Archive for September, 2008

You’re Rubber, I’m Glue ?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Courtney’s Right-Mind has me and several of my friends lumped together as the worst of Moscow’s bigots — people who persecute other people based on their religion. Much of what he says requires too much context for me to explain, and I have no intention of making an impassioned defense of myself to Dale Courtney. However, his analogy of my bigotry against — his example — Mexicans is especially offensive, given my background.

He highlights as one example of my “defense of bigotry” my letter to the editor last year, in which I comment that that Francis Foucachon’s cries of “this reminds me of Nazi persecution!” are absurd. It’s not religious persecution when I and others choose not to eat at West of Paris — and make that choice because we don’t want to support a business owned by a congregant of Christ Church, someone not willing to repudiate the dangerously inane, and, yes, bigoted, railings of Doug Wilson and his Kirk leadership.

I’m a Christian. Clearly I’m not making my choice to avoid Foucachon’s place because he’s one, too. What a very odd definition of “bigot” is employed here.

But Dale will say what Dale wants to say, and he and his accolytes and fan club will all nod their heads and agree that I truly represent the worst of religious bigotry and hate. That these white men of privilege would accept the racist jokes, sexist interplay, obnoxious application of dubious theology, insular worldview and cagey acquaintance with truth that permeates Dale’s blog and saturates Kirk culture while working themselves into a lather about me — the one who publicly calls them to repentance for it all — is laughable. Or would be, if it weren’t so abjectly pitiful.

Now, Dale knows that his list of bigots and their vile deeds is purposely lacking the kind of context — or, hey, let’s call it “truth” — that would show that he’s not only dead wrong, but hurling brickbats at other people who’ve simply called the Kirk on bad behavior. But he’ll have to answer for this and many other things, and there will come a day when his whining and special pleading will be revealed for what it is — the desperate attempts of an unhappy man to vindicate himself for things he ought to repent of instead.

Paraphrasing the Scriptures, if they mock me and slander me when I proclaim Christ in truth, then I should rejoice. And I do, except for the sadness I feel that so many are being deluded by so much clamor.

Name-Calling

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Another coal to heap on in the hope of bringing about repentance:

I regret very much that Doug Wilson yesterday, on Blog and Mablog, wrote about the many different names — ugly, offensive names — that he and his pals can call male homosexuals and sexual activity. “Poofter, sodomite, queer, homo — faggotry, buggary,” etc., all are evidences of a Godly, masculine use of language that, Wilson argues, speaks a greater truth than the “effeminate” use of the term “gay.”

Once again, he won’t change, he’ll encourage his congregants to embrace language that needlessly offends rather than uplifts, and hearts will only get harder. But I won’t have to say, sometime, why I kept silent, allowing others to think it’s just fine, dandy, and entirely consistent with Jesus’ teaching.

Sigh.

Assumptions, Part 2

Monday, September 29th, 2008

If I’m awake at 2 a.m. and still awake at 4:15, and I’m rolling this current controversy over in my mind the whole time, I’m going to guess the Spirit is tugging at me . . . and I’ll happily respond. Even at the risk of disappointing my friends, even at the risk of handing my adversaries more grist for the mill.

My concern here is twofold: One, I want to take responsibility for what I did write (say, do, think), and, two, I want to not have this young woman — the Nuart questioner — to be humiliated by too much discussion of who she is and where she attends school. I don’t know who she is; others do, and I hope they keep it quiet. Her identity isn’t at all germane to this discussion, and now that we all know she’s not, in fact, an NSA student, it’s enough to leave her out of the picture. I don’t want to hold her up by name to any ridicule for a question that, while dumb, and which shouldn’t have been allowed, was apparently asked in sincerity. (One thing: I listened to a recording of her question; I would not have commented as I did based on hearsay or even a printed transcript).

When I posited that the question was asked by an NSA student, my thinking was NOT, “My, what a stupid question. She must be NSA . . . ” That would have been wrong — not just factually wrong, but morally wrong. And yes, it turns out I was factually wrong, and I acknowledge that. (I’m leaving out references to the reasons I made the assumption; you can find that on my blog, and my interest here is not in defending why I concluded what I did). My thinking WAS, “Wow, that question (asked at an NSA forum, etc.) reflects the same kind of anti-Muslim sentiment and bigotry against Obama that I’ve seen from Kirk and NSA leaders . . . She must be
NSA . . . ” I do not believe that to be a sinful assumption. Factually wrong, yes, and the journalist in me is chastened; but neither the thinking that led to my conclusion or my analysis of what an NSA education would bring about in terms of a political, religious worldview was morally wrong. Nor was it carelessly wrought, and I still believe that the education and worldview offered at NSA and through Christ Church is seriously lacking.

Did it embarrass me? Yes. I don’t like pointing out when Dale Courtney screws up. This will sound meaner than I intend it to, but I’d like to never engage with Dale again, period. I will, though, when something offensive comes up. But obviously his very public, very pointed delight in my error wasn’t a lot of fun. (Well, not for me. He and Gary had a ball, and they get to). I don’t do this — study, write, and speak about theology and often, by necessity, through the lens of Christ Church error — because it’s easy, or because I’m preternaturally incisive, or because I love publicity. I do it because it needs to be done, I believe, by someone in the Church. I’m much more concerned with any errors of my heart than with looking foolish for having made a wrong assumption — but I will always try to do better, and, frankly, I handed a freebie to those predisposed to disliking me or making fun of me. Didn’t intend to, but I did. And so what I regret is that I caused other people to stumble. I made it easy for them to — perhaps — engage in less-than-moral mocking and contempt for me. The regret I hold over that — I caused others to stumble, people who I knew would rejoice at my error — is far greater than the embarrassment of having been found to be wrong in my assumption.

Again, my analysis of NSA and its worldview as a failed, flawed system still stands — no matter who asked the question. And obviously Dale has an intense dislike for me, and I gave him a “gotcha!” moment that didn’t bring out the best in him. I take responsibility for that, and for that, I’ve asked the Lord’s forgiveness. I regret, much more than you can likely understand, that it looks to outsiders that Dale and I are fighting like two alley cats, and every day I struggle with what to comment on, what to leave alone, and what to just pray about, just as I do with Doug Wilson’s writings (yesterday’s “homo, queer, poofter, buggary, faggotry” column, for example). I don’t believe that much of what Dale posts is honoring to the Gospel. I do believe that in most cases, silence is, if not assent, then an apathy that borders on the sinful. So I wrestle — not with Dale, not with my public reputation, not with anything other than how to best use the gifts I have to differentiate truth from error, beauty from filth, Christ from the unfortunate proclivities of His followers. I am a much harder critic of myself than Dale, Gary, or anyone else ever will be, and I’m going to ask those of you who are my friends to not try to find ways to slam either of them about this. I always covet your prayers, and I’ll always try to get it right — for the sake of righteousness.

Now, a public acknowledgement of sin: Last week, I posted a sarcastic, throwaway comment on Wilson’s Blog and Mablog regarding an upcoming conference on Father Hunger (it’s been removed, and should have been). I’ve occasionally interacted with Wilson on his blog, but only when I had a point to make. This was just snarkiness on my part, and I emailed an apology to him that I assume he’s accepted. I don’t mind a sharp, pointed observation, but on someone else’s blog, I am a guest, and I didn’t behave like one then. That was a failing, and one I regret.

Assumptions

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Dale Courtney points out today on a blog post devoted to me and my bigotry, faulty reasoning, and general obnoxiousness that I mistakenly attributed a stupid question at Friday’s NSA candidates forum to an NSA student. The young woman was not, Courtney says, an NSA student, nor is she a Kirker in any other way. In order to give context to my acknowledgment of error and my defense of my assumption, it’ll be necessary for me to reprint my original comments from Vision 2020 yesterday, expressing my dismay at the content and inappropriate nature of the question, which was posed to local candidates for local and state office and was initially phrased as “the Christian-Muslim” thing:

From Vision 2020:

This is very sad.

I’m sure this very pleasant young woman has now had most of her political positions and preferences confirmed now that Ringo, Brown, Schroeder, et al, failed to weigh in on the “what to do with Muslims who threaten my Christian friends in Boise?” question. The fact that the question is offensive, absurd, and entirely not what local elections are about tells me that the education she’s receiving — would that be NSA? — is woefully lacking. Adding to it, with what appears to be genuine befuddled sincerity, is the query about Obama’s faith.

A man who publicly claims Christ as his Lord and Savior, as Obama has, surely isn’t a Muslim, because in doing so, he puts himself at risk if he were, indeed, a Muslim. Now, public claims of Christian fealty don’t make one a Christian — a point that hardly seems necessary to make, especially here in Moscow — but it absolutely means he’s not a Muslim. (I’m offended at the idea, by the way, that even if he were, it would mean that he’s somehow unfit to govern). Personally, I’m going to examine the fruit, and I’m able to conclude that he probably really does worship Christ — as if what I conclude about his faith should matter. The point here — at the Nuart yesterday — is that it says very little, while saying a lot, about what NSA students are learning when this poorly phrased, inane, and inflammatory question was put to local women and men running for local offices. I don’t intend to humiliate the young woman; I consider her part of a failing culture and a faulty curricula, and I imagine she knows no other.

************************************************************************************

Let me say right off that if Dale is correct — if the young woman is not an NSA
student — I was wrong in my assumption that she was. I was not wrong, as I’ll explain here, in coming to that assumption. The evidence pointed that way, and yet my guess turned out to be incorrect. I did not state unequivocally that she was; I did question if, perhaps, she was an NSA student, and I did criticize an NSA curriculum that allows for (feeds?) such an unfortunate grasp of politics, or fails at its own forum to correct it when evidenced. And, by the way, she evidently is a UI student. So I acknowledge my error and the assumptions behind it. What were those assumptions, for which I will not apologize?

First, I assumed that a forum sponsored by NSA, which was advertised as a place where NSA students would be asking questions of the candidates to learn about politics, would reflect NSA interests and values. That seems reasonable; I suspect that, if a similar forum were held by a GLBT or gun owners group, the questions would reflect the interests of those constituencies.

Second, I assumed that if NSA intended to have an open forum setting, it would screen or review the questions, which, in other forums, are generally written out beforehand. Further, in most forums I’ve attended, irrelevant or offensive questions are rejected by the emcee, moderator, or host. Clearly, that wasn’t the case here.

Third, it’s reasonable to think that the questioner’s references to “a bunch of us” who “were talking about this” would refer to the NSA students involved in the planning and execution of the forum.

Finally, a question of a religious nature asked by someone concerned about Christian-Muslim relations and persecution, posed at a forum sponsored by a religious organization, presumes easily that the questioner is, herself, a religious person. I’m unaware of any groups of young Christians, other than NSA students, who share the young woman’s fear of Islamic persecution and doubts about Obama’s faith. There is no other church organization in town whose leadership regularly comments — less than judiciously — about the dangers of Islam, the shadowy religious and political past of Barack Obama, or the persecution of Christians living among Muslim immigrants. That the questioner here is not an NSA student or otherwise connected to Christ Church and its organizations is much more surprising than my conclusion, from the evidence offered, that she likely was.

So, yes — I was factually wrong, if what Dale says is true. But rather than gloat about my error, perhaps Dale and the organizers of the event who are as aggrieved as he pretends to be could begin considering why it is that when bigotry, incivility, arrogance and an insular, us-vs.-them worldview is presented in Moscow, it’s presumed by many that the presenter is a Kirker. As I’ve said before, the Kirk and its leaders have not earned a presumption of innocence or virtue when it comes to racial issues, political activity, engagement with unbelievers, or any number of things. For example, when an anonymous or obviously pseudonymical — and usually belligerent — post appears on Vision 2020, people assume that the keyboards at the Kirk’s Anselm House offices are busy. After all, the nerve center of Kirk management gave us Shirley Pissdoff and Edna Wilmington; Christ Church devotee and CREC-church member Chris Witmer, all the way from Japan, gave us the juvenile nastiness of “Princess Sushitushi;” a little detective work confirmed that the Princess was a gift to us from the swamplands of Kirk-CREC dreck.

Back in 2002, when groups of young people mocked a Moscow School District levy proposal with asinine signs and (literally) babbling, grunting responses to questions asked of them, the assumption was that they were some of NSA’s finest — and they were, although “finest” here is ironic. When a fake news release about a topless lecture at the UI was circulated, people immediately assumed that the clever, cogent hand of a Kirker was behind it. They were right. The reality here is that rather than engaging with the community in a manner completely above reproach, the merry men of the Kirk gleefully provoke offense and invite rebuke.

The fact is that when the Gospel is maligned locally by bad teaching or bad behavior — by the kinds of reckless rhetoric that most pastors eschew — the culprits are virtually always those race-baiting, mocking, immature, sexist men of chest who call the Kirk home. And when NSA sponsors a student forum for candidates and a question reflecting the insular, prejudiced, uninformed and arrogant views regularly churned out by Christ Church and NSA leadership is asked, it’s not bigotry on my part to assume the questioner, not rebuked or corrected by forum organizers, is a part of their community. I acknowledge the error of my conclusion; I do not apologize for the assumption behind it. I just grieve that when there’s an unpleasant aroma in Moscow’s political, civic, or cultural air, the origin is depressingly often found wafting from the Kirk.

“Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are like a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God . . . ” 2 Cor. 2:14, 15

Saturday in the Park (I Think it Was the 27th of September)

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

I stumbled across the “Express Yourself” festival at East City Park yesterday and was delighted to see another example of how many creative, kind, and generous people we have in Moscow. Loosely organized by a young man, Plato, who does wonderful spoken-word delivery with dance, it was a nice time, with kids, artists, musicians, Hacky-Sackers, dogs (including my precious Perry, now 15 weeks old!), and a potluck dinner.

And thank you to the kind young couple who, recognizing me from my blog picture, stopped to thank me for what I’m doing and told me they were praying for me. What a blessing you were to me, and I do appreciate your prayers, probably more than you know.

Vile Jokes, Round 2

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Well, at least Dale Courtney announced his disgust before posting a video clip of Saturday Night Live’s skit about Todd Palin and the parentage of his daughter’s child.

I suppose that’s an improvement, but Dale does feel it necessary to make the point that progressives must think it’s funny to joke about incest, pedophilia, and the like. That’s absurd, of course, just as it’s absurd to suggest that all conservatives trade in racist jokes. But Dale’s world seems to have been shaken just a bit, so I’ll join him in denouncing as vile, tasteless, and utterly inappropriate this or any joke about who fathered Bristol Palin’s baby — or who gave birth to Todd Palin’s youngest child. In fact, and I’ve said this before, candidates’ kids should be kept out of the spotlight and the ugliness inside it, and I hate jokes about incest as much as I hate jokes about race.

Now, in the sentences above, I’ve probably given enough context that any of my readers, even without morning caffeine, can guess what the SNL joke was — and this is to give understanding to what I’m condemning. But I don’t feel the need to lift ugliness from one spot in the blogosphere to infect mine. Dale not only has the video clip, but much of the text of the joke. Wouldn’t it be better to spend more time commenting (negatively, I hope) on trash than in providing it a bigger audience?

And no, I didn’t see the SNL piece. Don’t intend to. That’s my point. Tell me that a joke depends on the horror of incest for a laugh, and I’ll join you in condemning it. It’s an SNL skit, for heaven’s sake; it doesn’t require much more digging for context, as I would if someone told me a local pastor’s book had a racist bit of commentary in it, or accused a Maya Angelou book of being too sexually explicit for a teenager. I’d read it, fully, and provide citations for my critique — but a nasty TV skit probably needs only a brief description, not the full audio-visual with accompanying text. Nonetheless, I’m sure it’ll make Dale’s day that I join him in thinking that the skit was disgusting. That’s certainly not a “progresive” or “conservative” thing.

Quote of the Day

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

“The Church of God has to be the salt and light of the world. We are the hope of the hopeless, through the power of God. We must transfigure a situation of hate and suspicion, of brokenness and separation, of fear and bitterness. We have no option. We are servants to the God who reigns and cares.”
South African Bishop Desmond Tutu

Biblical Qualifications for Eldership (In Case Anyone’s Wondering )

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

From the NET translation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

“This saying is trustworthy: If someone aspires to the office of overseer (bishop, elder), he desires a good work. The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money . . .”

Titus 2:3, referring to mature Christian conduct in general:

“Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.”

Paul, in Romans 15:14, expressing his hope for the recipients of his letter:

“But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.”

Finally, from Romans 12:14-18, on peaceably living among others:

“Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people . . .”

Does any of this ring a bell, folks? Anyone? Hello?

Belliegerent Elders, Part 2 — Make Sure He’s A Racist

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Dale Courtney, the Christ Church elder and pugnacious pundit of the blog Right-Mind, was the subject of my public rebuke yesterday for calling a Moscow man, by name, a “local reprobate.” There seems to be no limit to how low Courtney can go — how despicably he can behave, how reckless he tosses off inflammatory pseudo-news, and how vile a stench he leaves as a Christian man, father, and elder of a church.

Today, he goes even lower.

The “Scariest Knock-Knock Joke Ever” begins with “ISE” and ends up with a grinning Barack Obama announcing, “ISE YO NEW PRESIDENT!” Adding shit to stink is Chris Witmer’s even more offensive comment, involving Barack Obama’s appearance at the Pearly Gates a mere 20 minutes after being elected.

Don’t harden you heart any more than it already is, Dale, by saying it isn’t racist to portray Barack Obama speaking in the kind of jive-English no one I know uses, but all racists appeal to to denigrate Blacks. And don’t suggest I have no sense of humor for failing to find a joke about Obama’s sudden death — it’s hard not to read “assassination” here — upon election. That you would post the first joke is reprehensible; that you would allow Witmer’s joke to remain on your blog is proof of the fact that you, pal, have lost your way. You need Jesus. You are an unrepentant bigot, and that you hold a leadership position in anything higher than a treehouse gang of schoolboys is an abomination.

For my correspondent who wonders why I’m quick to presume racism on the part of Christ Church and its leaders: Either look honestly, or continue to explain away the inexplicable. And for everyone else — No, I’ll never stop, even when the bad guys appear to be winning.

WANTED: Belligerent, Combative Elders

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Could we all agree that for a Christian church elder to publicly refer to an unbeliever as “local reprobate Ralph Nielsen” is the height of arrogance, belligerence, and combativeness? Is it likely that we could all recognize that even if the Scriptures didn’t tell us that love is a requirement for assuming a position of Church leadership — actually, for the totality of one’s Christian walk — we’d desire it in our elders anyway? For just a moment could we consider that it’s not Professor Nielsen’s antagonism toward evangelical Christianity, but his humanity, that defines him? Not “even” to Christians, but especially?

Would it be too far out to suggest that Christ Church Elder Dale Courtney, whose blog, Right-Mind, actually refers to another human being by name as “a local reprobate,” be rebuked by his pastor and fellow elders?

And does anyone at all think it’ll actually happen? Of course not. Dale’s learned well at the feet of his master. I think it’s despicable behavior for a Christian elder, but it’s things like this that define leadership at the Kirk, with seemingly no concern for the pleasure of the only Master who really matters.