Archive for October, 2008

Just An Observation

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

It’s interesting to me that every time the noxious and bellicose No Weatherman posts on Moscow’s Vision 2020, he posts a lot — sometimes a dozen or more a day — and Doug Wilson’s Blog and Mablog remains fairly static. On the other hand, when Wilson is pounding away at B and M with his peculiar brand of acerbic wit and dubious theology, No Weatherman’s posts to Vision 2020 virtually come to a halt.

Please, Lord, let it just be a coincidence. Because I really want to know that it’s not any local religious figure — not Wilson, not any Kirker, not anyone in any leadership position in any Christian Church. On that, I’m dead serious.

No Weatherman posted Sunday ’til a few minutes before Christ Church’s 10:30 a.m. worship service, and that N. W. could be a local church congregant is disheartening, given the amount of time it takes to shed the vitriol and hatefulness that anonymity on a public email forum affords someone before attending a church service. (One wonders how conscience allowed him to take communion). Wilson, who says an Obama victory would leave him “appalled,” knows that the conventional wisdom is that he or his pals are No Weatherman — there’s some history there, lamentably — but I sincerely hope that the ineffably rude N.W. is not at all connected to Christ Church and its ministries. Mr. Wilson, are you posting on Vision using a pseudonym? Are your elders, NSA instructors, or other associates? Or could someone gleefully be taking advantage of the conventional wisdom — “it must be from Anselm House” — to hide behind you?

The thing is, we don’t know. Now, if I were thought to be an anonymous, rude, incendiary participant on a community forum, I’d want everyone to know it ain’t me — because it wouldn’t be. No Weatherman has refused to identify himself, and by using a pseudonym, he’s confirmed that integrity is as low on his list of virtues as charity and civility. His cowardly anonymity is pathetic; if the pseudonym is employed to allow any public person, religious or not, to bloviate in the rudest, most inflammatory manner possible, its use is especially egregious. So here’s some advice, which, along with this entire post, I’ll put on Vision 2020:

Drop the combativeness, clean up the rhetoric, and you’ll find a pseudonym to be entirely unnecessary. If you’re a pastor or elder, perhaps the need to cloak snottiness in anonymity might finally strike you as inconsistent with ministry. If you’re not, it’s time to seek out counsel from someone wiser than you.

Heck, I’m just a girl, but you could even call me. By name.

"Bearing False Witness." Yeah, It’s Still A Sin.

Monday, October 13th, 2008

It seems that the issue, or non-issue, of Barack Obama’s citizenship has been slugged out, in Moscow and elsewhere, for no apparent reason other than to cast him as a dangerous, shadowy “unknown” — just as it is clear in the eyes of people smarter than I am, and everyone else, that he is a citizen and is eligible for the Presidency. I don’t wish to resurrect that battle again.

What I do want to do is apologize.

It seems that the primary sources for this rumor are, nationally as well as locally, conservative, Libertarian-oriented people who identify themselves as Christians. Most of us, Christian or not, understand that it’s wrong to lie about someone and that it’s just as wrong to repeat those lies, whether under the guise of “innocent” questioning, prayer requests, or crusades against people we don’t like. Worse yet is the assertion that the lie must be given all possible exposure so that those shadowy forces denouncing it — some call them “truthtellers” — can be vanquished. Christians call this “bearing false witness.” Your grandmother called it “carrying tales,” and I call it “lying through your teeth to promote vicious falsehoods against someone who scares you.”

I suppose there’s a reason Grandma will be quoted in books of American folk wisdom and I won’t. Nonetheless, I wish I could apologize to Barack Obama for what members of the Church — I’ll assume that; only God knows — have done to him. I believe these people have fomented violence and hate that, if realized in any act against Obama, will be on their consciences just as surely as the one who commits the deed. That they’ve done so while proclaiming themselves to be Christians, and done this against a Christian brother, is indefensible. Once again, our local hatemongers have echoed the vitriol seen throughout this country in the final six months of the election, and for that I apologize — never for my faith, but often, lamentably, for those who hijack it for their own gain, in this case, an ill-gotten gain that speaks nothing of Jesus Christ and everything of Machiavelli.

Why apologize for something, then, that I haven’t done and deplore in others? Simple. Like Daniel in the Old Testament, I’m sickened by the conduct of my people, and for the sake of the Gospel plead with God to end it, to protect Obama, and to restore to the vituperative among us a sense of lovingkindness and justice. Now, let’s all get ready to hear the boys at Anselm House crow that I’ve actually compared myself to Daniel. What I’ve written is clear, and a heads up:

I will not engage with liars, cowards, or slanderers. I’m just sorry that, once again, the word “Christian” has become synonymous to so many for hateful and unjust, and I plead God’s mercy on all of us.

My Heroes, Part 1

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

I was out with friends not long ago and someone mentioned that a particular national figure was a hero of his. It got me thinking of who my heroes are — both the ones long passed and the ones still living. Who are the people I most admire, who’ve taught me the most and who provide an example I long to follow? So I’m periodically going to talk about a few of the women and men who inspire me — public figures, historical figures, and people you’ll likely never meet.

I trust that I won’t put my salvation in jeopardy or sully my testimony by not beginning with “Jesus.” May we assume that the One I worship and to whom I owe my very soul transcends “hero”? Great.

One of my heroes is my dear friend, Lupita Rocha Quintana, a Bible teacher and missionary living in Spain. Never married, born to a very poor family, she served for 15 years as director of a small Bible college in the Mexican state of Coahuila, and her love for the Lord and her tremendous giftedness make her as fine a pastor and teacher to others as she is a friend to me. I love her with all of my heart, and while I’m 18 days older than she is, I really would like to grow up to be like Lupita. It’s a privilege to call her “sister.”

A young woman I know — someone I consider a daughter and who considers me her mother — lives in this country without papers. She is one of the bravest, strongest people I’ve ever met, sacrificing everything she has for her two children and living a life of such honor and integrity that I’m humbled to know she thinks so highly of me. I am not as brave as R., and the powerlessness and violence under which she lived, and under which she immigrated here from Central America, inspires me every day as a mother, even as I call her my daughter. May she someday fully grasp the depth and power of the Lord’s love for her.

Finally, for today, is a saint who died a few years ago in her 90s. Francis Norris was the most gifted Bible teacher I’ve ever sat under — she had an astonishing insight into the Word of God and a laser-beam ability to explain and apply the most difficult passages. I met her when I preached my very first sermon; I was in my late 30s and she was 83. We became dear friends, sparring back and forth over doctrine and politics, although we were more alike than either of us first realized. Francis was an unapologetic pacifist, a staunch Democrat, and a firebrand advocate for the poor, and she defended the integrity of the Scriptures and the truth of the Gospel with more passion and to greater effect than virtually anyone I’ve ever known. Most of all, she lived a life of worship and witness, and I miss her tremendously. When I see her in Heaven, she’ll no doubt harp on me for not having had breakfast that or any other day, and I tear up thinking about it even now.

I’ll have more heroes to discuss, and I’d love to hear of some of yours. God puts some remarkable jewels in our lives, and I thank Him daily for the ones who show me how to be more like Jesus.

I’m Keely. So, What’s Your Name?

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Most of you know that I post regularly on Moscow’s community discussion forum, Vision 2020 — always signing my first name, and with my name in the header as “keelyemerinemix.” Lately I’ve added my blog’s web address to my e-signature, and I’m well-enough known in town that anyyone who cares to can figure out that I’m “that” Keely, the one who was on the school board, or “the Keely who debated Doug Wilson.” I made sure my blog had a current photo of me, too, so that if anyone recognized me in public, they could talk with me about anything I’ve said, done, or written. It happens, and I’m glad.

Now, either I’m a megalomaniac, always wanting my name out there, or else I believe strongly in accountability. By “accountability,” I mean making myself accessible to those who would correct or rebuke me and making it crystal-clear that it’s me, Keely, “that” Keely, saying the things I say. I detest the cowardice demonstrated by either unsigned written potshots or those credited to an obvious pseudonym. I find anonymity of that sort to be simply wrong when used as a shield behind which the obnoxious and ill-informed can take cover. That many of those in Moscow who do so claim to be Christians and are proud men of chest isn’t just ironic, but also pathetic. And, I might add, sinful: We’re to let our light shine — no hiding it under the bushel of anonymity — and we’re to be truthful in all we say, which probably doesn’t allow for the making up of names, Glenn and Edna, when making one’s point. See, if you say something and say you’re Glenn Schwaller or Edna Wilmington, and you’re not, you’re not telling the truth. That’s lying, and, apart from anything you say — even in those rare moments of non-belligerence — it’s wrong. It really stinks when coming from Christian leadership. (“Stinks” is, of course, my own subjective opinion; tragically, “Christian” and “leadership” are subjectively used here as well, with a whole lot less evidence than “stinks.”)

Now, twice in my life I’ve filed police reports anonymously — that is, face-to-face with the police, using my name, but asking that it not be included on the police report itself. Both were for my protection; in this case, there seemed to be not light hidden under a bushel-type issue, and my desire for accountability was less important than my desire for my own safety. There. Now you know of the only times I’ve hidden my identity. Presumably, if I ever write a novel, no one will take the Puritan approach to works of fiction and call me a liar then.

But the reason I believe so strongly in speaking straightforwardly as Keely Emerine Mix is that my words reflect on my relationship to Jesus Christ and my beliefs about His Gospel. If I use my name, I’m no less likely to speak strongly — but I won’t be able to recklessly malign people or engage in other bad rhetorical behavior without everyone knowing that I did. Remarkable, that is, for keeping one’s faults in check, and much more honest — and courageous, frankly — than posting even the sweetest sonnet in anonymity. I’ve been mocked, maligned, and misrepresented, and I’ve signed up for all of it. I don’t like being mocked, etc., but I’m . . . uhhhh . . . man enough to let it happen, and happen to me personally.

Now I know that my saying “man enough” will prompt lots of fun exchanges, but please don’t miss the irony — big, brave Christian men, men who wouldn’t let me near their pulpits if their lives depended on it, show themselves to be whimpering cowards by not using their names. Whether to avoid the tough stuff or to give them a pass in hurling slime, it’s less than manly and less than mature, whether for “future men” or the bearded, stout-chested ones. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

There is, sadly, an exception to my charges of cowardice: Those Kirkers who are afraid to publicly disagree with their leadership, regardless of the severity, absurdity, or damage done. With an eldership largely made of men employed by Wilson-controlled ministries and an insular culture that tolerates no dissent, I can understand — lamentably — why some critics of Wilson’s feel the need to protect themselves. I couldn’t attend a church that has a loyalty oath requirement for members, but, then again, I couldn’t attend a church whose behavior and teachings lead to the kinds of objections people might make publicly in attempting to defend the Gospel when their church maligns it. However, others do, and I’m very sorry that legitimate criticisms and corrections of Kirk leadership cannot be made freely by its congregants — that is, publicly, and after private attempts to work things out have been made. From the Christ Church website:

Commitment to Loyalty
I pledge to conduct myself in such a way that no one could ever question my loyalty to the peace and purity of Christ Church. This includes refusing to speak to any unauthorized person about grievances I might have, and includes refusing to hear any such criticisms as well. If commitment to this standard in any way compromises my conscience, then I understand that my resignation will be accepted, without notice, and without prejudice.

Well, so much for the freedom to speak openly. In those cases when allegiance to Jesus Christ and His Gospel are compromised by the teaching and behavior of any congregation, the believer has to make a choice, a choice that this oath and the culture of the Kirk makes, by intention, much more difficult than it already is. It guarantees no dissent, and, tragically, gives free reign to community-attacking, agenda-furthering blather by those who implement and benefit from such an oath.

At which point pseudonymical potshots become more than cowardly — they evidence a hypocrisy of staggering consequence. You can sign my name to that one.

Quote of the Day

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

“One of the things that’s so troubling when Christianity and America become so fused together is that what becomes at stake when things like Iraq happen, it’s not just the reputation of America, but the reputation of what it means to be a Christian, because it’s been . . . baptized in Christian language and the blessing of God. For us, the litmus test for whether we’re a Christian nation is, ‘Does it look like Jesus?’”
Shane Claiborne, activist/monastic

Tonight’s Debate (After, With Wolverines)

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

In the words of one commentator, Palin was “like a wolverine attacking the pants leg of a passerby.”

Whether that reflects victory or failure is open to interpretation. It wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it would be, and while I think that Biden won based on content and persuasion, the things I tend to look for in a vice president, I have to say that Sarah Palin not only didn’t embarrass herself as I thought she would, but actually revealed herself to be a quick study. Read on . . . “Can I call you Joe?” might be the most interesting opening to a debate that I’ve ever heard, and it set the tone for an aw-shucks exchange as remarkable for its lack of shocking “uh-oh” moments as it was by the one-sided balance of brainpower teetering on the stage.

What do I mean by quick study? Palin memorized a few lofty but ultimately insubstantial points, answered the questions of her coaches and not of the moderator and remembered to keep the focus on McCain. Almost too fawningly — it did remind me a little of Mary Wells’ song “My Guy,” and it’d be OK with me if I never heard the word “maverick” again, ever, in my life. If this was “Sarah being Sarah,” then she was ineffably Sarah by demonstrating that recited answers don’t have to make her robotic — they don’t have to actually refer to the question. She’s utterly charming, and anyone who can pull off “utterly charming” while saying the same few things over and over again has my admiration. (Not my vote, which I’ll discuss later). By announcing at the end that she didn’t like doing the “mainstream media” thing, she made it clear that she’d play by the rules the campaign sets for her, which clearly require Sarah to be Sarah in an entirely scripted setting — no one-on-one engagement with the media, where there’s a risk that she might get a question she wasn’t prepped for.

“Failure” tonight would have been her utter collapse, a low expectation of astounding consequence, but she didn’t fail. She sparkled as brightly as her three-inch rhinestone flag pin, and was about as substantial. She didn’t implode, go utterly blank, break down, or singlehandedly sink the ticket. With the bar set as low as it was, it isn’t going to matter as much as it should that she didn’t answer straight questions with comprehensive answers that reflect a depth of knowledge and experience. That’s obviously not “Sarah being Sarah.” She was pretty, she was funny, she was earnest, and she had some zingers. She dazzles and amuses. Whether that complements a person’s intellect and skill, or simply replaces it, ought to be a bigger issue than it will be.

Unfortunately, the religious right won’t care as much about that. There’s some irony in what I imagine will be the religious conservatives’ applause over her performance, because she was Hillary-like in her cutting stridency — and I have amazing tolerance for cutting humor and am often accused of stridency. She didn’t “submit” to the moderator’s actual questions, openly mocked and derided both Biden and Obama, and flirted pretty shamelessly with the audience. But having gotten religious conservatives to forget their opposition to everything her public position represents for women, she’ll now have them scratching their heads to see how they can reconcile the occasional snotty and yet cloying behavior of their “new Deborah” or “our nation’s Esther.” I might suggest they give up trying to find an antecedent model for Palin in Scripture and, instead, look at recent sitcoms or, perhaps, an old high school yearbook where the cool girl gets the even cooler guy.

Quick note: Given the horror of eight years of Dick Cheney, her suggestion that broadening the scope of the VP’s power is unsettling. Also, I keep imaging GOP operatives wince when she talks about Joe Sixpack and the Hockey Moms “getting taken advantage of” in the current financial meltdown. I guess the prep sessions didn’t quite make it to the GOP’s laying the blame at the feet of Clinton-era rollbacks of racially based lending restrictions and an influx of Black and Hispanic homeowners, but I imagine her coaches will remind her that “personal responsibility” doesn’t allow for a scenario in which lenders and investors “take advantage of” clients. Her bad — and her “well-done.”

Biden was statesman-like, calm, affable, serious, and demonstrated an able, thorough grasp of policy. Yeah, like that sort of thing should matter in analyzing debates. It should, of course, but we’ll just hear that Biden is dull, too smart, too experienced, too . . . too “not like Sarah.” On the bookshelf of political America, Biden is a well-thumbed-through encylopedia. Sarah Palin, I’m afraid, is like a pop-up book — surprising, fun, but not designed for the long haul and, by design, not full of a lot of content.

I’m voting Obama/Biden, but I’d love to have a drink with Sarah and Todd, or go on a church retreat with her. But I require different things from friends and neighbors than I do for President. I hope America does, too.

Tonight’s Debate (Before)

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Nows that the bar for success, or even survival, in tonight’s Vice-Presidential debate has been set baby-step high for Sarah Palin, I’d like to offer a few thoughts.

I’m surprised she’s lasted this long on the ticket, and I’m not at all convinced that she’ll make it through ’til November 4. Her out-of-the-blue, long-shot selection, which puzzled liberals and conservatives alike, has devolved into a “What the hell was McCain thinking?” What did he mean — I’m guessing not “Country First” — by putting a woman on the ticket who seriously considers her PTA work, mayoral experience managing a town of 7,000 (which received some pretty hefty earmarks, thanks to the GOP Maverick Mayor), and less-than-two year term as governor of a small state as legitimate experience and background? (Love the “Joe Sixpack American” thing, but it strikes me that the vice presidency might be a place to aim a little higher). And now that she’s been allowed, and I think this is an appropriate term here, to face the press, she’s proved to be . . . well . . . utterly unfamiliar with foreign and domestic policy, not to mention general knowledge of American history and politics. Like, I’m just ill.

She is completely, unapologetically, shockingly, and perhaps irredeemably unfamiliar with the things we have a right to expect her to know. This isn’t “gotcha” pop quiz stuff; this isn’t “picking on Sarah” by the liberal media. This is what the game is like, and she vaulted over the fence and onto the field when invited.

And she’s a 72-year-old guy’s heartbeat away from the Presidency of the United States, which makes the thought of her assuming the office even more frightening than McCain’s. To me, that’s saying a lot.

Her defenders whine about a tough media gauntlet and fault McCain’s staff for not “just letting Sarah be Sarah.” It appears that it was Sarah who couldn’t think of a single Supreme Court case in the Couric interview, who breezily lambasted Biden’s long tenure in office while failing, evidently, to remember that her boss, six years older than Biden, has quite a lengthy and far less stellar Senatorial history, and who babbles incoherently about Putin, airspace, and Russian proximity when asked about her foreign policy experience. Letting Sarah be Sarah is a lovely idea, because it’s shown us that this particular Sarah has no business contending for the Vice Presidency, period, and that Governor was perhaps a stretch.

Politics does, indeed, make for strange bedfellows. Here’s where abstinence really ought to have prevailed, though. The sight of the Religious Right, notoriously antagonistic toward feminism, trying to whip themselves into a frenzy of support for Palin is pathetic and hypocritical beyond words. I assume Todd Palin can easily parent his children and run the household — but, you see, I always have assumed, as a feminist, that men can do these things, and should more often than they do. It’s embarrassing to hear that from men and women who, pre-Palin, foamed at the mouth in their rhetoric against women with young children working outside of the home, but now decide that a Jesus-loving pro-lifer on the ticket requires the pretzel logic of their blind-eye support. I suppose a little consistency here would be too much to ask of those who like their altars covered in the flag and decorated with Reagan buttons.

Joe Biden is a brilliant man. Sarah Palin doesn’t seem to be a terribly intelligent woman. I know I’ll find the debate cringeworthy because of it, and I know I’ll be embarrassed for her. But this is what Sarah, being fully Sarah, signed up for. In an earlier post, I said she was being used and would be until whatever worth she brought to the ticket is exhausted. I believe that’ll be tonight, when an overwhelming desire to spend time with baby Trig, hunky Todd, and pregnant daughter Bristol will cause her to graciously exit the ticket.

Maybe then the country, and the GOP especially, will see this choice as the nakedly condescending, sexist, selfish and reckless choice it was — and then consider the character of the man who made it, all the while pontificating about Country First.

My First Hundred Posts

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Why, it seems like only yesterday . . .

It’s been a rough week for me in the blogosphere, some of it made rougher by my very own self, and a couple of you have asked if I’m sorry I ever started and if I plan to keep going.

I’m not sure what “started” and “keep going” here mean, exactly. “Prevailing Winds” wasn’t put together to “start” anything with the Kirk — I’ve been dealing with the errors of Christ Church since May 2002, when I wrote a long letter to Doug Wilson expressing my concerns over his ministry and teaching. He graciously met with me for an hour or more, and only after talking face-to-face did I ever publicly denounce him, his leadership, his teaching and his ministry. That is, to me, the Biblical pattern — talk together first, always; but if bad behavior continues, continue exhorting the offender. Public rebuke is appropriate for public teaching or behavior, and I accept public criticism and rebuke, even if I don’t agree with it, when it’s levied at me.

(A note here: I do wish that from the beginning Dale Courtney would have responded to my efforts to talk to me, and I regret that my most recent effort was something he chose to belittle and reject. But I’m always willing, although with even less confidence than I did in 1977 when I waited for Gregorio D. to ask me to
prom . . . See what 30th reunions do?).

As most of you know, I debated Wilson on KRPL in the summer of 2006, and I thought it went well. I’m absolutely willing to do it again. I’ve been posting on Vision 2020 since 2003-ish, and I’ve written a couple of letters to the editor to further points I thought were necessary. The blog is ministry to me, but I would hope no one joins Gary Crabtree in presuming that I lack meaningful employment. It’s true that I don’t work outside the home and haven’t since my eldest son was born in 1989 (for which I give thanks to God), but it’s not true that I’m slavishly devoted to combing through volumes of junk theology and sociology and psychology and history to find especially foul nuggets to rush to comment on. Nonetheless, because I care very much about the state of the souls of the leadership at the Kirk, I continue, and will continue, to speak out when offense occurs.

I think that I had hoped it would be obvious that, writing as a Christian, my concern — after defending (in Scripture, “contending strenuously for”) the Gospel — is to effect repentance and true reformation among those whose conduct demeans it. I would be naive in hoping for this if it weren’t for the immeasurable power of the Holy Spirit, who transformed my life in 1981 and continues to work in me today. I’m grateful that those Christians who first knew me, when I was a pot-smoking, obnoxious, profane, hateful young woman, didn’t give up. With all of my heart, I believe the Church in Moscow indicates by its silence either assent or apathy; I just cannot go along with that. Even when people laugh at me, even when I give them ammo, even when it seems hopeless. “Winning” here isn’t the point. Faithfulness is.

So thanks for reading, for your prayers, and especially for your critiques. I can’t “thank” anyone for the sin of treating me with contempt, but know this — I absolutely forgive you and hope someday to walk in fellowship with you. I won’t, however, decide to stay quiet so I can curry your favor.

Most important is this: May the Lord Jesus be glorified by the things I do, and may the mistakes I make reflect only on me.