Archive for August, 2009

The LORD Requires Something. This Isn’t It.

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Dear God, when will Moscow’s Kirkers and their brethren across the country crack open their hardened hearts and come to their Spirit-led senses?

There was a day when pastors didn’t encourage gossip, didn’t stir the pot with malice aforethought, didn’t throw out dark hints and sinister thoughts about other people — even, and now especially, the President — and didn’t join in the swelling hatred that could cost that President his life. For most of us, the sun never goes down on that day; the Word of God prohibits malice and slander with no expiration date, no exception allowed for the imprecatorily minded.

I stand, perhaps alone, in full confidence that God condemns the following Doug Wilson blog comments regarding Barack Obama’s “failure” to release a long-form birth certificate neither he nor any other American owns, speculating that since doing so would be of benefit, there must be some other reason . . .

Mr. Wilson, you may continue your behavior. You may not do so without at least someone shouting out that you’ve sinned, and pleading with you to repent if not for your own sake, then for the sake of the sheep who call you Pastor.

From Blog and Mablog, August 15, 2009: “Since that would be the result, much to be desired from Obama’s vantage, what is keeping that long form in the basement vault? Well, think about it. Birth certificates have other stuff on them.

What good would it do for Obama to settle the birther issue, only to have a newer, fresher controversy leap up in its place? If that certificate would have had the effect of shutting the birthers up, and only that effect, then it would have been done a long time ago. So what sorts of things might fall in this category — embarrassing enough to make the president want to keep it secret, even though that means he must continue to slog through the birther charges?”

He has told you, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you — but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Seek peace and pursue it, and please, for the sake of the Gospel, examine yourself. Nothing “morbid” need be in your introspection; your sin is ever at the surface.

The Importance of Sarah Palin — We Agree!

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Weighing in on the political significance of former vice presidential candidates who lie in public, stir up confusion, embrace their head-spinning ignorance and do so in Jesus’ name, Wilson bestows his confirmation of significance on Sarah Palin:

(Blog and Mablog, August 14, 2009) “My point is that Sarah Palin is important. She doesn’t need to “read some books,” or “go home and study” in order to become important. She is already there; she is already in a position of influence and leadership, and that fact can either be acknowledged or ignored.”

Duly acknowledged. Even by me. Sarah Palin IS important. She IS a cultural and political phenomenon. She probably WILL stay ignorant, and blissfully and bombastically so. Wilson and I agree — She IS a force to be reckoned with, in command of the hearts and minds of millions of conservative Christians around the country.

And THAT is a tragedy that speaks almost as badly of our country as it does of the depth of faith of those hearts, all a-flutter, and those minds so happily, eagerly befuddled, when Sarah smiles pretty and says “Jesus!”

Fundamentalism, Part 2 — Why The Kirk Isn’t "Fundamentalist"

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

A few days ago, I began a discussion of whether or not Christ Church was a “fundamentalist” congregation, a thread that began when I recalled how often I’d been asked that, usually by people who were unfamiliar with Christian doctrine and assumed that all “Bible believers” were fundamentalists.

In my “They’re Fighting, But They’re Not Fundies” post, I wrote about fundamentalism as both a historical movement within Christiandom and its evolvement into a pejorative when applied to contemporary Christians who hold the Bible as the Word of God revealed, accept the seven generally-held “essentials” of the historic Christian faith, and often view science and society with mistrust. If defined solely in the historic sense — the acceptance of seven Biblical doctrines that conservative scholars at the time felt were essential to the Christian faith — I would have been a fundamentalist, and so would Doug Wilson, I’m supposing. Historically, those seven “fundamental” doctrines of the faith were seen as the deity of Christ, the nature of the Triune Godhead, Christ’s virgin birth, his atoning death on the cross, his bodily resurrection, his imminent and sure physical return to Earth, and the need for personal conversion — what evangelicals call “coming to Jesus” to be saved.

But this final point of fundamentalism is what separates Christ Church and Wilson’s other forums from what we might call “your Dad’s old fundamentalists” — the Bible-waving, conservative Baptists or Missouri Synod Lutherans who non-believers presume represent the whole of evangelicalism. Wilson, et al, decry what they call “revivalism,” or the concerted efforts — Billy Graham-style crusades, for example — to save souls through the preaching of the Gospel. This is primarily out of a Calvinistic view that those who will be saved are thus predestined before the creation of the world, and those who will be damned are as well, a point that Calvin and his followers make by adding that those God denies salvation to are so denied “for His good pleasure.”

But it’s not only Calvin, but Scripture, that teaches predestination, or God’s choice of who finds salvation. The Bible clearly teaches God’s foreknowledge of the eternal destinies of his creatures. I believe in predestination, and so does any other Christian who understands the doctrine. No true evangelical would deny that God has chosen who will be saved. The difference between Calvinists and other evangelicals is the BASIS on which that predestination is determined. Fundamentalists, your Daddy’s old Baptist grandpa, non-Calvinist evangelicals, and I believe that those in Christ Jesus — all who decide, by the prevenient grace of God, to accept his offer of salvation in him — are those destined for eternal life. Those who reject Christ are then destined, or predestined, to loss. But the Calvinist believes that nothing a person does, or no evangelistic effort on the part of the Church, can change God’s eternal, unsearchable decree, which, then, makes revivals (evangelistic crusades, as well as personal evangelism) logically unnecessary. This is a horror to fundamentalists, for whom soul-saving is the work of every believer.

But while “revivalism” is not quite a horror to Wilson and his followers, it is a term of mocking derision, part of the sappy, sentimentalist “choose Jesus” wing of evangelicalism that, in his eyes, denies the absolute sovereignty of God and encourages “morbid introspection” that’s unseemly for members of the Covenant. And that emphasis on Covenant membership, into which a child is born and baptized, replaces the fundamentalist fervor for evangelism, Gospel preaching, personal and volitional conversion, and inclusion in the family of God by virtue of acceptance of the Savior. You won’t find Wilson holding a tent revival, and you won’t find fundamentalists denying the need to evangelize children born into the Covenant.

It’s not only soteriology — the doctrine of salvation — that separates Wilson from the fundamentalists, though, and it’s not just a defense of Calvinistic sovereignty vs. personal choice that motivates his disdain for “revivalism.” The fundamentalist’s strict theology and emphasis on one-on-one evangelism and group meetings leads to a suspicion of “worldly” intellectualism, which, to the fundamentalist, is what gave rise to the higher criticism that caused the conservatives to coalesce in the first place. So Wilson’s passion for “classical” Christian education, with its attendant emphasis on Latin, the canon of Western literature, the study of myth and legend in history, and exposure to “secular” works of art and letters, would strike the fundamentalist as not only a distraction from soul-saving, but an un-Biblical foray into those things that are not of the Bible — perhaps even in opposition to it. And the fundamentalists’ legalism, the belief that smoking, drinking, dancing, and eye-shadowed women in pants represent wrongful behavior on the part of the Christian — things repented of and left behind — is in stark contrast to the “Christian hedonism” of Wilson and his followers, for whom rich food, strong beer, and fragrant cigars are a gift from God to be enjoyed fully. Two Baptists in a liquor store may fail to recognize each other; two Kirkers in the liquor store would compare labels and suggest Grey Goose over Absolut.

The difficulties I and so many others have with the Kirk do not stem from its professed belief in the Bible, and Wilson is not criticized because he’s a preacher of the Gospel. On the contrary, I’d love it if he’d start preaching the Gospel to those who don’t know Jesus. No, Wilson finds himself in controversy and conflict because he behaves badly in the public square, and believers and non-believers in that square and beyond call him on it. When they call him on it — and there ought to be a lot more of that, by the way, from Moscow’s other conservative Christian pastors — they need to avoid the convenient shortcut in their analysis of his theology and conduct that arrives at the mistaken idea that his is just a more publicly obnoxious fundamentalism. It’s more public, and certainly more obnoxious, but “fundamentalist” it’s not.

Standing By Your (Preacher) Man

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

I understand that Wilson’s recent rants have caused some stirring in the congregation.

It’s one thing for people to be told what to do, what to think, and how to act from a man whose presumed expertise is as wide and full as the Encyclopedia Brittanica and as insubstantial and incomplete as a near-empty box of crumbled corn flakes, but there are some Kirkers who draw the line at being insulted. Particularly if the insult comes in the form of Wilson’s “piglets at the teat” view of Christians who receive, even in an emergency, social services from the State. Besides evincing a really disturbed understanding of taxation, social policy, and government, it’s unfair to the young couples whose early marriage and prolific fecundity he encourages, and whose career prospects are bleak when armed with a degree from his privately accredited classical Christian college, to call “sinful” their receipt of food stamps, Medicaid, or WIC.

Moscow’s Bishop of Bluster has spent much of the summer mocking food-conscious moms, dieters, and everyone else who doesn’t load his breakfast plate with bacon AND sausage; authoritatively smacking down those with tattoos and “rebellious” piercings; announcing that “father hunger” is the root cause of whatever someone does that he finds unacceptable; analyzing President Obama’s policies largely through the scratchy lens of hate and suspicion; and filleting the “feminized” evangelical church with his serrated edge of pastoral love and perspective.

So yesterday’s Blog and Mablog featured an admonition from Paul’s words in 2 Timothy, where the apostle laments that all his followers, stricken with cowardice, have deserted him in his fearless proclamation of the Gospel. Here’s the nauseating way Wilson compares himself to Paul — and, by implication, any shirking Kirkers who might, finally, get that he’s a detriment both to their faith and to the Faith:

(Blog and Mablog, August 11, 2009): “This was a problem in the first century, and it is a problem now. Christians are more concerned with respectability than with righteousness. They are more concerned with putting up a fine show for man, than with lifting up pure hearts before God. Let a public controversy break out, and many Christians — “all who are in Asia” — will head for the tall grass, and will blame the Christian who is standing in the arena facing the lions for being too provocative.”

“Amen” to Paul, and “shame on you” to Wilson, for whom “provocative,” applied to him, means he’s been just as obnoxious as he intended to be. And he his a man with great intentions, “great” being measured by the sheer height of his own ego and the depth of the damage he inflicts. There’s a clear intent in quoting from Paul’s letter about people drifting away from him. I just pray it’s thwarted.

The Holy Spirit is at work among the people of Christ Church (and Logos, NSA, Trinity Reformed, Canon, etc). Yet my heart is heavy, and I say this with tears in my eyes to any Christ Church members who read this blog:

The stirring in your heart, the vague, uneasy feeling you have when you hear him preach, and the grimace that crosses your face when you read that any of your brothers and sisters who receive social services are adulterous, idolatrous, piglets sucking at the teat of Evil Government — that’s the Holy Spirit, prompting you to recognize just how shipwrecked the ministries of Doug Wilson have become. And where the Spirit prompts, he provides.

There IS a way out. You know, because you’ve seen it when others “leave the Covenant” by leaving Christ Church, that you’ll suffer for it. You’ll lose friends, and you’ll be told you’ve lost your understanding of covenant commitment — if not your mind. Your business could well dry up, and your kids will wonder why you may have to leave Moscow. That’s usually what happens (which is not the experience of people who leave, say, Trinity Baptist Church — and that says something). But our Lord is faithful, and when he calls you away from Douglas Wilson, he’ll bless your response so that eventually you’ll see this time in your life not a “moving away,” but a “coming to.”

And what you’ll be coming to is, with God’s grace, a community of people who love Jesus by loving you, who don’t define their church or their role in the community by what they deny or oppose, and who believe that if you have food phobia, father hunger, or a cowardly, compromising love for your homosexual cousin Dave, God will tell you. I expect that what he tells you will affirm love, wise stewardship, and the inner strength he’s given you. And it’ll sound odd — and off — at first.

You’ll discover, slowly at first, that you’re actually quite able to understand things, be healthy, and enjoy God — there’s nothing wrong with you that Christ won’t gently deal with — apart from the cacophany of accusation, judgment, and guilt you’ve been dancing to for as long as you’ve been in the Kirk. You won’t be pressed into a rigid, unchanging mold that reflects Femina, but not YOU; instead, you’ll come to understand that your Lord delights in you as he made you, and the things that make you delightfully, unabashedly YOU aren’t ragged edges to be smoothed off, like a rotted piece of wood, but facets that reflect the Artist who made you, like the sparkle of a crystal vase. And if there’s abuse in your home, removing yourself from the man who preaches patriarchy, hierarchy, and power within the family will clear your head and strengthen your resolve.

And you are strong. Stronger than you think, and stronger than he’s lead you to believe.

If you walk away from Doug Wilson, you won’t be a coward, running for the tall grass at the first sign of controversy. Let the Spirit lead you. If I can ever be of any help at all, contact me at kjajmix1@msn.com, and I’ll do what I can for you.

And those of you who laugh and snort and howl when you read this? You can’t keep drowning out the still small voice, no matter how loudly you laugh.

If You’re Late To The Party . . .

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Those who’ve just recently discovered Prevailing Winds might find my column from six months ago of interest. Search “Aunt Betty” for my remarks on the current healthcare system, the strong preference I have for a single-payer system like Canada’s, and my take on the privileged position from which many, if not most, Americans are able to attempt “policy by anecdote” by recounting the unfortunate experience of a friend or relative who had to wait for treatment under the for-profit system we have now.

As economist and former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich says, only a single-payer system will take away the profit motive that encourages — requires — that private insurance companies cut costs and maximize profits in ways that translate to the average American as cuts in access to and quality of care and a maximizing only of the gulf between those who can afford good insurance and those who can’t. Some, lamentably many Christians, don’t see that as a problem, as long as they and theirs are doing well.

And that sort of thing takes the discussion from a debate on healthcare economics to another, more foundational, one — the social ethic and Biblical teachings of historic Christianity. If the innate coldness of heart isn’t bothersome, the conflict with Bible teaching ought to be.

It’s appropriate to use Romans 13 as a primer for how to honor and submit to government (although there’s no solid argument there for continued Christian support of capital punishment), but if God’s instrument on this earth for doing corporate good is human government, then Christians really ought to expect that “doing good” for poor people is a duty properly discharged by the State. Not ONLY by the State, but primarily by the State as the means through which social welfare is protected on a grand societal scale out of reach for individuals and the Church.

We expect the government to reflect some semblance of Biblical morality in punishing murderers, defending the nation, and not enslaving people to build superhighways through impoverished neighborhoods. Christians generally decry Rowe v. Wade, lament government support of civil unions (I support them, but many of my readers don’t), and lobby for limits on the availability of pornography to kids — because they see those things as proper expressions of Biblical morality. But when the government, charged as it is by God to maintain civil order, attempts to reflect that same morality — caring for the poor — they scream and mourn that government is overstepping, with only evil as its intent.

It would be forgivable if those on the outside of the Church remained puzzled, seeing only that Jesus’ people howl, bitch, and scream when asked to contribute through taxation for the benefit of the poor around them — the ones the Old Testament prophets advocated for, the same ones Jesus defended to the death.

Random Notes . . .

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

. . . Why would anyone care, much less reprint on his blog, what Sarah Palin thinks about anything, much less serious policy debate regarding health care?

. . . And why would a news outlet, presuming it had any credibility whatsoever, report Sarah Palin’s absurd claim that her son, Trig, who has Down Syndrome, would be “in danger” under President Obama’s proposed health plan?

. . . Most puzzlingly, why would a local blogger once again further a reckless, damaging tirade by someone whose very mention instantly raises the A.Q. (Asininity Quotient) of the blog site on which she’s featured? And does it matter, even just a little bit, that it’s not actually true that Trig Palin’s life would be in danger under Obama’s plan? Or is his mom just so darned charming, and conservatives so damned angry, that it matters only that She Speaks — not that she makes sense or gets it right?

. . . Finally, does being a Christian Conservative require that you ignore inane comments, rank incompetence, and a dulled ethical sense when demonstrated by other Christian Conservatives, especially as they appear to be forever lodged in the spotlight through no virtue, vision, or valor of their own?

. . . Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Lord, have mercy.

They’re Fighting, But They’re Not Fundies — Part 1, "What Is Fundamentalism?"

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Occasionally, someone asks me if Christ Church congregants and their leadership are “fundamentalists.” And to those unfamiliar with both Christ Church and with historic fundamentalism, the question seems reasonable — they’re young-earth, six-day creationists, they interpret the Bible literally, and they, along with most other Christian churches, derive their moral standards from the Scriptures they and I believe to be God’s revealed, infallible Word.

But they’re not fundamentalists, as it’s currently understood, and neither am I.

Historically, “fundamentalism” arose in the early part of the 20th century, with the post-industrial, modernist societal changes that Christian conservatives saw as a threat to the classic doctrines and definition of the Christian faith. The challenges posed by higher criticism, the “social gospel,” and science — particularly Darwin’s theory of evolution — motivated a separatist mentality on the part of some Christian conservatives. The codifying of seven doctrinal “fundamentals” was expressed in a series of booklets written and distributed by noted Christian theologians such as R.A. Torrey. Those seven fundamental doctrines of Christianity, taken as inviolable articles of faith for the true believer and predicated on a belief in the Bible as God’s Word, are the deity of Jesus Christ; the nature of the Triune Godhead; Jesus’ virgin birth; his atonement for sins on the cross; his bodily resurrection; his personal, imminent return to the earth; and the necessity of personal conversion. Some, however, have seen that final doctrine not as one of the classic fundamentals, but, instead, a motivator and result of the identification of the previous six; this argument, then, adds “young earth” or six-day creationism, as told in the first two chapters of the Old Testament Book of Genesis, to the list.

I believe that the initial seven articles, not the “young earth” creationism, accurately codify the necessary fundamentals of the Gospel. And so, under that definition only, I am a fundamentalist and, accepting as they do also the additional belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis, so are Kirkers.

But the term “fundamentalist” almost immediately took on a meaning both different from and yet inevitably arising from the work of the theologians who insisted on the interwoven and inseparable articles of faith that, to them and to me, define Biblical Christianity. What was compiled as a definitive canon of Christian essentials was formulated within the social and historical context of early-20th century modernism, and the fundamentals expressed both doctrinal cohesiveness and the reaction of Christian conservatives against the creeping influence, inside the Church and out, of an emerging, changing, and more secular culture.

The trinity of threats seen to the Church were seemingly varied, but together were a driving force in establishing countless Bible colleges and seminaries that promoted a literal, conservative understanding and exegesis of Scripture. “Higher criticism” began in Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a method of interpreting Scripture through a lens of linguistic, historical and cultural forces that generally disdained the inspiration of the Bible — the Holy Spirit’s initiation and superintendency of God’s Word put to paper by men under the Spirit’s guidance, influence, and strength. “Higher criticism” theologians explored, even revered, the Scriptural texts as a compilation of 66 different books full of wisdom, history, theology, and poetry, but, in rejecting the infallibility of the textual result as well as the inspiration of the composers of those texts, were a threat to the literal, infallible, Spirit-breathed Bible conservatives held dear.

Likewise, the emergence of scientific advances and especially Darwinian evolution were seen as direct offenses to a literal interpretation of the Scriptural testimony of God’s work in creating all things — the belief that “God spoke, and the universe leapt into existence.” Darwin’s understanding of natural selection, mutation, and thousands of centuries of species adaptation was seen as an affront to the Genesis account and was conveniently and inaccurately summed up by Christian conservatives as the dethroning of God as creator and the substitution of apes and other primates for a literal, created, Adam and Eve. Panic ensued as the original “fundamentalists” convinced their congregations that without a literal, historical Adam, created in the image of God, humankind would soon shed all moral and religious restraints, living only by gut instinct and animalistic licentiousness.

As Americans and Europeans became more literate, and as advances in communications technology flourished, cherished notions of a literal six-day creation, a historical Adam and Eve, their fall into sin and expulsion from an actual, geographic Eden, a worldwide Noahic flood, an actual, physical Tower of Babel, and other Old Testament teachings threatened to be either disproven or simply discarded in favor of more “modern” understandings that directly contradicted Scripture — or seemed to. In addition, early fundamentalists were faced with unprecedented educational opportunities for their sons and daughters — forays into a world that appeared not only in contradiction to, but even mocking of, the simple, wooden, literal understanding of both the Bible and the world around them.

Finally, the fundamentalists were witnessing the emergence of what’s now called the “social Gospel.” The rise of post-millennialism — the belief that the Church’s spread of the Gospel and example of “Kingdom dominion” would transform society and the world around it into the Biblical 1,000-year period of sinlessness, peace, and Christian virtue, was critical to the inception of this “social Gospel,” which married evangelistic concern for souls with a “whole Gospel” approach that recognized the need to confront injustice and work for not only personal but social renewal. This Church-led worldwide transformation would usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, whose return to the Earth after the millennium would culminate in a final battle against Satan, the Day of Judgment, and an eternity of peace with Christ enthroned in Jerusalem as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The post-millennialism of the early 20th century was marked by significant advances in evangelism — the preaching of the Gospel to the lost — as well as to innumerable social reform movements, such as temperance and abolitionism.

Modern-day postmillennialists, including those in Moscow, have largely abandoned direct social reform movements, especially those that seek to relieve the poverty of the old, weak, immigrant and otherwise marginalized and forgotten. But the early-21st century expression of a nascent worldwide movement of fervent and well-equipped followers of Jesus Christ, devoted to righting socio-political wrongs and ushering in a world of peace and justice whose King would reign on the earth upon its establishment, was wrongly seen as a de-emphasis on personal soul-saving. It also proved to be a threat to the staunch conservatism of the South, prompting blistering jeremiads from the pulpit, accusing the “social Gospel” and its preachers of abandoning the soul-saving imperative of the Scriptures in favor of “liberal” reform movements that, not coincidentally, threatened in some cases the cherished social and political traditions of the conservatives — like racial segregationists. Not all of the original “fundamentalists” were racists, but it’s accurate, I think, to say that virtually all “Christian” racists of the time were fundamentalists.

“Fundamentalism” evolved from a description of a Biblically conservative doctrinal believe system to a reactionary movement against “modernism” and all its attendant evils — Darwinian evolution; secular higher criticism; political and theological liberalism; scientific advances that appeared to contradict Scripture; changing social policies; the reform movements of the “social Gospel;” and the casting off, real or imagined, of cherished, Biblical, moral restraint. I lament that the term has fallen into disrepute, frankly. When “fundamentalism” was a positive — a statement FOR something — it was an important unifier of Christian doctrine and orthodoxy. And under that definition — that a “fundamentalist” is one who believes the seven fundamentals of historic, Biblical Christian faith and takes them as essential doctrinal touchpoints for the Church — I am, indeed, a fundamentalist. And so are the Kirkers, although Wilson and his followers are staunch young-earth creationists and I’m not; what we would each consider an essential differs only on that point, while we unabashedly embrace the others. It’s not the strictest, Trinitarian core theology of the Kirk that I generally disagree with, although even those essentials, like the Triune nature of the Godhead, are marked with disagreements that I have occasionally with Wilson, et al, and their understanding of such things as, say, Christ’s eternal subordination within the Trinity to the Father.

Nonetheless, it’s the “minors,” the “beyond the core,” theology and practice of the Kirk that I object so strenuously to — precisely because Wilson and his accolytes are so often so very wrong in their understanding of and instructions in non-essential areas. For example, I vehemently disagree with Wilson, Wilkins, Schlisser and Leithart regarding their Federal Vision, but we do agree that salvation is brought us by Christ’s atonement on the cross — a fundamental doctrine that is, to me, an essential aspect of the faith. It is to Doug Wilson as well, and has been a doctrine of our faith since its inception at Pentecost.

It is, perhaps, tragic that most evangelicals now recoil, and rightly so, from being called “fundamentalists,” because the original meaning of the term was laudable. As an attempt to define the essence of the Christian faith, uniting those who embraced the core doctrines and found relationship with Jesus, “fundamentalism” served the Church by emphasizing and expounding on essential doctrines that gave a fully-developed understanding of the Gospel — when it didn’t insist on young-earth creationism. But today it’s inexorably entwined with an anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, anti-cultural and anti-ecumenical worldview that is defined by its oppositional stances, not its positive contributions to evangelism and doctrinal understanding.

I’d rather be “for” the work of the Gospel and not simply “against” the things that make the spread of that Gospel so urgent. Being against bad stuff is admirable, but the Gospel cannot be defined only by the things it opposes. That is the inadvertent, but incontrovertible, legacy of fundamentalism — a philosophy so energized by what it opposes that it’s lost its bearings in proclaiming, in joy and in love, what it cherishes.

My next post will be an examination of why Wilson, et al, aren’t fundies, although they appear that way to those who don’t understand that “believing in the Bible” and being a fundamentalist aren’t the same thing. Neither Doug Wilson nor Keely Emerine Mix would be especially welcome in King James Version-only, primitive Baptist circles, and yet — I’m guessing you know this already — the reasons why are quite different for both of us. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

If I Were An Elder . . .

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

. . And if I were the host of a widely read right-leaning blog, the readers of which are virulently anti-Obama and often not terribly discerning, I wouldn’t print the following story without noting that — ha-ha — it’s just a joke. Frankly, I wouldn’t print it even with a flashing, 72-pt. red font proclaiming it to be a joke, because it’s mean-spirited and contributes to an already ugly debate. But that’s me. I wish it weren’t Dale Courtney, host of Right-Mind.us and an elder at Christ Church.

An elder at the city’s largest and most influential church should have the bar of wise and mature behavior set just a wee bit higher than the tops of his loafers. Courtney already disgraced himself in October by reprinting a racist cartoon about Barack Obama. Once having been called out on it (yeah, by me), that silly “avoiding the appearance of evil” thing would, or should, make a reasonable person want to be more careful in the future. That appears not to be high on the list of Right-Mind’s creator.

See, I wouldn’t print the article below because it says that Obama has declared statehood for Kenya, thus — giggle, giggle — putting to rest any further questions about his birth. Lots of Americans, and lots of Courtney’s Right-Mind readers, still, almost 10 months after his election, engage in shameful, ugly speculation that he’s some shadowy, sinister foreign national who arrogantly refuses to produce for Bigoted America his original birth certificate, something that neither Courtney nor any other American can do, either, what with original birth certificates being the property of the state from which they’re issued and all.

The “story” continues with the knee-slapping news that Kenyans will now be eligible for health benefits from the United States government, which, if true and not just part of a chuckle-fest, would make that one fat, bloated Statist sow from whose teats the Kenyans and other Christians can suckle once they roll out of the bed they share with government. We can thank Doug Wilson for the “piglets suckling at the teat” metaphor that he extends even to those in his congregation who receive any kind of social services. Real pastoral, huh?

But with Courtney’s pastor’s recent declaration that believers cannot in good conscience find themselves in receipt of stolen property — what the reasonable world calls tax-funded social services — and the ugly political environment we have today that fears immigrants and attacks the poor, wisdom and prudence would dictate that a Christian’s role in it all would be one of truth-speaking and peacemaking. Both privately and publicly, Courtney demonstrates he is not that kind of guy. He is, nonetheless, an elder at a Christian church. I find that regrettable.

Whether in wacky fun or not, this article, which I’ve copied below, only furthers a debate that Christians, and especially Christian church leaders, ought to decry as divisive, unproductive, and uncharitable. Many have, actually. The ones from Moscow? Not so much. It’s not a particularly funny joke, and I imagine not a few readers failed to see it as a joke. Those would likely be the ones who already go to sleep at night praying against the evil they see as Obama, and an article like this offers them, if not a hearty laugh, then fuel for the fire. I think Christian elders have some responsibility in not perpetuating conflict, suspicion, and falsehood.

I pray for the day that “Christian” leaders here and throughout this country would begin to take seriously the Lord’s commandment to not bear false witness. It’s not a sin to say that Obama’s health care policies might be bad for America, or to remind anyone who’ll listen why you didn’t vote for him, but it’s absolutely a sin to continue to perpetuate, in the name of humor or patriotism or whatever else, lies about who the man is. A “joke” like this is very likely over the heads of some of its readers — Courtney really ought to keep that in mind — but it shouldn’t be too hard to grasp that we Christians aren’t supposed to lie about those in authority over us, further the lies of others, and engage in suspicion of and hatred for the one we’re supposed to honor and pray for.

Here’s the article, in its entirety and without a caveat of comedic intent:

(From Right-Mind.us, August 4, 2009)

Obama marks birthday with Kenya statehood declaration

From the Washington Examiner:

President Barack Obama today celebrated his 48th birthday with a retroactive declaration of statehood for Kenya, his father’s homeland and the nation where some skeptics say he was born on August 4, 1961.

Conspiracy theorists, collectively called ‘birthers’ by those who trust the president’s version of events, say Obama has refused to release his official birth certificate, so no one can be sure that he’s a ‘natural born’ U.S. citizen, or even that he’s at least 35 years old and, therefore, Constitutionally qualified for the office.

By declaring Kenya a U.S. state retroactive to July 1961, the president said he hoped to “put an end to fruitless speculation about my citizenship, which should — by the way — be a private matter between a woman and her obstetrician, or village midwife as the case may be.”

Obama added: “We need to get the nation’s focus back on the worst economy since the Great Depression, the 46 million uninsured Americans, and the global warming crisis that threatens our coastal cities with a briny death. More people believe in that stuff than will ever believe that I was born in Mombasa. I was elected to bring about change you can believe in.”

As a citizen of either the 50th or the 51st state, Obama’s eligibility for office is now unquestioned. For their part, citizens of Kenya will soon qualify for U.S. government-run health care, as well as a program designed to reduce greenhouse gasses by allowing people to trade in old chickens for more modern, efficient poultry — a pilot project dubbed ‘cash for cluckers’. (end of Right-Mind.us text)

Hungry For Godly Fathers — And Mothers

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

One doesn’t have to spend a lot of time at the mall, or in “government schools,” to notice that there are a great many very sad, very confused, very angry young people in this world. Every one of them is a soul cherished by God and worth the loving effort of the Church to reach them. They are not here among us as object lessons.

I absolutely agree that a young woman who dresses inappropriately in belly-baring tank tops and shorts the size of maxi pads could benefit from loving Christian parents who instill in her Godly self-respect, confidence, and competence — and she likely didn’t get that. Likewise, young men who wear their pants below their butts, tattoo obscene things on their arms, and take their cues on how to treat women from Snoop Dogg, need parental influences that are as strong on affection and warmth as on discipline and punishment (which, by the way, are not the same thing). A kid wearing a T-shirt that says “F— Off” probably didn’t come from a consistently loving, consistently Biblical, family. Probably.

So what, exactly, is my problem with Doug Wilson’s near-automatic diagnosis of “father hunger” in these cases? After all, who could argue that dads aren’t important, and that too many young people never had a good one? Certainly not me. What I object to in Wilson’s tattoo/piercing/fat-girls-in-skimpy-clothing posts is the unloving tone he takes; the belief that there should be no empathy offered to parents of rebellious kids, because it’s their fault — always; and his apparent denial of autonomy, volition, will or personal accountability on the part of young people.

I keep looking for — hoping for — a tone of anguish that so many kids, although it appears none in his congregations, are hurting so much. I keep waiting to hear true pastoral concern that focuses less on the judgment required of a diagnosis, and I despair that there seems to be, in his writings, no call for the Church to get out and try to reach these kids for Christ — for their salvation, their restoration, and their nurture by loving followers of Jesus. I don’t see it. On the contrary, I see this most secondary of issues elevated to a status not only above what it deserves Biblically, but also used to further isolate and carve from community a group of intelligent, reasonably affluent, motivated Christians who can take comfort in the fact that THEY don’t have “those kind” of kids and, moreover, don’t have to do a whole lot to try to bring “those kind” of kids to Jesus. And while I don’t see a lot of love for his congregation gushing out of Wilson, I do see a font of a different sort poured out in contempt or indifference when it comes to the great unwashed outside his doors.

I’m reading his childrearing manual, “Standing On The Promises,” and he makes a great case for not offering to parents grieved over a child’s backsliding any sort of sympathy or comfort — just an acknowledgment, or, if not, a reminder that Bobby’s backsliding is their fault. No expressions of empathy are appropriate, he writes, when talking with Christian friends with troubled children. The truth is out there, easily apprehended by Christians who “stand on the promises” about covenant children and thus refuse to cower under secularism by seeking or offering commiseration when their kids or their friends’ kids rebel. There can be none; commiseration requires commonality. The fault is clearly, indisputably, the fault of the parents, particularly the father, and a Godly, Biblical, masculine church will offer its love to hurting and bewildered parents by serving up a heaping helping of blame, shame, and whatever kind of “love” can possibly accompany it.

That leads to my third point — Wilson’s insistence that it’s all about the fathers. I’m grieving the loss of the father I had, a vastly imperfect man who only came to Christ a decade or so ago and who drank too much, worked too hard, and yet tried with all his might — and heart — to be a wonderful dad, both when I was a kid and when I grew to adulthood. He succeeded. Undoubtedly some of the deficits and hurts of my or anyone else’s childhood can be traced to our fathers, but to suggest “father hunger” without acknowledging the very real pain of “mother hunger,” or “loving family hunger,” or “intact family with stay-at-home parent hunger,” is to canonize the role of one parent — solely on gender — and thus, whether intentionally or not, denigrate the role of the other, female, parent.

When fatherhood is imbued with such power and such primacy, and when the Bible is read first and foremost through the lens of gender and gender roles, men sometimes take that as license to assure, more than anything, that their position on top is never challenged — and that can, and does, lead to an emphasis on parenting as a means of exercising and protecting power, not as an opportunity to model the very character and words of Jesus Christ. As I’ve said before, the only parenting manual Christian moms and dads need is in Galatians 5, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Neither the fruit of the Spirit nor the gifts of the Spirit are based on gender, and when parents are truly partners, truly co-parenting with equal passion, authority, and commitment, the Lord does marvelous things. The absence of parenting-through-partnership is very real, but it manifests itself as a hunger for any number of things not gotten in childhood — Mother Hunger, Grandparent Hunger, Sibling Hunger, Father Hunger, or the aching spiritual hunger that many of us felt upon becoming adults.

It’s an unreasonable nod toward unbiblical patriarchy to presume that the root of every youthful rebellion is father hunger, and to seemingly ignore the profound needs of those youths who don’t know Christ. Their Father hunger is a far more solid, far more effective, far more energizing foundation for true Christian ministry to every family that hurts. Especially the ones whose kids Wilson would recoil from.

Fat Girls In Bikinis And The Fathers Who Didn’t Love Them

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

He Whose Wisdom Must Not Be Questioned has been busy lately.

A week or so after blogging that Christians who receive any — ANY — benefits from the State are “piglets sucking at the teat” of Evil Government, and after a Tilt-A-Whirl cruise through the seamy side of the world, where men and women sometimes adorn themselves with tattoos and piercings Not Approved By Him, Wilson has offered some follow up comments that bear review.

Specifically, and in conjunction with the great Tattoos and Piercings Debate long ago discarded by mature Christians as an unnecessary impediment to the spread of the Gospel, he writes that on a recent trip to Spokane, he and Nancy saw scads of flesh that provoked in him, because he’s a righteous, Reformed man, a “ggekkk” of disgust. (I may have misspelled his guttural contempt; it’s not a sound I’m that familiar with from the men in my life). It was, I’m just sure, pastorally helpful for him to observe that the fatter a young woman is, the less clothing she appears to wear, and that “stumbling the brethren” ceases then to be an issue — she’s just too gross to incite lust. Instead, she’s a walking, “shaking like Jell-O on a plate” mass of Father Hunger unfortunate enough to have never read anything by Canon Press.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Her father didn’t protect her, didn’t admonish her with the rod of discipline, and didn’t lead his family in such a way that she wouldn’t then, as she grew to independence, saunter around in halter tops and hipster short-shorts. Or get fat in the first place.

The idea of personal autonomy on the part of believing and unbelieving adults and youths is an idea seemingly foreign to Wilson. Does it really need to be stated here that parents OBVIOUSLY mold, for good or ill, the character of their children? Do I really need to confess that good parents generally turn out good kids, while lazy, abusive, indifferent and hard-hearted parents generally turn out kids who don’t do quite as well. Evidently I do, because I’m expecting an onslaught of criticism from those who would quote the Proverbs to me as inviolable, unchangeable, eternal proof that it’s perfectly appropriate to judge parents by the way their kids turn out. So, before my email Inbox fills up, let me just say it again: Parents are the first, primary, and strongest models for their children, and generally speaking, the apples, rotten or fresh, don’t fall too far from the tree.

Generally.

But “generally” is, to Wilson, a hedge — a shameful, squirming concession that we evangelicals make because we doubt the Word of God, are embarrassed by it, or need a convenient “out” in case one of our children turns out to be less than what we had hoped, worked, and prayed for — or less than what Wilson deems appropriately “covenental.” But all have indeed sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, and all who do so after young childhood are accountable for their sins. And it’s a good thing. While parents are responsible for their children and their upbringing, for the formation of good Christian character and practice, and are accountable to God for the work they’ve done in parenting, moms and dads are already aware that it is the individual sinner, parent or child, who must receive the forgiveness of Christ for her sins. Sometimes, a child will do well after enduring dreadful parents. Other times, a kid will rebel and act out after years of warm, affectionate, firm, and Godly nurture.

Sometimes my sons will bring me to tears with their kindnesses or good judgment, especially after I’ve really blown it with them. And other times they’ll do something I disapprove of, in the course of learning to be independent, and adopt habits I don’t like — even when I’ve been on top of my maternal game. It’s that “learning to be independent” that gives Wilson fits when offered as an explanation for, even a defense of, rebellion in young people. Because psychology and pediatrics and brain science tells us that young people must, to be healthy, “individuate” or push against parents, Wilson runs to the furthest corner in proclaiming that the Bible couldn’t possibly allow for all of that psychobabble crap — a paraphrase that, I think, is probably too generous in representing his position.

It’s not shocking that even covenant kids have to carve out an identity for themselves, usually in but sometimes apart from Christ Jesus. What’s shocking is that there’s a congregation of several hundred in this town, and followers by the thousands across the country, who fail to grasp the insult offered them when their pastor weighs in with unquestioned authority on everything from housecleaning to body adornment to receipt of Medicaid benefits to “music to be repented of.”

Every good and perfect gift comes from above, brothers and sisters. I pray that you’d begin to look higher — much higher — than the pulpit from which your bullying, blustering “pastor” preaches for the wisdom God so graciously intends for you.