cheaper, store brands. Buy these brands and you yourself are better. I asked my dad just yesterday was it essential that you go to church in order to believe in God. He said that you should go and find out what being a Christian is “all about”. I told him that I didn’t need an intervener and changed the subject. The bottom line is that attended church can make you a better Christian if you take advantage of the opportunity. But just showing up does nothing.

  96. Full disclosure: I’m an atheist. #4 on the thread, it looks like.

    When deciding how much weight to give the preacher’s opinion, consider that he is a biased interpreter of the Bible. Only people who consider church important will become preachers, and every year they spend in the service of the church makes it less likely they’ll ever decide church isn’t important.

    If God is at least as good and merciful as an average person, he should show mercy to well-meaning people, as you would. If God is less good or merciful than the average human, why worship?

  97. To paraphrase Gandhi:
    “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians- they’re not much like Christ…”

  98. It’s this sort of stuff that led me away from the Catholic Church and to Unitarian Universalism. The 7 principles are way more cool!

    “There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

    * The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    * Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    * Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    * A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    * The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    * The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    * Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

  99. I’m sure “wicked nonbelievers” includes not only atheists but those who don’t belong to that specific church. It isn’t enough to be religious, it isn’t enough to be Christian, or Protestant, you must be THIER version (and a member of thier church too).

    I said Protestant by the way since it is always a Protestant sect like Pentecostals or Evangelists who are hyper judgmental and exclusionary like that.

  100. Sam Harris has a pretty good discussion at TED about how science can be applied to questions of morality. He proposes that human wellbeing determines if a system or action is moral or not.

    The idea that you have to be religious in order to be moral is the last pillar to be knocked down so that the whole rotten concept of religion itself can finally be swept away. Religion is irrelevant.

    1. If “human wellbeing determines if a system or action is moral or not” then it would be interesting to look at various measures of wellbeing and notice if being religious or irreligious makes any difference.

      I think this is a great thread. I expected to see much more anti-religious bigotry than I do. I know I struggle with temporal bigotry, thinking we moderns know more about stuff like human nature than the ancients did.

  101. Its a good question.

    On the one hand, churches broadly defined may be and are filled with “wicked” people too. Some who are there don’t believe in God, or trust God for their lives.

    There’s also the point that generally, traditional Christianity teaches that all have sinned, we’re all “wicked” to some extent, so churches are places where you will find sin. I’d say, though, a church could be as full of “mockers and scorners” as the world, and that you should hightail it out of such a place.

    But on the other hand, pious worship of God is righteous, assembling with those who profess faith in God is demanded and commanded in scripture, and so to neglect the assembling of yourselves together would itself be a sin.

    Everything that the pastor entailed about who the wicked were were probably not in scope in Psalm 1, but are in scope in the bible generally. Frequently, pastors will pull in the whole scope of the bible. Usually this is good, but can lead to confusion.

    Too many surveys have shown that “religious” people don’t score much higher on moral scales than non-religious.

    There’s a few reasons:

    1. “religion” in general might not be enough for moral uplift. Maybe its just one specific religious view.

    2. religion in general is at a low ebb in rigor these days, so what do you expect?

    3. The general culture doesn’t support religious morality much, and this makes it harder for the religious.

    4. The religious might be improved a great deal from where they would be if they stopped religion or never were. C. S. Lewis makes this argument. A mean old Christian biddy might have been even meaner without the mellowing effects of the Gospel in here life.

    Hope this helps.

  102. Never actually listen to the lyrics Lisa!
    It’s like that song “Semi-Charmed Life” by 3rd Eye Blind, on the surface its a happy go lucky head bopping song filled with gibberish that is perfect for playing in dental offices, shopping malls, hotel lobbies and elevators everywhere. But if you actually listen to the song then you learn that it’s actually about a crystal meth head destroying his life.
    Never listen to the lyrics :D

  103. #91 – I am so with you brother.

    I was raised catholic, born again atheist. The way I see it, God does not bother me and I offer him the same courtesy. Now if only his followers would offer me the same courtesy that I offer God and (try) to offer them.

    I think that the church does a lot of good. They help the homeless, offer food and clothing to those in need as well as offer aid to victims of natural disaster such as the recent events in Haiti and beyond. That said, there are also many other organizations that do the same things yet without the threat of eternal damnation dangled overhead if you choose to think outside of their box.

    An organization that chooses to harbor, protect, provide sanctuary for those in its ranks that have committed crimes such as molestation of innocent children does not deserve the right to pass judgement on others. Until we as a global community can learn to find guidance within ourselves and those whom we have grown to trust thru their benevolent actions, we will never get over the crutch that hobbles us spiritually. Governments often don’t help the matter either. When wars are started in the name of this persons god having a bigger dick than that guys gods dick, it is just a whole lot of God pissing on the rest of us that just want to get thru life causing as little damage as possible.

    Sure, I love going to church on occasion, and I also enjoy the ritual of mass. Unfortunately the interpetation of some biased dickweed wearing a robe usually is all it takes to bring me back to the realization, “Oh yeah, that’s why I don’t like coming here.

    Cthulu be with you. And also with you.

  104. Zapgunner’s garage/car quote comes from Billy Sunday, an early evangelist who criticized the behavior of the church establishment in America. Billy Sunday found the church to be dead on its feet and a poor reflection of Christ’s teachings.
    Others feel that way today. Growing frustration with a fat and hypocritical church establishment has led people to redefine what “church” is. Some emerging approaches little resemble a traditional church.

  105. It sound a bit like reverse psychology marketing. “If you don’t come every Sunday, we don’t want you here at all” is supposed to make you feel wracked with guilt so you will start showing up, and then you can feel all self-righteous with the other regular attendees. I hear this every time I set foot in a church these days, and it’s a huge turn-off. I never hear this anymore: “Welcome to all our visitors and newcomers. We hope you feel comfortable here with our congregation and come more often.” Why is that?

  106. What I like to throw in the face of the faithful, is that if they are truly faithful then they must believe the devil is literally at work in the world, and that the devil must use people to tempt the faith of the faithful. And then I try to tempt their faith. Either they can accept that I’m just a harmless atheist pushing their buttons (and thus their faith is flawed), or they can assume the devil is literally working through me to tempt them.

    Captcha: arts muhammad (hillarious)

  107. You’ve got it ass-backward there Lisa.
    If anyone in this scenario can be seen as wicked, it is the cloven-hatted clown acting as a paid intermediary between the gullible and their imaginary, psychopathic friend in the clouds.
    Putting his own nasty spin on the rancid writings of bronze-age dogmatics is ugly icing on an already stale, rotten cake.

    peace and freedom
    (neither of which are possible under religion)

  108. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.”

    The single verse you quoted wouldn’t have been enough to establish the pastors point.

    But this, in verse 2, indicates that love of God’s Word (for jews, the “law” or torah; for Christians, the whole Hebrew scriptures and New testamnet both) and a desire to perform it (including commands to assemble for worship) is what the righteous person does.

    “Not so, the wicked” in verse 4 can likely apply fully to everything before: the wicked are NOT planted firmly in the Word, they are like chaff blown by the wind. Mockers and scorners have no stability: a civilization built around ironic distance and lack of commitment to one another will faith utterly. It will not stand in the judgement.

  109. After skimming the comments, it seems like what I’m about to say may have already been said to an extent by commentators like BurntHombre (#28) and rockbadger (#29). Psalm 1-2 isn’t about simply one’s association with the wicked, but rather with one’s participation with the wicked in their wickedness (an idea bound up in the poetic progression from walking to standing to sitting). The counterpoint to participation in wickedness is in Psalm 1:2-3, which describes participation in righteousness (delighting in “the Law of the Lord”). The point of the passage is that, spiritually, wickedness fails and righteousness prevails.

    Of course, as I said, the righteous man is the one whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord” (v. 2; cf. Psalm 119). The association between righteousness and Scripture is one which spans the breadth of the Bible, and one may sum it up thus: “If you want to be righteous, obey God.”

    JG (#93) completely misses the point of righteousness when he says “A wicked person wouldn’t be concerned about whether or not they were wicked.” Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-27) dismisses this idea: A rich young ruler comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit salvation (showing a concern for righteous living). Jesus tells the RYR that the key to his own salvation is to give up material wealth, but “when he [the RYR] had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” He didn’t follow Jesus’ instruction, and the Bible will always condemn him for it. In other words, the RYR was concerned about his righteousness, but he willfully disregarded the truth when he came to understand it. That’s not righteousness.

    If you’re truly concerned about spiritual wickedness, then you must be concerned about your relationship with God. If you want to live for God, then you must glorify him through obedience to him. While the process is highly individualized (YOU are the only person who is going to share YOUR relationship with God), the principle is simple: find out what God demands, then do it. I personally think that Jesus validated his claims to authority and power (“I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me”) through the resurrection, and that one can only find true righteousness through following his teaching and being baptized into Christianity.

  110. “…what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

    For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

    There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.”

    Ecclesiastes 2:22-24, The words of the Preacher, who was King in Jerusalem.

    The bible says God wants you to enjoy yourself and feel good about the things you do. That doesn’t mean indulging in gluttony until you’ve destroyed your ability to feel joy; if you’ve got a hangover or an STD you’re probably doing it wrong.

    If church brings you joy and contentment, go to church.

    But if it doesn’t, it would be wicked of you to attend.

    I personally am in my church, nor am I ever out of it.

  111. I didn’t declare myself an atheist up there, but though it self evident. I will remove any ambiguities.

    And I so agree with around 90% of the comments here.

  112. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere above, but the Psalms were written long before Christ. So any attempt to link them to Church attendance is patently absurd, since the Church didn’t exist when they were written.

    The Psalms are poetry, and as poetry are subject to interpretation. As others have said, stick with your original sense about the Psalm.

  113. The message is much simpler. We are all sinners. Without faith in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection as substitute for our punishment, we would all be doomed to enternal punishment.

    Acts: 4:10-12
    It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is
    ” ‘the stone you builders rejected,
    which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

  114. After reading my post, I realized I hadn’t really answered the question:

    The pastor’s exegesis is faulty, but only in that he skips several steps in the thought process and arrives at an incomplete conclusion. There is a connection between worship and righteousness, but the two are so closely related that one cannot call one “cause” and the other “effect.” One can use worship to become more righteous; but, ultimately, the desire to worship is itself a sign of righteousness. The two go hand-in-hand.

    BTW, I am myself a Christian (in case you hadn’t guessed), and I have a BA in Biblical Studies.

  115. The pastor is directly serving the goals of his church with the clause “must attend church regularly”, though it does not necessarily serve God’s goals.

    Organized religion is a double-edged sword. The consolidation and compartmentalization of spirituality by organized worship limits the individual mind’s capacity to perceive the holy presence in his/her own way. Joining a church may bring you much further from God, depending on the reasons you join as well as the agenda of the church’s leadership.

    Next time your pastor tells you “you must…” kindly remind him that even Jesus Christ was crucified by His own free will, that He ignored the warnings of His disciples, and instead went to die for us on that hill, having put his faith entirely in God Almighty and God Almighty alone that He would Himself be saved.

    Also I don’t know where in the Bible it says this anymore, and you have to take that old text with more than a few grains of salt: but somewhere it says that “the body is the temple” and I believe that verbatim because there does exist a temple (of sorts) to God in every living soul that is capable of contemplating spirituality.

    Churches can be a great way for people of like/similar-minded faiths to come together to do God’s works, volunteering and so forth. But attendance of mass worship is generally a poor, highly-filtered format for developing one’s spirituality.

  116. I’m hopping in here as a Christian, because somebody needs to! Interpreting the Bible as a non-Christian can be quite maddening as you’re not being directed by the Holy Spirit. First off, I must point out that “the church” is NOT a building, it’s a body of Christians. You could just as easily meet in the middle of a field with a few fellow Christians and that be your church as long as you regularly meet together. The building means NOTHING (to Christianity). This passage says not to be in the counsel. This means not to hang around those trying to divert your attention from the words of God, nothing more. The pastor was wrong, but that doesn’t mean his entire message was lost. A pastor is supposed to be directed by God when delivering his message. However, if the pastor has not properly prepared (prayed and meditated on the message), then his personal feelings and ideas will interrupt the true intent of the message. This happens quite often. However, you need to continue to search for a church that makes you comfortable. And even once you find one, your pastor will occasionally say things you don’t like. No one is perfect, and that’s what makes us humans interesting! I’m glad that you’re spending time learning more about the church body. I would pray that at some point it means more to you than an interesting experience. I was anti-Christian for the first 25 years of my life. I hated the hypocrisy and the holier-than-though attitudes. Then I found my wife and she showed me some churches where the folks actually WELCOMED me and not looked down on me. Once I saw that “Christians” were actually good people, and the folks I had experienced were only SAYING they were Christians, I was quickly turned and am now VERY happy to call myself a Christian. So keep searching, my friends. Try and separate the humans from the Holy Spirit and leave your minds open to the experience. God is wonderful and gives you such comfort and happiness. May God Bless you all and your search. I hope that you find your own path soon!


  117. The “parable of the prodigal son” is really the “parable of the two lost sons” from Jesus’ perspective. In the story the wild younger son leaves under the most disrespectful of circumstances. The rule following older brother stays behind holding onto his self righteousness. When the younger returns and shown grace the older looses it. The story was told to the religious leaders of Jesus’ time to expose their own wickedness to themselves. The wild son needed grace but so did the perfect son.

  118. Blasphemy is a bit off the mark, isn’t it? We’re talking about the importance of going to church as a member of that church. My son is a member of the cub scouts. I don’t personally support their politics, but he likes it and until he knows enough to make his own decisions, he enjoys the fun and comeraderie. Now, as a member of that group, he’s expected to attend regular meetings or he’ll be asked to leave. Looking at church as a mere social club, I’d say it was important to attend. But if you do not belong to any given congregation, does that make you less of a believer if you don’t attend regularly? It comes down to a personal decision, which, as I believe it, is the core of any religion. If you go out of a misguided sense of obligation, then going makes you a hypocrite. Go for the reasons that make it right for you and don’t let other’s motivations yours.

  119. Once you decide to believe in supernatural beings you have left the realm of rational thought. Your interpretation of the words of the supernatural being is then, like your belief, entirely up to you.

    So, are you more or less wicked than the pastor who tries to use your irrational beliefs to manipulate you into showing up at his service and, I assume, donating to his church while you are there?

    I would say less.

  120. I’m fairly certain that a more likely interpertation of this passage would be that it is exhorting the reader not to try not to -be- wicked, sin, or mock. As mentioned, Jesus certainly spent time with wicked people and sinners.

  121. Hmmm… No time to read all the comments in the thread… Not at the office where I could consult my Hebrew OT (my Hebrew is way rusty anyway). So, I’m at a major disadvantage in a forum where my particular viewpoint (Christian pastor) is not likely to be welcome. Ah well.

    Yeah, the preacher was pretty much blowing it. It’s not about who you “hang out with.” It’s not even, really, about “being happy.” “Blessed” is more about fruitfulness, and while it can contain the idea of happiness, it is not identical with it.

    I suspect the real question is, “who ARE the wicked?” Well, the psalms were written for use by the Jewish people. It is unlikely that “wicked” in this context means “people outside the covenant community of Israel.” That would be “nations,” or “Gentiles.” See Psalm 2. The awful fact of anti-Semitism tends to blind us to the fairly blatant “anti-Gentilism” throughout the OT. But that’s not the point here. “The wicked,” here, would refer to other “insiders,” not outsiders.

    So, were I to transpose this for preaching in a Christian setting, I would not be looking at “those bad people out there.” I’d ask the question: do we think that simply because we’re “in church,” we’re “righteous?”

    Now, Psalm 1:2 provides the contrast to the wicked: delight in the law of the Lord. What does this mean? It is devotion to a way of life shaped by the God of Israel. There are all sorts of Christological points to ponder in how this message would be preached to a congregation of Gentile Christians.

    So, are you wicked because you don’t go to church? No. Are you wicked? Well, the particularities of that are above my pay grade. I’ll answer for myself – I sure as heck don’t have the righteousness thing nailed. But this Jesus guy is supposed to be pretty merciful and patient and kind. I’ll hang my hopes on him more than on any supposed moral superiority I could muster for myself.


  122. It’s ironic that the pastor would take a passage from the Old Testament (intended for the use of the Jewish people) and say that anyone who isn’t a Christian is wicked. Nowhere in the Bible is there any command saying that you have to go to church, that you have to believe in the Bible, or that you have to say some sinner’s prayer for salvation.

    The Jews believe in the idea of the “G-dfearer,” a non-Jewish person who acknowledges their God and behaves morally. Under their religion, that’s enough to not be called “wicked.”

    Most Christians (including pastors!) have little understanding of theology, the historical basis for the Christian church, or how to read the Bible correctly (instead of cherry-picking passages to support their own ideas).

  123. Many of the arguments have been well-articulated here, but as usual it boils down to: Those who do not believe in God have difficulty in understanding those who do – and vice versa.
    Just because I believe in God does not mean that I think that science is nonsense, nor does it mean that those that do not believe in God cannot have a perfectly well-defined moral code.
    As a believer, I have very little concern with those people who construct a straw-man “God” (old bloke with long flowing beard who lives on a cloud) and then proceed to knock it down; if it makes them feel happy, then that’s fine with me.
    I do find it disturbing when pastors and preachers do the same thing from the other direction, but that’s because in the “Us” and “Them” of this debate, I am more likely to be with the pastors than the atheists.
    In the end, I tend to find that it’s those who are insecure in their “faith” who feel the need to pass comment on the “faith” of others…

    1. If I was confronted by a seemingly sane adult who truly believed in the easter bunny I’d consider him more than a little kooky.

      The same can be said of god.
      Have your imaginary friend if you must, but please, don’t take positions of moral or legal authority, nor operate heavy machinery whilst under the influence.
      there’s something not quite right about people who converse with their imagination and believe it to be a supernatural entity.

  124. First off, I don’t have time to read this whole comments thread, so I apologize if someone already said this.

    Now, I don’t mean this as a personal slight against Lisa, but this sort of thing is what annoys me so much about nonreligious people who want to look enlightened and cultured by learning about religions and attending prayer services. I know so many people who were raised without a religion who now believe all religion is good and valid and that, even though they don’t believe any of it, they’re better, more tolerant people than the atheists who dislike religion. Then, when they actually go to a church service, they hear a sermon like this and get all bent out of shape about it.

    The moral of the story is that whatever the religion says about love and welcoming strangers and so on, its members hate you if you’re not a part of their group. If you don’t agree with their beliefs, you are, by definition, wicked. Even the universal salvation people hate you, because you’re not doing as good a job of appreciating your salvation as they are. Don’t expect them to appreciate your effort as some kind of anthropological observer, and don’t go to any religious service expecting some kind of general humanist message.

  125. From my perspective as a minister, I’d have to say that the preacher’s take on the psalm was more interested in preserving/promoting the institution than doing the work for which the lyric was originally written, and to which he was, hopefully, originally called. All too common, alas.

  126. The difference in interpretation is simple. You point out the moral and practical aspect of the text (text which is quite reasonable). But the preacher is injecting the medieval christian concept of hellish damnation into it, thereby ruining the pure and pragmatic purpose of the text that the original author(s) intended.

  127. Honestly, we are all a mix of both good and wicked, aren’t we? The Psalmist is, as much as anything, telling us to monitor our motives and make sure that we don’t get comfortable with our own wickedness. Solid advice if you ask me.

    Hanging out with other people who are also trying to pay attention is probably a good idea – hence, church, synagogue, mosque, etc. Do I think that the going to church thing is the key to wickedness vs. righteousness? Nah. The one is a matter of practice, the other a matter of the heart.

    But don’t ask me – search for an answer from God. It will come if you are honestly asking.

  128. “The moral of the story is that whatever the religion says about love and welcoming strangers and so on, its members hate you if you’re not a part of their group.”

    This is not a universal truth. Some religions will do this. Others won’t. I’m guessing in most cases it comes down to individual members to choose to be dicks or not.

    The thing about religions is they tend not to be democratic. If those in charge of the church are asshats, it’s going to pretty much be an asshat church. (Temple, synagogue, mosque, circle, whatever.) But if they’re not, and the dogma does not require asshattery of its members, it’s got a chance at being a decent place.

    1. I’m sorry, but I must respectfully disagree.

      Every religion has as its basis the idea that this is the right way to be close to/worship/obey god. Even if not stated explicitly, it is certainly strongly implied that “my religion” is the correct belief and therefore all other beliefs are at best second-rate and at worst heresy. This is not a harmless idea.

      Saying that religion is not bad, only some religious people are bad is like saying guns are not dangerous, only some gun owners are. A gun is a deadly weapon. The fact that most people who own guns are not criminals does not change a gun into a benign object except in the hands of criminals. Guns are always dangerous and should be treated as such. So, too, the existence of good or decent believers does not make religion a benign force except in the hands of zealots or lunatics.

      Religions separate people into opposing groups in a very visceral and basic way. No matter how little “asshattery” goes on in church A the people in church B are by definition “the other.” The Crusades were not only fought against non-believers in god, they were primarily fought against non-believers in the correct religion. This kind of disregard for “the other’s” humanity is still very much alive today. Why do you think it is so easy for otherwise decent people to not merely look away, but actually endorse the torture of Muslims?

      Please don’t tell me it’s about terrorism, not religion. As I recall, no one was calling for the torture of Christian terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

      So, I’m sorry, but you are wrong. Religion is not harmless just because some religious people are good.

  129. As an atheist from a family of mostly atheists, I notice very little bit of hate for non-believers here in the northeast US.

    I see advertisements on the MBTA that imply that those who don’t follow Jesus have no morals. There was a Lutheran lady working as a math tutor that once told a friend that atheists are “minions of the devil”. Yes, she used those very words. When I actually met her it was extremely awkward.

    Strange thing, I don’t really care about extremists like that her. She is otherwise completely civil and I think she is entitled to her beliefs no matter how offensive they are. On the other hand, I am very offended by the MBTA ad. I think it’s pretty disgusting that a publicly-funded organization would allow such blatant bigotry toward anyone who isn’t a christian.

      1. Thanks! Interestingly, during the 2006 race the owner replaced that sign with a political ad – not for Roy Moore, but for the Democratic candidate Lucy Baxley. That was the subject of some cognitive dissonance with me. :)

  130. My personal experience is that “wicked” people are everywhere – even in church! *Gasp!*

    I think that the pastor was using the passage to try and boost attendance. The actual lessons in the Bible are lost on a lot of people, and manipulated by others. There are very few Christians I’ve known who actually follow Christ’s teachings. Most of them just pick and choose, cafeteria style, what parts of the Bible they consider to be the “word of God” and what they consider to be a “story to teach a lesson”.

  131. Oddly enough, Jesus his own self hung out with the people that were considered to be by the religious authorities to be wicked and sinners and evil and such.

    As a regular churchgoer, let me put it into perspective for you: The pastor is a businessman. He needs customers.

    (I’m Episcopalian, though. We’re the ones who dress up like Catholics but let our priests marry, be female, and/or be queer. We’re so floofy I doubt except in a couple of parishes you’d ever hear such a sermon.)

  132. You know who didn’t go to church?


    He was a bad motherfucker. One time he went apeshit in a temple and tore it up.

  133. I was raised in the christian church and I have heard many different meanings for wickedness in the same establishment. I personally feel wickedness is in the heart, not where you choose to spend your Sunday mornings.

  134. I read Boing Boing every day. I like the views voiced here, for the most part, and the conversations are stimulating and challenging. I don’t mind that some use it as a sounding board for their fear and hatred of all things spiritual, but I do tire of the constant belittling of those who do have strong beliefs. Those whose arguments are cogent and consistant are a credit to their reasoning. But to say those who do not share your views are delusional or ignorant or evil does nothing but show elitist disregard for individual rights. I do not agree with all belief systems (including the rising “church” of atheism) but I do not feel the need to trample their beliefs to make mine stronger. As with all things spiritual, it is a personal decision. Respect the right to choose or be guilty of those who dismiss your own rights.

    1. If you choose to strongly believe in a supernatural being you should expect to be called delusional by those who do not share your belief.

      If you feel belittled because some people put you in the same category as those who believe in unicorns or leprechauns then perhaps you need to re-evaluate the depth of your faith.

      Disagreeing with your beliefs is not the same as trampling on your right to believe.

    2. Zapgunner, don’t confound my utter distate for religion as “fear” or “hate”. I don’t fear or hate you or your religion. you say these trigger-words to distance yourself from reality – a reality that you belong to but fervently refuse to beleive in, while substituting your own.

  135. Believing in religion is like believing in the ads on your television- despite the fervent urging of the narrator (your pastor),there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, if you look for it- except the believers give their religion UNCHECKED moral authority.

    accusing adherents of sinning- the ultimate transgression, which in its myriad forms is every bit as saddening to the baby jesus- for non-attendance, is not only an infantalization of the adherent, it is not in accordance with the Christian Bible, which exhorts believers at one point to worship quietly and in private. Which do you believe, your pastor or the book from which they supposedly preach?

    To paraphrase a recent, concise, unexpectedly wise statement considering the source (Billie Joe Armstrong): “Religion is a bunch of bullshit.” Word.

  136. I think the crux of this, if you will pardon the pun, is the question of whether or not to surround yourself with people who believe in God. You might ask the question, “what does it mean to say that you believe in God?”

    The usual answer I get from people when I ask them about this is that believing in God means saying you believe in God. A bit deeper, people say that it means having faith in God. But what does it mean to have faith in God? How do you know if you have it? How do you know if you *don’t* have it?

    Being a Buddhist, these questions are somewhat academic to me, but we have the concept of faith as well. For us, what faith is is a belief, based on analysis, that a particular person has something to teach us. So in the context of faith in God, what it means is that you think, based on your own faculties of reason, that if you follow in God’s path, you will benefit.

    So what is God’s path? In the Christian church, the essence of this question is distilled into Jesus’ statement, “love thy neighbor as thyself, and love God above all else.”

    Love is the wish for its object to be happy. So when we love our neighbor, we do what it takes to see to it that they are happy. To love our neighbor as ourself is pretty simple: we do what it takes to make ourselves happy, to the extent that we are able. We make sure we have enough to eat, we do our best not to be lonely, to make sure that we have a roof over our head, and so on. Loving our neighbor as ourself means that we will treat our neighbor’s hunger as if it were our own, our neighbor’s loneliness as if it were our own, and so on.

    So what about God? Anyone who tells you they have a direct understanding of what God might be is either a liar, or God. So for a person who is not God to love God is a bit of a paradox. We’ve never truly met this person we’re supposed to love. This person is all-powerful, hence presumably already happy. What can we do to make such a person happy? The answer is in God’s love: God wants *us* to be happy. And God has told us how to do it, through Jesus. So to love God is to follow Jesus’ teachings. E.g., to love thy neighbor as thyself.

    So when you meet someone who tells you that to believe in God is simply to believe that God exists, and has certain qualities, or that to have faith in Jesus is to believe that Jesus is the Lord, you are speaking to a person who has missed the point. The point is that you believe following Jesus’ advice will make you a better person, or will make you happy, or will benefit the world, or whatever you think goodness is. If you believe that that is true, then you believe in God. The rest is window dressing. Leave it to the sophists to debate.

    So the point of the Psalm is simply that if *you* have faith in God, then you should try to seek out people who can help you to strengthen that faith, and not seek out people who mock that faith. You do this for your own self-interest, not because the action itself is good or evil.

    Several people have used the example of who Jesus hung out with to refute this, but that’s backwards. Jesus was not the seeker, but the sought. The people he hung out with were the ones who had faith in him–who dropped everything when they met him and followed him, because, for them, that was the highest thing they felt they could do. So it was they who were following the advice in the Psalm, and not Jesus. Presumably Jesus didn’t need to, because his faith was already unshakable.

  137. Speaking as a Catholic and a Non-violence Advocate who was once ensconced in the Protestant church, I’d suggest this model: God is wholeness, expressed in three ways, 1. in nature (your natural body and your natural environment) 2. Through your inherent and naturally evident human needs ( food, water, community, celebration, beauty, order, sexual expression, life- giving contribution to yourself and others, fairness, safety, etc.) 3. Through Divine Revelation (AKA the big s**t-fight).

    The point of “Church”, however that may be expressed has but one purpose, to facillitate unity “that all may be one” , that were all on the same page. Needless to say, that’s a real fragmented thing, and every church wants to claim the revelatory criteria that is supposed to bring us in accordance with the whole.

    Wickedness is turning away from, or not participating in that fervent movement toward the whole. Sin is wilfully or ignorantly separating yourself from God (AKA) the whole.

  138. hey we’re not just talking about wickedness here. we’re talking about BURNING IN HELL FOR ETERNITY. that’s like.. forever. think of how old the universe is. longer than that. hell, if the universe is even 6000 years old, eternity is that and a whole lot more…

    and just how fucking WICKEDLY FUCKING EVIL is that… just for not going to church? jesus h christ on a fucking bike that god of yours is one evil son of a bitch if that’s what he threatens you with from CHILDHOOD. i’ll take my chances elsewhere thanks.

  139. Lisa, my guess is that you’re like most of us – you’re a good egg who has some room for improvement.

    I don’t trust the opinions of religious institutions because they’re run by people whose agendas I find suspect, and I take their definition of wickedness with a grain of salt.

    I like Sapere Aude’s (#64) interpretation of the passage. To me it looks like the pastor and the congregation are taking the opposite advice, though, using it as an excuse to be self-righteous instead of a warning not to be a wolf in sheeple clothing.

  140. “trevcaru • #2 • 22:24 on Tue, Apr.13 • Reply
    Jesus must not have been blessed. He hung out with rapists, whores, and murderers frequently. Feel sorry for the dude who has to sit in your seat next weekend. ”

    you’ve got it right.

    Jesus hung out with the outcast. He came to free who are lost not who thought was right.

    Another clear example is that who crucified Jesus were exactly them, the religious who they so proclaimed believe in God but condemned the lamb.

    So please, if you DO believe in God don’t use your finger other than lend your hand.

    1. “Like blasphemy, the word gullible is not found in any dictionary.”

      Only a gullible person would believe this.

  141. There is a difference between “religion” or “denomination” and Christianity. When people ask me if I’m religious, I say no but I’m a Christ follower.
    Also, the bible clearly teaches that we are all evil. It is far too easy, and a human weakness, to want to judge. But there is only one that will ultimately judge each of us.

  142. We are all sinners, we all mock religion in some way or another, and we are all wicked in some form.

    Should we surround ourselves with nothing?

      1. @Rich – Nirvana is peace and that is a great deal more than nothing.

        Also, why are Buddhists meddling in this discussion of Christian exegesis?

        Also, this is the troll-baitiest post on BB since the great Russian serial killer video troll-bait of 2009.

        1. “@Rich – Nirvana is peace and that is a great deal more than nothing.

          Also, why are Buddhists meddling in this discussion of Christian exegesis?

          Also, this is the troll-baitiest post on BB since the great Russian serial killer video troll-bait of 2009.”

          I did not deliberately set out to offend anyone. I am genuinely sorry if I did. You got me on the misuse of Nirvana. eccentriffic asked if we should surround ourselves with nothing. I was confusing Nirvana with satori and sunyata in that satori is not having desires, which cause unhappiness and sunyata, a realization of the emptiness of phenomena. I was trying to be clever and you caught me on it. I’m a former Presbyterian, not Buddhist. I “meddle” in this because I have an opinion – it’s that simple. And is my post really as bad as the live sushi post? If it is, I want a t-shirt or something.

          To go back to Lisa’s question, I see sinfulness as being deliberately selfish at someone elses expense and wickedness as not playing by a church’s rules. I’ve seen sermons where it’s all sunshine and light and then they hit you with the old switcheroo and make you feel awful about yourself to bring you back next week to get built up and torn down again. I also remember the same technique being used on impressionable kids when I was in Sunday school. It’s the carrot and the stick, but sometimes they whack you with the carrot when it suits them.

  143. I dont go to church I go to synagogue, cause I am a dirty dirty Jeeeew! So no church must now put me into the camp of the wicked too, funny that when the psalms were written there were no churches or Christians around. I like going to orthodox shule, we just say our prayers and go home, no sermons. The only sermons I get are from my wife when I get the kids sugared up and hyper and then leave. Man I hate sermons, how do Christians do it?

  144. Have you ever been to a Quaker church? I went to one for a few years as a child. I’m not religious, but as far as churches go, they were my favorite. Their meeting is quite interesting. They have no preacher, instead everyone sits in silence, a sort of meditation, and if one feels compelled to say something to the meeting, they can stand and speak. The topic can be anything, religion, current events, politics, etc. It’s really hard to do this (I never did) but the people who speak are just about always quite sincere. The nicest thing about Quakers is they allow for everyone’s interpretation of the bible and don’t tell each other what to believe from any passage. Their bible study consists of the teacher giving you passages to read for homework, and then you come in and discuss them. I never had a teacher tell me, what I thought was wrong, we just listen to everyone’s interpretation. The only thing they really insist on is complete nonviolence. No defending yourself at all. I respected that position, but could never bring myself to fully believe it. But if you like checking out different churches, I highly recommend it. At the least you will be quite relaxed and refreshed after meeting.

  145. I don’t know where I’ll go when I die, but at least I can be fairly sure all my friends will be there, too.

  146. I think what has happened here is that the preacher either took something that is technically correct and twisted it to make his own case, or that it just came across wrong.

    The book of Psalms are largely attributed to being written by King David. Societies at this time were based around religious beliefs, on which the societies based moral codes. The Jewish nation believed in a God that loved his people, dished out wrath on His enemies, and was slow to anger. The nations surrounding Israel worshipped many Pagan gods, many of whom called for human sacrifices and sexual rituals. So, from David’s point of view, anyone who was not of the Jewish nation would therefore be wicked.

    Sadly, most Christians, and even pastors, do not do proper study on the scriptures from cultural and historical perspectives, and some will, in fact, even take verses out of context of the surrounding passages. This leads people to not only make sometimes wierd and untrue statements based on the scriptures they read, but leads some to totally twisting the scriptures to justify some really odd stuff (which is where most cults end up coming from).

    I would not let this one experience sour you from the church or religious practices, but I would think twice before going to that particular church again. You may want to speak, one on one, with the pastor of that particular church as well, just to see if that is really the message he was trying to convey.

  147. That really sucks. Yeah, there are tons of clueless pastors and church members out there with the same self serving belief. If you want a fresh, and non-condeming approach, check out All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, CA. And no, I am not a member or attend there.

  148. This discussion reminds me of Roger Williams. I recently read Sarah Vowell’s book The Wordy Shipmates, about the Puritan settlers of New England, and she talks a lot about Roger Williams. He was one of their leaders, and he was a pretty hardcore Christian. Very strict in his beliefs, and a troublemaker on top of it.

    And yet he was also extremely tolerant of those who believed differently. He was convinced that they were going to hell, but his attitude was, they’re going to have the rest of eternity to suffer so we might as well be nice to them while they still have the chance to enjoy it.

  149. BJN, the reason a sensible person asks a question is not in hopes of hearing the one and only true answer to it. Few interesting questions have definitive answers. The reason to ask the question is that one hopes the answers will illuminate one’s understanding. Ultimately, when it comes to questions like this, we must answer them ourselves, but that does not mean that we can’t benefit from asking others how they have come to approach the same question.

  150. Yes, trust the Church to tell you what you are. Also, make sure to follow up with the symptoms you hear in the drug commercials on TV :)

  151. Of course he wants you to think you have to go to church, because he doesn’t pass the collection plate around at your house.

    Are puny little humans prepared to say that god can’t teach someone something just because they’re not sitting with a certain set of four walls? I think god will put a “church” any damned where he/she pleases. “Church” can be anywhere you go, provided you’re listening and learning the right lesson. To me it’s more about mindfulness than where you plant your butt and thinking that’s enough to do the trick.

  152. Don’t know if this was already mentioned, but the same Bible that the pastor used to say people who “don’t believe in God” are the wicked also says that EVERYONE “falls short” since it isn’t what we do, but whether or not we’re willing to accept God’s gift of grace/salvation.

    It’s pretty offsetting to be told you’re wicked however when seen in the context of the rest of scripture, how everyone sucks and experiences selfishness and greed, etc, then it’s easier to see the dichotomy between us and a perfect, yet loving God. He loves us that while we were still sinners and flippant about God, He still sent His son to die on our behalf. Furthermore, Jesus did hang out with the dredges of society because it isn’t the healthy who need a physician, it’s those who are sick. If Jesus (or Christians for that matter) just hang out in church all day who’s that going to help?

    It’s true that “we are the company we keep” but the Bible is exhorting believers (or more specifically Jews in the Psalms) not to necessarily be elitist, but to be on point. Be careful if your only friends are murderers because as much as you might rub off on them for their benefit, their moral compass might rub off on you, however steadfast you might think you are.

    It’s a shame that so many people, even in these comments, blanket statement an entire culture/belief system based on our society & the fact that there are people misrepresenting said culture. If Christians lived exclusively by what Jesus professed, people would undoubtedly still find something to be pissed about (Jesus’ contemporaries killed Him for what He said and did), but at least it wouldn’t turn SO MANY people off. The next time you see an uppity, pompous, unloving, self-professed ‘Christian’, keep in mind anyone can call themselves anything, but that doesn’t make them anything.

    Might I also suggest paying attention to the ‘quiet’ people who represent a culture. Because the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but it also doesn’t necessarily represent the whole car.

  153. We are ALL wicked, and can never hope to ‘fix’ ourselves and become ‘holy’ the way God wants us to be or enter the kingdom. That’s why Jesus came, to save us from God’s judgment (substitutional atonement). He did not HAVE to save us, and we certainly don’t deserve it. We are NOT told to go out an convert everyone at all cost, we are to share these facts, do our best not to participate in sin and do not perpetuate or contribute to the sin of others. Contrary to Joel Olsteen and the like – just because you have faith, does not necessarily mean you will be blessed in the way YOU want while here. The ultimate prize comes later.
    Read the whole bible so you learn the context so you understand it (old covenant vs. new covenant). You will also see endless examples of ‘wicked’ people that God still used for good purposes, and repeatedly saved. It would be great if you could visit any church and put all your trust in what you are being told, but that is not always the case. Nor can you simply walk into a christian bookstore and pick up any random book hoping for your own personal revelation. You SHOULD question your faith, and that is one reason why a body of believers is important as a resource, together you can test these things.

  154. Wicked is being a bad person…like the small-minded kind of person who thinks that their view is the only right one and that any other view of the world is somehow evil.

  155. First the part about going to church… You go to church to learn about the bible and have fellowship with brothers and sisters in the faith. Not going to church doesn’t make you less of a Christian any more than not going to a Star Wars convention makes you less of a fan.

    I think some people could probably agree that wicked people = people who sin. Christianity is built around getting forgiven from sins only through believing Jesus was the Savior and asking for forgiveness. If someone does NOT do one (or both) of those, they are with sin, and as the first sentence pointed out, wicked.

    I think the biggest problem with the way that it is worded is that there is a “spiritual wicked” that we don’t use much these days, and a “Cruella Deville wicked” that we use on a daily basis.

  156. The passage is telling the Christian not to be wicked himself. If a Christian is trying to teach being apart from non-Christians, they should go with the old “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers” passage, which I never could stand, and which lead in some part to my refusal to be part of an organised religion.

  157. “I don’t believe you,
    You have the whole damn thing all wrong,
    He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.”

    –Ian Anderson, “Wind Up”



    Its cool though man, I’ve heard we all get to go party at a really “HOT” club after we die.

  159. The pastor is incorrect from a Christian standpoint, and is in danger of falling on the wrong side of the parable of The Unforgiving Servant. The correct answer, according to Christianity, is that yes, you are wicked, but only because everyone is, including Christians. And the idea that you shouldn’t hang around with nonbelievers if you are a Christian is anathematic to Christianity.

    Psalms and Proverbs contain a lot of practical advice and so you saw the meaning correctly. It applies whether or not you are a part of the Judeo-Christian faith, and would be considered part of the “Law” of the bible.

    A Christian’s concept of righteousness is not based on law however, as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Our righteousness is an undeserved gift from God (Gospel) and is for all mankind. We are commanded “to go and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19) and to become as them in order to win them over (1 Corinthians 9:19). We have Jesus’ example of being on quite good terms with “wicked” men. He sat down to dinner with tax collectors and drank wine with them, prevented orostitutes from being stoned (which was legal back then), got crucified alongside thieves, etc.

    We ARE instructed to avoid situations where we’ll be tempted to sin, so there are potential circumstances where a Christian who has trouble controlling himself around alcohol may not want to go hang out with people in a bar.

    Hope that helps, and leaves you with a better impression of our religion. Sorry the pastor was a dick.

  160. Going to church makes you religious the same way that standing in the garage makes you a car.

  161. In context:

    1. Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
    2. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
    3. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
    4. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
    5. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
    6. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

    The interpretation for this verse is simply that you should live your life for God, and according to His rules. The verses after the first verse point to how you can do this, and the benefits that come along with it. It doesn’t really speak to the company you keep, but to whether or not you should listen to and follow the advice of others when it is contrary to the advice given by God. You’ll find that with most passages like this one, the intended meaning isn’t as complicated as it may first seem.

  162. Dear Lisa, I am afraid you are! BUT only in the eyes of the intolerant. My daughter and I live in a very conservative, Christian area and we encounter this every day! She refuses to say the God part in the pledge they do every morning at school and she even encounters 6 and 7 year old in her class telling her it is a bad thing not to believe in God! She’s smart and strong and tells them she believes in many Gods and mostly she believes in Nature and mother earth…Try a Unitarian Universalist church next time, I guarantee you you’ll be very welcome as wicked girl! Namaste, Mo

  163. So many responses, but my take is that if you are asking yourself the question, then you are decidedly NOT wicked at this point. Moreover, as a Christian, I take issue with the assignment of terms to anyone that can be classed by some “religious” people as “those others.” In other words, I’d encourage you to read C.S. Lewis “The Last Battle” and note that he actively encourages the idea that as long as you do what your feel is right, as long as you follow a strong moral compass, you will find that, in the end, you were following Him all along. Remember that Christ consciously rejected the “religious” people of his day (Pharisees and Sadducees), took them to task for their self-righteousness, and ultimately “won” the day over them.

  164. The word “wicked” in this verse can also be translated to mean “ungodly”; so in this passage, those who do not believe in the Lord are called the “wicked”. One of the hard truths in Christianity is that being a good person and leading a good life is not what secures eternal life. Rather, eternal life is secured through faith in Christ – a belief that He is the son of God, was crucified as for our sins, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

    I would contend that going to church regularly is a good practice to keep in communion with other believers, to worship the Lord, and to hear the Word, but if you have faith in Christ and accept Him as your savior, I don’t believe you should count yourself among the “ungodly” because you don’t attend church on a regular basis.

  165. I have to agree with Post #16, it sounds like the preacher doesn’t fully understand the verse:
    Blessed is the man
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
    or stand in the way of sinners
    or sit in the seat of mockers
    – “Walk in the counsel of the wicked” likely means to be part of the wicked group, sharing their wicked ways, views and actions. This doesn’t simply mean congregating with wicked people or being around them. It means being part of the reason the group is wicked.
    – “Stand in the way of sinners” likely means that you’re standing in the way that sinners stand. Again, meaning that you’re acting like sinners act, doing what sinners do.
    – “sit in the seat of mockers”. By sitting in the seat of a mocker, you will take on the role of someone who mocks others. Again, not something people would consider respectful or blessed.
    In other words, this verse is simply stating the obvious. Be a nice, non-wicked, non-sinful, non-hurtful person and you will be blessed. I should hope anyone who has lived for more than 5 years already understands this based on human experience.
    It never ceases to amaze me when someone pulls a quote from a bible in order to prove an obvious point. “See… this proves that being a good person is the right thing to do… if the book didn’t say it, I wouldn’t know what to think!”
    Now, the great thing is, depending on your views of wickedness / sinfullness / mocking, you can distort this passage to represent ANYTHING, just like the pastor used it to prove that those who don’t come to church and believe in God are evil.
    There’s a reason a lot of people see this verse in different ways. It’s because they can read the words, but it will bring to mind different things based on their own experiences and beliefs. It’s an unspecific verse. Many people think you need to read the bible literally, which is fine. However, the literal meaning doesn’t mean it’s representative of one specific thing… and I should hope you wouldn’t need to read the bible or believe in God to understand what being a good person is. This verse is obvious.

  166. It’s always dangerous to apply a Bible verse out of context. The psalmist did not say the opposite a wicked man, a sinful man, or a scornful man is a church-going man. He said it is one who delights in the law of the LORD and meditates upon it constantly. I would say to someone who attends various churches just to watch the rituals to stay home and read the Word of God with an accepting mind. Maybe the psalmist was right and if you learn to love God’s word and spend a lot of time studying it you will become a healthy productive person. You’ll never know unless you try it.

  167. 1) I am a Christian

    2) I don’t know everything!

    3) People claiming to be Christians and not living it are considered more wicked in God’s eyes. See Jesus’s 8 woes to the Pharisees (for the record, the leaders of the Pharisees followed every letter of the Law, but not the intent of the Law).

    4) I don’t understand how anyone would be offended by this comment even if it were true knowing that all religions are exclusionary to some extent.

  168. You can let the Bible interpret itself.

    James 4:17 says, “Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.” The question someone needs to ask him/herself is, “Do I have a pattern of intentionally doing things that I know are wrong?”

  169. The old testament was completely fullfilled by Jesus, a new convenant is established by Jesus and The Old Testament’s laws are no longer required, often good ideas though, By faith alone we are now justified and Jesus’ ansewer to the question what is the greatest commandment his answer: ” to love the lord with all your heart… and love your neighbor as your self…(paraphrased horribly) God wants us all to love one another and help and teach and try to do good, but all he requires is faith in him. We all will never have the capacity to fully understand the unknowable, his mystery, but to learn and ask forgiveness for our sins, and try to be better, That is the Christian way, be/set good examples.

  170. If the whole passage is read in full, you quickly realize this pastor trying to scare and depress you to hang around and give him your cash.
    The bible doesn’t belittle and doesn’t rob one of self esteem, if you don’t goto church to listen to their politics, and just read the bible as it is, it is very encouraging, and builds self esteem, and actually guides you away from pastor’s out for a money grab.
    I could deface God’s word and pull up a bunch of little parts of the bible and give this pastor his own hellish medicine. The truth is, they know they are wicked when they missuse the word of God, but they think it is for the greater good (lining their pockets). The reality is that they ignore other part of the word which actually puts a heavy burden on those teaching the word not to misrepresent it because they will receive a much heavier punishment.
    That said, if you can bear sitting there, listening to the music, and then somehow bypassing the brainwashing(not listening doesn’t work, they get to you subconciously), your good, if you can’t, find another church.
    A good church doesn’t scare you into anything, and never asks for money, in any way shape or form, you donate if you feel they should have it. Once they demand, scare, missuse the word, threaten, sell, or annoy you, walk away. If they beg and you think they may need it, and you can do some good, by all means.

  171. Wait, you’ve been instructed not to surround yourself with mockers, and your first instinct is to post on the internet?

  172. The bible is full of much worse things. That doesnt necessarily mean Christianity – or any religion – is inherently bad. Flawed, perhaps, but not malicious. People interpret things and form their behavioural and social structures based on what they want to think.

    Most groups out there are ok. Some aren’t.

    The point with scripture, is first to establish what you like and what you dont like. Or more importantly, what you feel is personally meaningful and which gives you something you hadn’t already possessed. Once you have that, you then use it in your daily life; whether that’s a simple idea that brings a smile to your face when you need it, or a fire burning within you that drives you to new and challenging things.

    Leave the bad things out, and do your best; thats what spirituality is about.

  173. Yup, that is a poor interpretation of the scripture.

    It means not to be those things, sinner, mocker, scoffer. Not to avoid people who do these things.

  174. I have been raised by a religious family. But now I don’t really know if I’m doing a good thing anymore. I go to church because I am afraid if I don’t go, I would go to hell… or well, commit a mortal sin… which I then confess and ask penance for. Then I feel it somehow defeats the whole purpose of going to church now. I go to church not really to listen to mass or what, but because I’m afraid my family is gonna kick my ass. This, I feel, is really bad. :(

  175. The point of going to church is to deepen your relationship with God. The pastor’s definition of wicked is much different than mine (also a pastor). Many years ago I started to attend church regularly. I changed for the better in those weekly times of worship. Some of my negative beliefs were challenged. I found a new and more loving way to be in the world. What you miss by not worshiping, is a set aside time for prayer and renewal for your soul. Time to encounter God in a different setting and for God to speak to your heart and soul. Try another church.

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