Archive for October, 2009

Roadblocks, Not Running Out Of Gas

Monday, October 19th, 2009

I had intended to critique each of the sessions offered to Covenant Guys at this past weekend’s Sexual Orthodoxy Conference in Moscow, but the flurry of activities I signed up for when I arrived in Tucson took more time than I’d imagined. So I’ll add my thoughts on just one more of Tim Bayly’s offerings, skipping the two by Ben Merkle and Wilson’s last pontifications on being “pro-life” and on “gender-neutral” Bible translations — which are not “neutral,” by the way; in these translations, such as the NLT, NRSV, and TNIV, men are men, boys are boys, and God takes the male third person singular. It’s the spectre of addressing crowds of men and women as “brothers and sisters” that so threatens Wilson. But that’s for another day.

As for engaging with Ben Merkle’s work, I’ll have to pass. My memories of his tome on men taking Ephesians 5-responsibility for their wives’ conduct in “child labor” are all too fresh. I’m sure Ben has matured, but I doubt that was made evident at this weekend’s conference, which featured the three erstwhile defenders of Covenant masculinity discussing “sexual orthodoxy” in ways that had little to do with sex, much to do with gender, and in any case were not at all “orthodox,” Biblically or logically. Again, I’ll cover Bayly’s despicably-titled “Abortion: The Blood Sacrifice of Egalitarianism” when I return home midweek. It deserves all the attention I can give it.

Chris Witmer Was "Dontbia Nass," And He Died Yesterday

Friday, October 16th, 2009

I got the news yesterday, October 15, that Christopher Witmer (Dontbia Nass) died a day earlier in a bicycle-truck accident near his home in Japan. Chris leaves a wife and seven young daughters, ages 5-21. From the timeline made available to me on Moscow’s Vision 2020, it appears that Chris posted to Prevailing Winds two hours or so before his death.

I couldn’t write this yesterday. I was shaken beyond what you can imagine, and my heart today grieves for his wife and children. I don’t know how they can begin to make sense of his death. As it turns out, I’m down in Tucson where the City of Tucson has dedicated a ballfield to my dad; there’s a jazz concert in his honor Sunday. Even after eight months, the grief of losing my dad is raw and immeasurably painful. I can’t imagine how Witmer’s daughters feel. They didn’t know him as “Dontbia Nass,” or as a homophobic writer, or as a psueodnymical prankster. They knew him as Dad.

My readers know Witmer as Dontbia Nass, whose posts may have driven them crazy. But Chris loved his Savior, and whatever he felt for me doesn’t negate that. I pray that all of you will keep his family in your prayers. I wish I had had a chance to meet Chris, but we didn’t need each other’s validation. I trust that each of us is bound together with God’s Holy Spirit, and I look forward to meeting Chris in Heaven.

Until then, please pray for this man’s family. I’m so sad that he’s gone in such a quick and violent manner, but God, I know, has his plans for the Witmer family. I pray their comfort and their hope is complete in Christ Jesus.

Bayly on "Male ‘Women Ministers’ " — Sexual Orthodoxy, Part 3

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Tim Bayly weighs in on “Why Women Make Better Women Ministers Than Men Do,” and asks if there’s a feminine basis for piety now existing in the Church. He, of course, thinks there is, and says that that being the case, “men who want to be ministers in the Church will be at a distinct disadvantage,” although his title suggests that girly men will still be found in the pulpit.

Oh, Tim. So careful you are to make sure that no one ever sees you and your colleagues as “feminine” in piety, practice, or pronouncement.

You’re clearly not a girly-man minister, but then, we knew that from your time at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a ministry founded to counteract the view of Christians for Biblical Equality, which stands for a literal reading of Galatians 3:28 that says gender, as well as race and class, cannot be a distinctive that divides Christians from one another. Your contempt for egalitarians like myself, who believe that gender is neither a basis for nor a disqualification against all areas of service in the Church, is clear from the disgusting title of your final workshop session — Abortion: The Blood Sacrifice of Egalitarianism. Believe me, you have offended every brother and sister who believe that the Gospel frees all to serve freely in Christ with that bit of macho posturing, but I’ll cover that one later. Promise. In the meantime, let’s get to macho posturing and “women ministers who are actually male.” We don’t even have to explain away the contempt that oozes from you for pulpit men not like yourself.

You despise the “feminine piety” of the evangelical Church and decry those men who aren’t sufficiently endowed with masculine piety — dare we call it that? — and who let the feminie ethos you so fear permeate their churches. And if a “feminine piety” calls for or produces timid, wishy-washy, whimpering, easily defeated and entirely emotional men, that would, indeed, be a problem. Nothing would get done, and we’d run out of Kleenex.

But that doesn’t describe the feminine — it describes the cowardly, whose ranks are filled equally with men and women, although the New Testament indicates, on the first and clearest reading, that the men around Jesus were much more inclined to be that way than the women. Jesus knew that of his male followers, and he exhorted them to act in love, strength, courage, and unity — the kind of characteristics evidenced in the NT equally by men and women, if not often displayed by the disciples until after Pentecost, leaving the brave women during Christ’s Passion to gather at the foot of the cross and wait by themselves at the tomb. Nonetheless, nothing in Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples condemned the feminine nor recommended the masculine; all Jesus called for was a realization of the strength they had in him, which would produce as much in the way of love and affection as it would courage and action.

This same Jesus wept over Jerusalem, comparing himself to a mother hen desiring to gather in her chicks; his Father sprinkles the Old Testament with references to a God who describes himself in feminine imagery — not any of which is simpering, sentimental, and ineffectual. Paul’s counsel to the timid young pastor, Timothy, didn’t give him a list of kick-ass macho directives, but reminded Tim to not be discouraged by his youth, to remember the teachings of his mother and grandmother, to boldly proclaim the Gospel, and to carefully tend to the flock God had given him. This same Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, compared himself and the other apostles to a nursing mother, nurturing her children in tenderness — perhaps offering the “milk” of the Scriptures to a young Church not yet ready for the “meat” of the Word (1 Thess. 2:7). His later exhortation, in ch. 3, says he and they also treated the uping Church like a father with his children, but not to negate the nursing mother image, simply to compare the apostles’ love with that of a loving, gentle, encouraging father. You undoubtedly appreciate that Paul told Timothy to “fight the good fight,” which seems masculine, I suppose — except that we’re all, male and female, called to do so. Frankly, I don’t know how well you and Paul would’ve gotten along.

The rest of the apostle’s exhortations to Timothy, applicable to all who seek to serve the Church, like the men at the Sexual Orthodoxy conference, is to be gentle, not quarrelsome, able to teach, not greedy, and of general good character and maturity. Not one of those qualities is fed by testosterone OR enhanced by estrogen; they simply are the command of God for his people, first church leaders and then those in their flock. The character of the Christian is outlined equally for women and for men in Galatians 5, the list of traits called the fruit of the Holy Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, mercy and self-control, all expected of the maturing Christian, all made possible by the genderless Holy Spirit, all true in the non-gendered God we worship, and all evidenced by Christ Jesus, by whose human-ness, not male-ness, we can be saved.

I wonder what you would make of such a list now, though, with your fear and revulsion for the “feminine piety” you seem to see among even male pastors in today’s Church. Surely you decry, as I do, the silliness of John Eldredge’s “Wild At Heart” series; I know you think Promise Keepers was an erroneous step in the evangelical movement, as did I. But in the early ninetheenth century, the “feminine ethos” your colleague Ben Merkle will discuss in a later session was not terribly evidenced by hundred, perhaps thousands, of single women missionaries who worked tirelessly and courageously for the Gospel and for social righteousness in ways that you must admire — or don’t you, given that these brave, strong women, without losing a shred of their God-given femininity, nonetheless traveled far and wide for Christ’s Gospel rather than stay home, amassing tableware and perfecting domestic skills while waiting for marriage. (This is the counsel, by the way, of Nancy Wilson for young women).

Actually, consistently requires that you do, in fact, condemn them. As Dale Courtney would say, that’s PRICELESS in its myopic view of Kingdom priorities.

These women’s piety was not in their female-ness, but in their courage. The commitment to the Gospel and the passion that lead then, and leads now, male pastors is not a by-product of their male-ness, but of their Christ-likeness. The evangelical world has stumbled, certainly, in its embrace of the emotional, the marketable, and the faddish at the expense of the true call of the Church, and my stomach turns when I see Christian bookstores full of praying teddy bears, cute but pointless tchochtkes designed to pacify the sheep, and merchandise that promises bold Christian witness via T-shirts — but those things are hardly the fault of women or the men who love them. That the material stuff offered is often pink and crystal and fluffy in its sentimentality doesn’t make them feminine. It makes them silly, weak, and indicative of a Church strongly lacking in perspective and direction.

The heroes of the faith that I know, living and dead, weren’t so lacking. They didn’t fear being women, and they weren’t men who feared being “womanly.” Rather, they wove a cloth of strong and beautiful threads, and they used it not just to cushion and comfort, but also to fly as a banner proclaiming the true Gospel of the One who is neither male nor female, both feminine and masculine, and who desperately desires the use of a strong backbone given to his children.

Christian men who are truly strong share that body part with their Christian sisters. The problem in the Church is when other body parts are what enlivens the walk of men and stumbles that of women.

Wilson on "Sodomy" — Part 2, Sexual Orthodoxy Conference

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

The Christ Church annual ministerial conference this year is devoted to exploring “Sexual Orthodoxy” through a lens streaked with disdain for women and a typically careless handling of the Word that promises them freedom, equality, and restoration in Christ Jesus.

The opening workshop features Doug Wilson discussing what he stubbornly insists on calling “sodomy” and its status as both a sin of common occurrence and a particular rebellion directed at the Most High. Because I won’t be at the conference, being both out of town and a woman out of town, I can only comment on Wilson’s previous railings against those the rest of the irenic evangelical world calls homosexuals or gays, but
who he generally, but not genially, calls sodomites. When, that is, he’s not discussing on his blog the usefulness of various other hurtful names for people who experience same-sex attraction — faggots, buggarers, catamites, etc.

Anyway, Wilson, like most of the evangelical world, sees homosexual practice as a sin, according to the Scripture. He’s hardly alone in that; the plain, first reading of both Old and New Testament passages clearly state that “homosexuals” are part of that great group of the redeemed in Christ when they forsake their conduct and trust only in Jesus. I’m one of those who wonders if what these passages speak of is the mutual, monogamous, committed relationships I see in the lives of many gay people I know, and I wrestle with what, exactly, is condemned — debauchery consistent with temple prostitution, say, or a loving, deeply committed relationship between two people of the same sex? I’m not convinced that it’s the latter, but I’m content to not know. I could never be content to not respond in gracious humility, though, to those in my life who are homosexual in orientation, whether they live celibately or not. The quality and character of my Christian walk don’t depend on my getting “the gay question” right; they do depend, singularly, on my humility before others as part of my worship of and devotion to my Savior, and my seeking to understand his Word not to be right, but to be righteous.

But I also know that many committed evangelicals believe that Scripture unequivocally condemns same-sex erotic behavior, and I would not ever break fellowship with them over it. Being convinced this way does not make one homophobic or bigoted. Being convinced of this and using one’s certainty to assault and villify GLBT people DOES make someone a homophobe and a bigot. If I’m clear on anything in Scripture, I’m clear on the primacy of love over “getting it right.”

The primacy of love, in this or any other discussion, is not a feature of Wilson’s teaching, and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in his derision of “sodomites.” He purposely, and purposefully, uses a word that immediately divides the speaker from the hearer, and he mocks those of us who prefer to engage with people in the least-hostile, most-truthful, manner possible. That approach, perhaps mitigated by my being a woman, is a target of his indictment of what he cleverly terms “pomosexuality,” his understanding of sexuality and an ethic thereof in this post-Christian and post-modern world.

I’m not as clever as Wilson. I can’t top “pomosexuality.” I can, however, try to turn him back to the faith of his fathers and of his father, a faith that places evangelism at the forefront of Christian engagement. Certainly the saving of souls is not the focus of his or any other Calvinist’s religious walk, but the active, unnecessary repelling of souls shouldn’t be, either. Words of contempt and sarcasm, spit out with clever verbiage that strokes his followers, isn’t a feature of the faith of his fathers, a tenet of Calvinism, or a model for successful Christian engagement with the sinners — straight, gay, and everyone else — we’re supposed to try to reach for Christ.

We are sinners, all of us. There is no sin that any of us is not capable of, and there is no sinner who cannot be redeemed, Calvin and his TULIP notwithstanding. Making fun of homosexuals reinforces no right understanding of Scripture; it simply reinforces convenient bigotries nurtured and accommodated in the weak courage that comes from loving the fact that God hates all the same people you do. No one is a better Christian because they believe conservatively regarding homosexuality, and no one is a worse Christian because they take a more liberal position. But no one who treats other human beings with the kind of withering contempt Wilson and his followers do is a “better” Christian or a “worse” one — the withering contempt gives abundant evidence of simply “not a Christian.” There isn’t an ugly word for that. It stands alone; it doesn’t need one to sully it further.

No human being needs Jesus Christ because he’s gay. We all need Jesus Christ because we live and act and breathe in this sin-saturated world. We draw breath and stumble through life and we sin and find moments of joy and fall down seven times, get up eight, and do it all again. Pray God that those in Wilson’s world who don’t know Christ would receive the breath of life, the pneuma of God’s Spirit, and not the searing blast of hot air he throws so callously — the one that only scorches, never warms, but just produces a great show of fire for the other haters around him.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Isn’t it amazing how those four simple words, whose placement together announces the symbolic standing against of wife-battering, child-beating, sexual violence and the like, elicit with near certainty snorts of derision and snickers of mockery from our manly patriarchs here on the Palouse and elsewhere?

Because I can almost hear it. “Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” they read, with the unspoken, or chortled, “There she goes again!” And indeed I do, the snottiness of some of my readers notwithstanding.

The Kirk-influenced patriarchs, heads of households, and men of chest who think that things like devoting a month to awareness of domestic violence are just silly surely see Moscow’s street signs quietly bedecked these days with lavender ribbons and the names of victims of domestic violence — too many posts so adorned, bearing under tattered bows the names of women killed by their mates. Such symbolic protests must, to them, seem so emotional, so feminized, so indicative of the soft “pomosexuality” permeating our culture. Their responses are, perhaps, a bit more nuanced than that of the guy next to me Saturday who, upon reading the name of a woman murdered by her husband, muttered that “the bitch probably deserved it.”

It’s true that Kirk men — and I mean not just our local Doug Wilson disciples, but all of those men across the country influenced by him and other caretakers of “Biblical masculinity” — are never so crude as to suggest that women “deserve” what happens to them in violent homes, Christian or otherwise. I’ve never heard a Wilsonite call a woman a “bitch,” and, if pressed, I imagine they’d all say that beating a woman or a child is wrong, just as I’m sure they’d like to believe that it never happens in Covenant homes. That they are wrong on that point doesn’t prevent me from damning them with the faint praise of acknowledgment of their relative chivalry in a world teeming with disdain for women.

So. They pride themselves on being defenders of womanhood, but they aren’t in any ways allies of women. Kirk men will help you across the street if you’re carrying heavy groceries. They tend not to refer to the ladies in their midst as “bitches.”

But many of them will attend, or wish they could attend, this weekend’s “Sexual Orthodoxy” ministerial conference in Moscow, sponsored by Christ Church and featuring Wilson, his son-in-law, Ben Merkle, and Tim Bayly. In a time when gender violence continues to plague families, women and children in particular, when such violence is as prevalent in Christian homes as it is in non-Christian ones, and when those who care devote the month of October to spreading information about it, these three men will be holding forth on an array of topics pertaining to men, women, and the Church — every one of which, as described on the conference schedule page on the Christ Church website, exhibits that remarkable combination of combativeness, callousness, and puckish disregard for others the Kirk is so well known for, especially in its discussion of gender issues.

Do I speak too harshly? I don’t think so.

Earlier this year, a young Christian woman, five months pregnant, was strangled to death and her house set on fire, a crime for which her Christian husband is being tried. The couple reportedly had “some violence problems,” and the suspect had previously beaten her severely enough to require hospitalization. The heart aches to know what kind of counsel they received from their pastor, who is not affiliated with the Kirk. But within the past four years, two Christ Church/NSA young men have been convicted of sex crimes, one against a toddler; that man plead guilty to one count of molestation but confessed to many more against other children in the congregation and elsewhere. He still lives in Moscow, a registered sex offender on lifetime parole who served one year in the county jail for the crime to which he plead guilty and was discovered, just a month after his release, to have been peering through the blinds at a neighbor’s house with binoculars, masturbating.

Both of these young men were heavily involved in the Kirk, one studying at Greyfriars’ Hall to be a CREC pastor, the other an NSA student. Both lived in Kirk homes as boarders, and both were students during their years in Moscow of Wilson’s ethic of gender roles, sexuality, and masculinity. And Wilson’s response? A great deal of effort expended in making sure his Moscow neighbors knew that the pedophile wasn’t an actual, registered, on-the-rolls member of Christ Church — just a regular congregant, devoted communicant, upper-level student, and Kirk-family boarder.

Some of us thought that was a little less than the outward expression of sorrow and horror appropriate for these men’s pastor. We were looking for something that would indicate somber soul-searching and a return to Scripture to see if, maybe, the ethos learned by these of his charges might be in any way lacking. Clearly, something was very, very wrong.

We wondered if, perhaps, the sexual violence committed by his students would cause Wilson to re-examine his theology of masculinity, his rigid defense of traditional gender roles, his diminishment of women’s roles in church, home, and society, and his adherence to strong patriarchy as the only legitimate governance of the Christian family. That didn’t happen. And now, just a couple of years later, we have visiting Moscow this week a quiet storm of the most vicious kind of sexism and ignorance — the kind that falsely claims its genesis from the revelation of Scripture regarding God’s people, women and men created in his image.

I wish I were in Moscow this weekend, but I’ll be in Tucson until Tuesday. Still, I have my laptop, and I will address each conference topic — each little pseudo-pastoral, un-Biblical seed of male supremacy and women-diminishing exegesis — in turn. I’ve rarely seen such open fear and reviling of the feminine, even in secular sources of bigotry and ignorance. It speaks poorly for these men, and represents horribly the Church they claim to serve, that even two other men would commit to attending such a travesty. But there will be many more than two, all pastors or those aspiring to be pastors, elders, or deacons, and they’ll congratulate themselves over stout beer, cigars in hand, for their insightful revelations regarding what’s wrong with the Church. And what would that be? According to the conference schedule, that would be the feminine cultural ethos; womani-ish male pastors; gender-accurate Bible translations; egalitarians who see the Spirit, not gender, as the basis of giftedness; weak patriarchs; and women who aspire to leadership.

My, but we women are a ruinous lot, aren’t we?

Quite obviously, no women will attend, nor would any have been invited. That would appear to be evident, given that the ministers and would-be ministers to whom the conference is directed are never, in the pristinely masculine world of the Kirk, women. Less obvious, but perhaps more fun, is imagining how erstwhile student helpers will find an accurate Latin translation for “BOYZ ONLY! NO GURLS ALLOW’D!”

Next up: My take on the conference’s opening salvo, featuring Doug Wilson discussing “sodomy” as both a commonplace sin and a directed rebellion against high heaven.

Oh, For A Bullhorn, Flashing Neon Lights, And A Banner Across Times Square

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Darn the limitations of a two-dimensional, boringly-formatted blog, because the quote below deserves to catch the attention of every Christian reading it. Tattooing it on the palm of your hand may not be inappropriate here:

“The only justification for every dollar raised, every Bible or hymnbook printed, every speck of dust swept up from under every pew, is salvation — union with God. That is the business the Church is in.”

Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, “A Handbook of Christian Apologetics,” IVP 2003

Amen. May it be.

What Used To Be Obvious . . .

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

. . . clearly isn’t to many in Hollywood.

Some 30 years ago, the film director Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. He was charged, plead guilty, and was offered a sentencing deal that most in law enforcement and victim advocacy agreed was appropriate. But, fearing that a harsher judge might throw out the deal, Polanski high-tailed it to Europe, where he remained, free to walk the streets, make movies, and generally live his life in a most un-fugitive-like manner. Arrested last week in Switzerland, he is fighting a return to the U.S. to face trial.

Of course he would. A man who would rape a young girl isn’t likely to jump at the chance, three decades later, to face a judicial system that condemns that sort of thing — harshly and unequivocally. What’s truly astonishing is that more than two dozen of his colleagues in the cinematic world are rallying to his cause, while the inimitable Whoopi Goldberg defends him by explaining to the largely female audience of television’s “The View” that Polanski’s actions three decades ago were “rape,” but not really, you know, “RAPE rape.” Because, like, “RAPE rape” is the really BAD version of violently forcing sex on someone, not the more mild kind of “rape” that involves . . . violently forcing sex on someone.

Are we “CLEAR clear” on the distinction? Let’s move on, then.

All of this is no surprise, I guess, but the sad predictability makes it no less shocking. Any culture or institution that cranks out the cinematic feces we see oozing from the major studios and eagerly consumed by the misogynous, the puerile, and the violent who reward them with enormous profit, is not likely to rise up and condemn bad behavior and the man behind it. Still, any sane person would have to wonder why seemingly respectable people would cast their professional lot with a child rapist. Polanski is a talented director, but peer-group affirmation in this case stems from a desire to view him with a huge, qualifying “BUT,” as if his movie-making skills, while perhaps not enhanced by his violent attack on a child, somehow mitigate it.

The fact that the victim says she doesn’t want to see him prosecuted is irrelevant, although very sad. It doesn’t matter how magnaminous she feels now, and it really doesn’t matter how much that differs from the horror she must have felt then. Polanski committed a crime. The State needn’t burden itself with analyzing the feelings of the victim here. The State ought to bring him home and let the criminal chips fall where they may.

God help us if the classic “artistic temperament” with which we qualify quirky, passionate behavior expands now not to storming off a set over a fight involving scripts and scenery, but to storming violently into the precious sexual innocence of a little girl.

Make Room On Your Bookshelf

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Like most of you, I have quite a few Bibles.

I’m not into having a lot of stuff, not because I’m a liberal trying to live simply so that others may simply live, but because I don’t want or need much, and I don’t have a lot of space to fill with knick-knacks, quirky collectibles, or decorative accessories. Our house is small; the living room appears much smaller than it is because of the two huge 6-ft. tall bookcases that, groaning under the weight of the Emerine-Mix Family Library, Sections One and Two, flank the entry.

But I like having my Bibles close at hand, and I regularly cycle through about ten of them — enormous study Bibles with tiny print, “compact” Bibles easily tossed into a messenger bag or large purse, some text-only, others with concordances, maps, and translation notes. A few are personalized and all are leather, gender-accurate (TNIV, NLT, GWT, NRSV, NAB, and NET), and full of evidence of my belief that reading is a contact sport. (Here’s a hint: Use Crayola twist-up crayons as highlighter/underliners!). I could, in a pinch (or at gunpoint), pare my collection down to half a dozen, not including my Spanish-language Nueva Version Internacional large print OR my NIV/NVI parallel. It wouldn’t be impossible, but, if I were forced by some Bible-confiscating atheist street gang to turn over all but a few, I’d get a little twitchy. Who knows? I might need to compare the NAB with the NET before going with the NRSV, all to make Prevailing Winds as vibrant a read as I intend for it.

So, please, someone — if you spy a group of CHristopher Hitchens-adoring street thugs swaggering down Third Street, burlap bags in hand, do let me know.

It’s established, then, that I buy a lot of Bibles, even though I’ve been trying to cut back. But I’m going to confess right here that rather than whittle down my Bible library, as I’ve promised Jeff I’ll do, I’m forced to make room for just one more addition — the Women’s Study Bible, NLT, edited and with study notes and articles by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary Evans, published by Oxford University Press. I’ve already placed my order, and come Thursday afternoon, I’ll begin a marathon frenzy of reading, noting, highlighting, flagging, and otherwise diving in to a study I’ve waited years for. Pass the Visine, please.

But before I talk about the joys of finally having a complete Bible edited by Clark Kroeger, a pioneer in the small but vibrant world of evangelical egalitarianism (which calls, based on Scripture, for gender equality and mutuality in the home, Church, and society), I will beg your patience while I go on a rant about “women’s” Bibles. You may want to usher the little ones upstairs . . .

My dismay at the plethora of Women’s Study Bibles available to evangelical women, who seemingly will buy anything covered in the aesthetic tragedy of Lime ‘n Melon Duo-Tone or featuring a soft-focus coffee cup on it, is legendary. I’m saddened by the Church’s incessant need to model the first-century customs, like sex segregation, that Jesus turned upside down by relating to women in the freeing, radically cross-cultural ways that he did. While our Savior commended Mary for choosing the better thing, Christian publishers have been enormously successful in herding women away from their studious and curious brothers and back into a world defined by home and hearth — promoting a Church full of Marthas at a time when it is radiant with Marys and needs all of them it can get.

I’ve long believed that Christian women need to be less concerned with being ladies and more concerned with being genuine, something that an emphasis on “lady-likeness” and femininity can’t accomplish. The discipleship of women is enhanced when we study from a Bible that, ironically and unfortunately, presumes a male readership in its notes and commentaries and thus emphasizes doctrine and a dynamic Christian life of evangelism, service, and wise, enthusiastic, use of gifts — which, sadly, has often been thought of as qualities appropriate primarily, if not exclusively, for men. “Women’s Bibles,” on the other hand, emphasize relationships — a wonderful thing, but unfruitful until men are encouraged to live relationally as well — and encourage the Christian disciplines of waiting, supporting, and enduring. Important traits, these are, but they’ve been used to unfairly and unfortunately keep gifted women at home when the world outside needs them, while also reinforcing to men that head knowledge and “rubber hitting the road” are sufficient virtues whose presence excuses them from the things of the heart.

And, of course, the tendency of Bible publishers to put out study or devotional Bibles for women in gender-inaccurate language (for example, “Blessed is the man who walketh not . . .”) is one of those sad, shocking ironies that make life interesting but convict us all. It’s hard to see how women benefit from gender-specific Bibles that wrongly, I believe, use language that, in its plain reading, excludes her from the blessings and growth every Christian, male and female, desires and is called to.

So while Jesus radically taught women and men together, in public and in private, and lauded one woman’s insistence on learning at the feet of her Rabbi, the publishing arm of the Church has sought out ways to comfort Martha and convert Mary. Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary Evans will have none of it.

Clark Kroeger is one of my heroes, an evangelical feminist scholar whose exegesis of difficult New Testament passages regarding women and the church have benefited me more than any other single source. She writes eloquently of women and history, and is passionate in her lament of the domestic violence as prevalent in the families that make up the Church as in the families it’s charged to reach for Christ. Her commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, her unapologetic egalitarianism, and her pursuit, well into her 70s, of ways to reach men and women with Christ’s Gospel of reconciliation and liberation — from both the sins we commit, and from the sins others commit that hurt us — doesn’t make her a conservative or a liberal. They make her a giant of the faith, a disciple of Jesus whose effect on me has been remarkable. Her work would change your life, too. The Spirit works mightily through her.

I’m not as well acquainted with Mary Evans’ work, but Clark Kroeger’s NRSV New Testament for Women, which she edited and contributed to with British theologian Elaine Storkey, was a solid source of exegesis and instruction with nary a hazy picture of a coffee cup or slice-of-life anecdote about menopause. Evans, then, is in good company here, and Oxford University Press should be commended for commissioning the project. This isn’t a “women’s Bible” for any reason other than it speaks to women with the same voice and in the same way as our Lord, the One who saves us not by his maleness, but by his human-ness, his flesh ripped apart on the cross so that we, his people, might be knit together as His Body. Clark Kroeger’s work helps make that unity more attainable, to the praise and glory of God.

Let your life be changed. Buy this Bible and invite your sisters and brothers to study from it with you. I’d like to hear how the Lord touches you through Clark Kroeger’s work!

A Gentle Reminder From A Dubious Source

Monday, October 5th, 2009

“Try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and thought. The joys come from putting the welfare of others above our own. That is what love is. And the sorrow comes primarily from selfishness, which is the absence of love.”

President Henry B. Eyring, counselor to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Like most of my evangelical readers, I do not consider the Mormon faith to be Christian, given that its basis is that “As man is now, God once was; as God is now, man can become,” which conflicts dreadfully with the Christian belief that God is One and there can be no other like the Yahweh we worship. The affirmation that any human being can become God, or that our God once was a mere human, is repugnant to me.

Nonetheless, the words above are a beautiful illustration of the conduct that God requires of us, and in a world that has “Christians” cursing both unbelievers and each other while developing theologies that encourage and excuse self-satisfying and Other-diminishing thoughts and actions, they serve as a much-needed corrective.