Archive for November, 2009

Faith or Easy Living?

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

“You and I have the ability to live with a delusion of self-sufficiency. In other words, we can speak much of faith, while at the same time ordering our lives so that we don’t really live by faith at all.”
Steve Massey, pastor, Hayden Bible Church

Aim High In Steering

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I may have written about this before on Prevailing Winds, or maybe on Moscow’s Vision 2020, but events of this weekend bring the idea to mind again, and I think it bears repeating. It all started in high school, when I was 15 and 7 months, clamoring for my driver’s license and suffering through Mr. Brown’s teaching of the Smyth System of driving.

The Smyth System, developed, I suppose, by someone named Smyth who was a better driver than I turned out to be, was composed of five points, the first of which Mr. Brown drummed into us every day during Driver’s Ed. At Cholla High School (that’s pronounced “CHOY-a,” by the way), Driver’s Ed was taught during the same nine-week period as Sex Education, for which Smyth presumably had a system he chose not to share with teenagers.

The first of the hallowed five pillars of Smyth System-driving was “Aim High In Steering.” Smyth, channeled by football coach Brown, taught that drivers should never guide their vehicles by simply peering over the hood, focusing only on the road directly ahead of them and puttering along oblivious to things far and wide. The good driver was an aware driver, confident in her observation and analysis of the road ahead — not just that part of the road over which her metallic copper ’73 Maverick 4-door was cruising, but the whole grid of intersections, driveways, lights and fellow drivers around us. Nothing surprised the Smyth System driver; every unsignaled lane change, every driver backing out of his driveway into traffic, every sudden yellow light had been anticipated. Smyth, bless his methodical little heart, knew that only by looking up from our own car could we safely guide it through the maze of drivers who didn’t benefit from his careful tutorials — the last four of which I’ve completely forgotten.

But I find that “aim high in steering” has stayed with me because it’s a wonderfully effective way of doing life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s easy to meander through life — or slingshot through life — focused on ourselves and those things that are directly in front of us. Sometimes it’s because we’re in distress, and our problems are so consuming that nothing apart from them gets our attention. Other times, we’re wrapped up in prayer, worship, and fellowship — skipping through life with our eyes correctly turned on Jesus, but wrongly focused on “Jesus-n-me, just the two of us.” Either way, we aren’t “aiming high in steering,” and we miss opportunities to serve others.

So how can the believer incorporate Smyth’s admonition to look up, look far, and look wide into her walk with God? The first step, I think, is to determine that there are things all around us that the Lord wants us to notice. It’s very likely, every day, that there are people walking downtown among you who need something — a light of their cigarette, an opened door, an encouraging “good morning!” I can’t count the times when something seemingly insignificant has turned into an opportunity to minister, and while it’s true that I’m a pretty outgoing woman, it’s equally true that you, too, can learn to anticipate needs — even if the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger fills you with dread. The world is full of hurting souls, and you walk among them. Decide, then, that what you might do matters.

The second step is to develop some street smarts — that is, cultivate your ability not just to see, but to observe, to understand. An example this weekend illustrates my point.

I’ve been on retreat, staying at a hotel in Moscow, since Wednesday afternoon. I prayed that while I was taking this time to really hear from the Lord and work through some of the painful events of the last several months, the Spirit would lead me to minister something, in some way, to someone. Yesterday, I noticed a young woman and a toddler drive up to the hotel in an old car — “beater” would be generous — crammed with laundry baskets filled with clothes, photo albums stacked on the back seat, a couple of suitcases, and grocery store bags filled with food. This didn’t look like a fun weekend getaway; years of ministry experience with women in crisis and with the poor has given me a strong dose of street smarts, recognition that tells me when there’s a problem. I was able to offer some help to a young woman escaping an abusive home and heading to rehab. God had answered my prayer.

And yet, Lilly (not her real name) was going to be at the Super 8 regardless of whether or not I was there. And nothing about me is remarkable in any way; God graciously used me yesterday and will use me again, just because he dearly loves Lilly and every other hurting person in my path. But I have cultivated a desire to “aim high” as I go through life, and with it comes the gut-knowledge, the street smarts, that he uses through me. I choose to walk with eyes opened and aimed high; I think that’s an imperative for all of us. And if the requirements and culture of your Christian fellowship keep you so busy, or so pure, that you neither recognize symptoms of hurt around you nor understand the need to address them, you’re in the wrong place.

That leads to my final point — it’s one thing to determine that there’s a world around you that needs a touch from the Lord and that he would often have you be the one to bring it. That’s a given. But I guarantee that you can skip, mope, or sprint through life without ever making personal contact with strangers. You can plan your route and navigate your Self so that the roads you travel are filled with people just like you, people whose needs are minimal, whose presence comforts you, and whose walk is just like yours. In that sense, you can choose to live out your Christian life on auto-pilot, cruising around a track so uniform, so uncluttered, that you need barely to keep your eyes open. You can have that, if you choose, and I can assure you that you’ll never be bothered. In fact, the safest possible course to choose, in driving and in life, is to set aside the Smyth System and ask the Lord if you can just keep it in neutral, idling in the driveway and never needing to look around, look far, or look up. A car in neutral, never leaving the driveway, is at no risk of collision, no risk of being slammed by the unanticipated or cut off by the unaware.

But there are Lillys all around you, if you’ll just look. The Scriptures say they could be angels to whom we minister unaware, or they could just be poor souls, wandering and waiting. I pray that none of us would ever be so focused on looking at Jesus that we fail to see him, and serve him, in the needs of those around us whose hunger, distress, loneliness, and poverty daily call to us — if we’ll just look around and walk with our focus not just On High, but on high.

Humorless Liberals And Dour Leftists

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

You know, it’s funny.

I keep hearing from critics that I have no sense of humor — that, like the stereotypical all-too-earnest liberal, I’m so busy being offended and trying to change the world that I can’t see past my furrowed brow to laugh at life’s little ironies, chuckle at some of the inherent silliness of our culture, or snicker at bumperstickers that joke about the death of the President.

Yep. That’s me — a poster child for the truly pinched and proper.

Still, I’m actually a pretty witty gal. Years ago, before I decided to embrace a life of dour liberal seriousness and drab fundamentalist fear of the zany, I did a bit of standup and improv. I wrote a rap song about boogers for my 2-year-old son. I even got asked to leave a La Leche League meeting once for not taking lactation seriously enough. And my kicking off our July 2007 KRFP live radio debate by proposing, then rejecting, a 10-round cage fight between Doug Wilson and myself was, I dare say, every bit as engaging as his reading of Christ Church’s activities in the community.

So rather than having the man — the church elder — who posted the death-of-Obama bumpersticker joke snap that I have no sense of humor, let’s acknowledge instead that a mature sense of humor is both vibrant and discerning. Without the former, it’s all just an object lesson. Without the latter, the heartiest guffaw can reveal the hardest of hearts.

Were You Horrified ?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Think back a few years ago, when Moscow was all abuzz about slavery, serrated edges, and Jesus using the “N” word . . .

Were you among the crowd, Christian or not, who was horrified when Doug Wilson wrote in his execrable book “The Serrated Edge” that Jesus Christ used the equivalent of the “N” word when dealing with the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite) woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30?

If you’re not a disciple of Jesus, did it puzzle you to think that Jesus would use a phrase as ugly to first-century Jews and Gentiles as “N—–” is to us now to describe another human being, especially one pleading for his help?

And if you’re a Christian, were you gobsmacked, heartbroken, and gut-wrenched that a Christian pastor and teacher was so sloppy in his exegesis of an admittedly difficult passage that he reverted to obvious and intentional offense to make his already tenuous point? Did you wince at his choice of rhetoric because you knew it was grossly offensive and, worse, that the advocate of the “serrated edge” in dealing with non-believers knew it?

Demeanor, character, wisdom, humility — they all matter, both for teachers of disciples and for teachers of non-believing, potential critics. Wilson’s was a failure not just of exegesis, but of decency. In proudly announcing that he would not be “embarrassed” by any part of Scripture, he then proceeded to bring shame on the character of Christ.

The teaching of Scripture is not just an academic exercise; Christians believe that the Word is alive, that the Holy Spirit speaks through it and that understanding of the text is important because it informs and shapes the believer’s conduct and character. Teaching is a heavy calling, and the Bible charges teachers with enormous responsibility to not just get it right, but get it so that others can grasp it. This is typically done, as I think you would imagine, with a sensitivity toward one’s students and audience — never compromising the Word, but never corrupting it, either. It should go without saying that giving deliberate offense is a violation of the charge given teachers of Scripture.

Consider, please, the larger context in which Wilson offered the “N” word gem. A firestorm of controversy had erupted when it was revealed that he and co-author Steve Wilkins termed the enslavement of Blacks a “harmonious” relationship based on “mutual affection” between slave and “Christian” master. After that vomitorium of scholarship and historical analysis, did you think that his attributing, in effect, the “N” word to the Savior was astonishing proof of a hard heart, tin ear, and dense mind — right on the heels, as it was, of his exaltation of the slaveholding American South in “Southern Slavery As It Was”?

Or were you just kind of blown away, first by the fact that a pastor would publish a manual on the proper practice of snottiness for the Christian and include in it an example of our Lord’s wielding the “serrated edge” by calling a woman, in first-century terms, a “N—–”?

Pretty disgusting, wasn’t it all? It ought still to leave a sour taste in your mouth.

But help is on the way, in the form of true, solid, and accessible exegesis of the Bible passages by a Christians For Biblical Equality scholar. My friends at CBE have given me the OK to offer, at my expense, copies of the article published in its academic journal, The Priscilla Papers. It’s a profoundly rich analysis of the passages that describe Christ’s interaction with the Canaanite woman. I can say without hesitation that this article represents probably the best exegesis of Scripture — any part of Scripture — that I have ever read in my 29 years of study, and it’s a balm of healing for those cut by the insensitivity and nonchalant stupidity of Wilson’s scholarly serrated edge. Please — take me up on my offer; you can email me at kjajmix1@msn.com and tell me where to send it. It’s on me.

And next week I’ll have a few copies nicely stapled and folded to hand deliver to the merry men of Anselm House. Bible study is good, and Bible teaching is, too. It’s more important to me to point readers to an outstanding, perceptive study of the Word than it is to refute Wilson. But it’s foolish to not recall the offense I’m hoping to correct. Maybe the article will remind the Kirk leaders that being offensive for the sake of being offensive doesn’t just lead to lousy scholarship, but it’s troubling to the Prince of Peace. If that sort of thing matters.

On What Grounds?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

“It is on the grounds of the character of God, not the status of the person, that there is entry to the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, so deeply ingrained is the belief that one’s status, wealth, and attempts at morality can unlock heaven’s door that these things become a hindrance.”

Rosemary M. Dowsett, writing in The Women’s Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2009, NLT 2nd Edition).

(The Oxford Women’s Study Bible, edited by Drs. Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary Evans, is a conservative evangelical study Bible with study notes and commentary from a feminist/egalitarian perspective).

My Diagnosis: A Most Troublesome Yeast Infection

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Yeast, as every Bible student knows, is almost always referred to in the Old and New Testaments as an agent of spoilage, an ingredient that Leviticus 2:11 tells us renders grain unacceptable for sacrifice and a symbol in Matthew 16:6 of the Pharisees’ erroneous and ugly teachings.

And so, after analyzing the recent eruptions of contaminated, spoiled, corrupted and filthy rhetoric from Christ Church’s pastor and one of its elders, I believe I’m on solid ground in diagnosing a widespread, virulent yeast infection raging throughout the Kirk and its affiliates. The symptoms are there, but, praise be to God, the cure is easily found.

Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether or not Kirk leadership, led by Wilson, avails itself of treatment. God is patient; the cure is efficacious. But this appears to be a congregation that easily accommodates spoilage, and only they know how much more infected they’ll choose to become. For now, the unabashed and unabated contamination Wilson unleashes with his words appears to spread without objection, leading me to conclude that the yeast infection working through Christ Church has completely erased from its congregants and others any memory of things good, true, and lovely.

Filth From The Kirk Men. We’ve Got A Gusher.

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

You truly, honestly, fervently hope something will stanch the flow of filth from Anselm House. Just since the weekend, we’ve had Christ Church Elder Dale Courtney and his Scripture-as-Obama-Death-Wish foray into humor. Now the much-circulated (would I be nuts for guessing “altered”?) photo of Barack Obama bowing deeply to the Japanese emperor and his wife has Wilson declaring that Obama wouldn’t bow that way to the Queen.

How does Wilson say he knows? Let’s read from yesterday’s Blog and Mablog:

“The president wouldn’t be caught dead bowing to the Queen of England, for she is Anglo, but acts like Steppin Fetchitt when introduced to any royalty of color.”

And, in case you require a one-two punch to figure out that Douglas Wilson is a despicable man who, like his fan boy Courtney, is by character utterly unqualified to serve in any leadership position in any church, he wraps it up — same post — with a comment on what he thinks of Obama’s presidency:

“It begins to appear that he doesn’t care if his is a failed presidency, just so long as the country fails along with him. The pilot doesn’t mind if he goes down, just so long as the plane goes down with him. Is this a suicide bomber president?”

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

Wilson is a blight on God’s Church. I pray the Lord’s mercy extends its reach even to the wolves, and does so before this particular one further extends his reach among the sheep.

I Believe Kids These Days Would Call It A Shout-Out To My Homie

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Folk singer Nancy McCallion, who combines traditional folk music with “Tejano” Mexican and Irish/Celtic influences, has just released a new CD, “Take A Picture of Me,” dedicated to the working poor during this shattered economy. Here’s a link — give it a listen. A better blogger would know how to hyperlink it. I am not that blogger. Anyway, Nancy’s website is www.nancymccallion.com:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrBP06WV7t8

I grew up with Nancy in Tucson; her brother sang at our wedding and our families — hers staunchly Catholic, mine somewhat less so — attended Our Lady of Fatima (whose unfortunate roof design earned it the nickname “Our Lady of Pizza Hut”). She and mandolin genius Catherine Zavala, whose brother did not sing at my wedding, were the creative force behind The Mollies, one of my alt-country favorites.

Nancy’s insistence on writing about the lament of the poor and aligning herself with undocumented workers pretty much guarantees that she won’t hit gold on this or any other CD, but better treasures await those who speak, and sing, for those whose voices aren’t often heard.

"You Say You Want A Revolution" — And I Do

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Lord, yes, I want a revolution. If you’re paying attention, you do, too.

But mine would be a revolution of fervent, God-reliant, Spirit-filled, Christ-modeled lovingkindness, unshirking in its confrontation of every injustice and its advocacy for the poor, marginalized, and hated. “Radical submission” — never the kind practiced by any woman under patriarchy — would usher in a world where, from a position of security and worth, human beings can choose to glorify God.

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out NOT ONLY for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:2b-4, HCSB)

That’s Biblical submission. For the glory of God and the lives of women, the poor, and the outcast, bring it on.

A Comment Well Worth Highlighting

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

My frequent critic “Ashwin” says, of “Heroes: I’ve Got A Quiverful!”

“You have identified a problem – men abusing their authority over women – and have named it “patriarchy”. The assumption is that if the “patriarchy” is demolished e.g. by women being more independent and assertive, the problem will go away.

I contend otherwise. The problem is well known – sin. Rebellion against God. If women became more assertive, the problem would remain and manifest in other ways. Perhaps in a sort of “matriarchy” for future generation of men to rail against.

The unkind men need to be confronted with the Holy One of Israel. Not with feminist propaganda.” (end of comment)

My response: First, Ashwin, once your initial comment is logged, I don’t know how to delete it. Please know, your gracious apology is accepted.

But I don’t want patriarchy to be demolished by “women being more independent and assertive”! That does NOTHING to confront the initial sin and leaves men behind in the redemption and renewal of all things. Positive social change is critical for the Church to embrace and embody, but not for the goal of social change. The offense of patriarchy is that it’s a sin against the Holy One and destroys what was created “very good” by the Word — and it’s manifested in this world by the evils of violence, bigotry, wrongful hierarchy and injustice of all kinds.

I want patriarchy demolished through men repenting from their practice of and benefit from that horrible upending of the Creation mandate; through women embracing the wisdom, strength, and beauty of their being fully created in the image of a God neither male nor female; and through the Church humbly exploring what went wrong in centuries of male domination and male-supremacy teaching — teaching birthed in sin and sustained by a hermeneutic so inconsistent and convoluted that even good men get drawn in.

And while it’s good for women and men to accept their self-worth and good for society to promote justice in every institution, true “social change” is an act of the Spirit. Fortunately, God’s Spirit works when men and women desire righteousness for the glory of God, and the Church can serve both God and humankind by leading the way.

THAT’S how patriarchy, and any other sinful belief and practice, gets demolished.