Archive for June, 2009

Did You Hear The One About Rape Culture, Feminists, And Sex?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I’ve wrestled with my response to another part of Wilson’s testosterone-choked comments on women in ministry, part of which — the “ordaining donkeys” part — is quoted in my previous post. That observation of Wilson’s was simply stupid. But in another part of his June 20 “Silly Women” essay, he says something offensive beyond measure about feminists and their “rape culture.” Let’s let the would-be Bishop of Moscow speak for himself:

“At the same time, we don’t want to assume that any position that ticks feminists off must be biblical. That can’t be right—it is far too easy to do. And, as with so many issues, we have to distinguish different levels and layers. If, as have noted, our holy fathers used to listen to wise women in ancient times, this is scarcely an argument for us to listen to silly women now. I might have no problem with Queen Arwen sitting by the fountain, singing a song of Valinor, and yet have a great deal of trouble with a feminist theologian writing with furrowed brow about the privileged hierarchies of rape culture, with the attendant observation that any coitus whatever is inherently colonial, racist, and abusive, especially if both parties have a good time.” Doug Wilson, Blog and Mablog, June 20, 2009

Yep. This man, blossoming into the evangelical world’s newest pop idol, said that feminists obsess about “. . . the privileged hierarchies of rape culture, with the attendant observation that ANY COITUS WHATEVER IS INHERENTLY COLONIAL, RACIST, AND ABUSIVE, ESPECIALLY IF BOTH PARTIES HAVE A GOOD TIME.”

That’s how he characterizes “silly women” and “feminist theologians,” and that’s his joke about how we silly feminist theologians view sex. It’s a terrible joke on so many levels, as would be any joke about “rape culture” and the everyday abusiveness feminists, he posits, find in marital sex. It’s a witty, filthy observation that no real man of God would make, and my response to it, which certainly could include silence, is something that has weighed heavily on me the last couple of days.

But a little dose of ugly reality might be in order here. You see, the “rape culture” he finds so amusing produced a man who raped me in 1980. Yeah. A man took me violently and against my will and did so expecting that neither culture nor law would condemn him. I now am happily married — this is my counter to the “inherently abusive coitus” part. No victim of sexual violence ever confuses it with loving, giving, mutual sexual expression. I know loving sex, and I know rape. It doesn’t take a feminist or a victim of rape to condemn Wilson’s putrid witticisms. They reveal their author’s heart by their stinking rot.

He stands convicted, and not by me but by a Holy God, neither male nor female, who demands account for the use of the gifts the Spirit bestows, as well as account from the men who rob women of their expression of those same gifts.

A Stunning Show Of Insight And Sensitivity

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Doug Wilson obviously hates the idea of women’s ordination to the pastoral office. But he does have quite a way of putting things. Here’s a particularly sensitive and cogent defense of his position:

“Everyone knew that because they were dealing with divine revelation, God was teaching them directly and the sex of the messenger did not matter. God spoke through Balaam’s ass too, and it does not follow from this that donkeys ought to be admitted to seminary.” (Douglas Wilson, Blog and Mablog, June 20, 2009)

This is why there is no circumstance on God’s green earth under which I would ever call Wilson “pastor” or “teacher” — but it does, I suppose, explain why he’s never been to seminary.

A Little Poetry

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Sometimes, a few lines of poetry can demolish the strongest — and strangest — arguments looming around it. This, written by Black poet Countee Cullen in the 1920s, demolishes quite elegantly the strongholds of Kinism, anti-egalitarianism, and racism in all its forms. (I would LOVE for someone to tell me, by the way, why, from a Biblical point of view, egalitarianism is wrong. Seriously. Steve Schlissel, are you out there?).

“She even thinks that up in heaven
Her class lies late and snores
As poor Black cherubs rise at 7
To do celestial chores.”

And that, brothers and sisters, is to the Church’s shame.

Recommended Reading — So Far, Though, Not By Me

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

“The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible,” by James K. Hoffmeier, Crossway Books, 2008 was recommended to me a couple of weeks ago by erstwhile correspondent Dontbia Nass, who takes me to task not only for simply drawing breath on this planet, but for doing so specifically to advocate for undocumented workers and their human rights.

So I got the book. Paid full price and everything.

I’ve not read all of it, and I will. But what I’ve seen so far is disheartening and, perhaps, predictable. There’s a strain of conservative Christian thought that reveres the teaching of Scripture and thus applies it to every possible social and individual dilemma. So far, this is a generally a good thing. What separates conservatives like me from liberal Christians is that we take the teachings of Scripture literally, applying the Spirit of God’s Word through the maze of context and translation and historicity. But some Bible-loving believers, taking their cues from the Reconstructionist viewpoint of postmillennial Christian dominion, skip blithely over the New Testament and cloak themselves into the strictest, most literal, and usually most obscure Old Testament passages and attempt to apply them literally to current-day situations never encountered in the Bible. That application often doesn’t mirror Christ even a little bit.

The same appears to be the case with this book. I’ve thumbed through it and found a blizzard of Old Testament teachings on aliens, strangers, foreigners, law, government, and Hebraic society, with hardly a mention of New Testament teachings and virtually nothing about our current immigration situation. Hoffmeier excels, I suppose, at his understanding of the Old Testament and the Hebrew laws concerning foreigners and aliens. But a book that purports to answer the dilemma of undocumented immigration here and now, for example, only mentions undocumented Mexicans twice. Instead of guiding believers into how best to minister to immigrants, with or without papers, it sets forth Old Testament standards that simply don’t translate well into 2009. It’s a fascinating study of the Old Testament and “stranger and alien” applications, but it ignores the New Testament teachings of Christ and offers nothing, so far, that contributes holistically to the problem as it is.

This is a pattern I’ve seen among Reformed theologians and Reconstructionist Rushdooneyans. It’s one thing to elevate the whole testimony of Scripture and bringing the Word of God into a debate. It’s quite another — and very unfortunate — to do so at the expense of clear teachings of Christ and of the New Testament and the New Way he ushered in. It seems to me that it’s become all too convenient to bury social issues that most Christians would agree require humility, service, and agape love under the weight of Old Testament law that was never intended to provide a step-by-step guideline for ministering to the poor today. I saw it in Reconstructionist David Chilton’s “Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators,” and I’m starting to see it here.

Rather than using the Old Testament to somehow excuse believers from ministry to the poor while comforting them in their inaction, I would hope that Christian social thinkers would use the message of the new Kingdom, the new Covenant, and the new Way of Christ to come alongside those who are struggling. Undoubtedly the Old Testament provides a blueprint for ministry to the stranger and alien, but the frenetic effort to bury the issues with applications drawn from situations not present in Scripture strikes me as the work of those who nestle themselves behind whitewashed tombs.

So much effort spent on exegesis that excuses Christians from acting Christlike. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to throw ourselves into an understanding of Christ’s message that encourages selfless action on behalf of the poor without filtering our response through a maze of literal teachings that may or may not have bearing on the challenge ahead? Put another way — is reverence for Scripture really reverence when we use it to find ways to not act with mercy?

God Is My Co-Pilot, Dogs Go Along For The Ride

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

I just came in from 20 minutes of throwing a punctured, slobbery football to my beloved dog, Georgia, a 2-year-old chocolate lab/pointer mix we rescued from indifferent owners who kept her outside with a bag of kibble and offered her to us because she tore up their yard. Best. Deal. Ever. Potentially even Best. Dog. Ever. She’s beautiful, affectionate, smart, and I love her dearly.

Some of you might remember my joy in acquiring Perry, my 1-year-old poodle/Chihuahua mix, who’s nuzzling up next to me as I write this. Yes, he’s yappy. Yes, he’s underfoot constantly. And yes, he’s absolutely precious to me, wonderful company on those days when pain and fatigue keep me at home.

There’s just something about the dogs in our lives that demonstrates to me that while all animals are beautiful, all creations from the Artist who infuses our world with unexpected beauty and companionship, God did a little something different when he created dogs. How does an animal seem to “get” how we’re doing? How does a dog anticipate and share the joy of slobbery footballs with her owner? How is it that of all the animals, it was the dog who evolved to become part of our families, not just working, herding, and guarding, but adapting to the rhythms of domestic life so eagerly and so wonderfully.

While I think that animals don’t have souls, I do believe that Heaven will hold our pets. If Heaven is Eden restored, and if Eden was wonderfully enlivened by the animals, it would seem that animals will be part of our Heavenly experience, and that we’ll know them. After all, does it make sense that our extravagantly loving God would populate the New Jerusalem with animals — but only, purposely, with those animals not known and loved here on Earth?

I don’t think so.

All animals are a gift to humankind — some for us to use, some for us simply to love. And if a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without God knowing, or a squirrel doesn’t fry in a transformer without the Lord of the Universe aware of it, then I’m pretty sure this same Master will graciously reunite our pets with us some day. Brush it off as sappy sentimentalism, but don’t make the mistake of limiting the extraordinary generosity and reach of the Creator.


Saturday, June 20th, 2009

I appreciate President Obama’s push, throughout the campaign and especially this weekend, to encourage fathers to rise to the challenges that fatherhood requires, and I trust that those on the religious right will commend him for his efforts.

I was blessed to have a pretty wonderful father. He was an alcoholic for much of my life, and yet functioned with a presence of grace, patience, and wisdom that sustained me in a less-than-happy childhood. My Dad treated me as though I were the apple of his eye and taught me more about integrity and steadfastness than anyone else, and his sense of humor, unlimited affection and irrepresible pride in me kept me going, giving me hope when things looked bleak, which they too often did. My view of God as Father has always been greatly enriched because of the man whose passing four months ago feels like a ripping apart of my very heart.

God has blessed me with a husband who is a father even beyond anything I could have hoped, raising with me two sons who are strong, gentle, capable, humble, intelligent, funny and a delight to both of us every minute of every day. Jeff is a man who exemplifies the fruit of the Spirit in his dealings with his sons, and whatever my boys grow up to be, they will have a strong, rich bedrock of fatherhood from which to draw as they raise their own children. He, too, is a Biblical egalitarian who values women and has taught his sons to see the enormous giftedness and value, strength and courage, of the women they encounter.

Thank you, Lord, for my husband, and thank you, Jeff, for being the father I always wanted my children to have. It takes some of the sting out of what I already know will be a difficult day of both celebrating Jeff’s fatherhood and grieving the loss of my own dad.

Helping Ourselves

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

United Methodist Pastor Paul Graves in today’s Spokesman-Review, on the cliche “God helps those who help themselves”:

“Certainly we are called to be actively accountable for doing ‘our part.’ But that isn’t a cliched’ condition of God doing God’s part to sustain us.

The partnership between God and us is a covenant based on God’s grace, not a contract based on fractionalized workload.”

Must Ministers Be Men?

Friday, June 19th, 2009

“Ministers Must Be Men” is in the works and Canon Press is buzzing — another slim tome, this time about men being men, by Canon’s founder, Christ Church pastor, CREC co-founder, and hearty Reformed man of chest Douglas Wilson. The subject is hardly a departure for him, but this time his serrated edge is wielded toward the pulpit.

Wilson believes, according to a post yesterday on his curiously named Blog and Mablog, that Christian denominations that have ordained women have violated Scripture and, because of it, become cesspools of sexual debauchery and theological idiocy. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but accurately; his post was capped off by yet another clever usage of “sodomites,” and my paraphrase may not do it justice. I’m a bit more mild.

The truth is, many denominations that currently don’t ordain women as pastors did so at their founding. The Christians and Missionary Alliance, Nazarene Church, and Evangelical Free Church all have in their histories women ministers, and even the Southern Baptists have a spotty but clear historical record of women’s pulpit ministry. Unfortunately, they bowed to societal pressure — the dreaded “conformed to the culture” error of Christiandom — and denied women’s ability to use their Spirit-granted gifts. It’s a pity, and it’s been a tremendous loss for the Church and the world it seeks to reach.

Currently, the conservative Evangelical Free Church and the Evangelical Methodist Church ordain women, and non-denominational churches like Willow Creek support the leadership of women in all church offices. Incidentally, they all hold to a conservative interpretation of the Bible regarding homosexuality, which Wilson probably knows.

You could hardly say that these groups have fallen into sexual immorality and theological chaos. Now, you could say that, and I could say that, but Wilson will undoubtedly keep beating, in his own inimitably masculine way, the drum of male-only leadership in the Church. (No sign yet, however, of a men’s drum circle in the woods off of North Polk extension).

Anyway, I don’t know what he does with verses like Galatians 3:28, with Paul’s encouragement of women’s prophetic teaching in the Church, or with Phoebe’s diaconate, Priscilla’s authoritative teaching of Apollos, Junia’s being named among the first century apostles, Lydia’s and Chloe’s prostasis, or patron/leadership, of the churches that met in their houses. He undoubtedly recognizes that the Samaritan woman was the first preacher of the Messiah’s coming to her people, and I don’t know how he discounts the tremendous witness of the women at the tomb, the women God entrusted with first announcing the good news of the resurrection. And if he doubts that respected, conservative Evangelical denominations that now don’t ordain women did, in fact, in their earlier histories, he can check out a book by Evangelical historian Janette Hassey, “NO TIME FOR SILENCE: Evangelical Women in Public Ministry Around the Turn of the Century.” He could check out the study of 1 Timothy 2:12 by conservative theologians Catherine and Richard Clark Kroeger, “I Suffer Not A Woman;” or New Testament scholar Linda Bellevue’s “Women Leaders in the Church,” or the Gilbert Bilezikian book I’ve quoted from on Prevailing Winds.

He won’t. I know that.

It’s lucrative and satisfying, I’m sure, for Wilson to tout masculinity as the hope for the Church, but it’s wrong. It’s self-affirming for him to direct his followers and colleagues to an unBiblical emphasis on men and masculinity, and since only men lead in the Kirk and the CREC, he’s not likely to encounter opposition.

But there is one Man who won’t be convinced, and to whom Wilson, et al, must answer. I suspect that exchange will be a bit less than favorable to Wilson’s vision of a masculine millennium ushered in by men who ignore Spirit-giftedness in favor of an arrogant assumption that once gifts are given, their use must be restricted in ways that — imagine! — are always favorable to the men.

Meanwhile, great is the company of women — and men — who proclaim the victory. May God keep us all.

Juneteenth, Abolitionists, And The Roots Of Keely’s Activism

Friday, June 19th, 2009

From my post today on Moscow’s Vision 2020:

My paternal great-great grandparents, Louisa Spiller Bowles and William Henry Bowles, were both osteopathic physicians and evangelists affiliated with the Disciples of Christ denomination. While it’s more liberal now, the Disciples denomination was quite conservative Biblically, often to the point of unfortunate conclusions that kept my grandparents from attending my parents’ wedding because of my mother’s Roman Catholicism. Nonetheless, they helped pioneer the Disciples congregation in Marion, Illinois, fought valiantly for the Gospel and, because of their commitment to Christ, for the immediate, nonviolent abolition of slavery. Louisa was a pioneer in many ways, as was her daughter, my great-grandmother Hattie, also a physician and activist. I never met her, but I adored my feisty, liberal, but arreligious grandmother, who passed away in 1997 and was the wife of my beloved Papa, about whom I’ve written on my blog.

This is especially compelling to me as we remember Juneteenth and as I discover that Moscow’s favorite patriarchal pastor is writing a book called “Why Ministers Must Be Men,” which, from an excerpt I read, is a manifesto not only for manly men to keep the pulpit to themselves, but also a typically careless swipe at denominations that ordain women. Wilson doesn’t give a rip what I think, but let me assure him that ministers need not be men.

Ministers must be Godly, faithful, humble, intelligent and sensitive and, most of all, Spirit-gifted, qualities that make testicles irrelevant. The New Testament is full of examples of women in leadership, and so is the last 200 years of evangelicalism. Trust me when I say that women in the pulpit is the last thing Wilson ought to fear.

What Difference Would A Biblical, Matriarchal Society Make?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

If, as God commanded in Genesis, a man should leave his own parents and cleave to his wife, it would seem that her kin, her homeland, her lineage, would be the familial reference point for our definition of “family.” It makes sense — in a post-Fall world, women were too easily victimized by men under the unGodly patriarchy that sprung to life after Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden. Locating the center of the new family’s beginning with her family, under the protection, if need be, of her relatives, ensured that what we now call “domestic violence” would be far less likely to occur. It would also result in matrilineal and matrilocal societies that conferred status and security to their women.

Tragically, as God predicted, a woman’s desire would be for oneness with her husband, but, because of the toxin of sin that entered the world after the Fall, he would “rule over her.” It seems that the first step toward male rule and the establishment of patriarchy occurred the very first time a man violated God’s command and took a wife from the protection of her people and set her under his rule, in his household, among his people.

The patriarchy thing hasn’t worked well for women ever since — even when practiced by loving Christian men comforted by easy readings of Scripture that appear to ensure their command and control over those in his family. I’m not advocating that every Christian man settle in his wife’s hometown, with her family, after marriage. I am suggesting that Godly marriages should recognize the woman’s vulnerability to male control and oppression — oppression that often occurs in Christian homes under the seemingly benign labels of “male headship,” “Godly masculinity,” and “soft patriarchy.” But from sinful sources come sinful institutions, and thousands of years of women’s suffering at the hands of men powered by patriarchal privilege has confirmed it.

A good start, then, in honoring God’s intent in marriage would be to enthrone Christ Jesus as the only head of two humble, loving, committed people who deny at every turn the unfair privileges and restrictions conferred by the Fall while outdoing one another not only in honoring their spouses, but honoring and submitting mutually to everyone God puts in their path.

So, if I were at Church and a man asked me to get him a cup of coffee, I would gladly do so — not because he’s a man, not even because he’s a brother, and not with apologies to my husband, but simply because I’m empowered in Christ to cheerfully submit to others. It doesn’t “honor” patriarchy for me to submit to a man. It honors patriarchy when I submit to a man out of compunction — especially if that man is my husband, and especially if he were to presume it just because he’s been taught it’s Biblical.