Archive for November, 2009

Not Confidential to Christ Church Elder Dale Courtney:

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Dale Courtney, whose Right-Mind.us blog is a repository for the ugliest of “Christian” thought, brightens our Sabbath with this little gem:

The following bumpersnicker was seen by my friend, Rose B:

“Pray for Obama. Psalm 109:8″

So you don’t have to look it up, here’s Psalm 109:8

“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

(Right-Mind.us, Nov. 14, 2009, Dale Courtney).

Now, some of you might find that amusing. Other than that I pity your viciously calcified hearts, I have no use for you.

Others of you will write and tell me that Matthew 18 says I should confront Courtney in person. That would be ideal, except that Dale has banned me from his blog and email accounts and hasn’t answered phone calls from me, and grace prevents me from humiliating him by going into detail publicly about the two times I’ve tried to talk to him in person. Further, public error and sin justifies public rebuke — I’m certainly no Paul and God knows he’s no Peter, but the pattern is there in Galatians. Clear?

So, with that in mind, let me say to Dale:

Your gleeful delight in wrongly using Scripture as a joke to reflect your hatred for Obama, coupled with your congregation’s enthusiastic reliance on imprecatory prayer to condemn him and others, reveals you to be a man entirely unqualified by character to be a deacon or elder in any Christian church. It also renders you incapable of assuring anyone who reads your “joke” that you truly are a Spirit-birthed man. I beg you to repent, for your sake and for the sake of the Lord Jesus and his Gospel, and I rebuke your pastor for continuing to allow you to sully the Biblical office of elder and to foul the waters of the Gospel with your words.

Amen.

Heroes: I’ve Got A Quiverfull

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

The difficult events of last winter and spring got me a little off track in my promise to write periodically about women and men I viewed as heroes. I think all so far have been people I’ve been blessed to know personally: My paternal grandfather, a firebrand journalist; Bible Scholar Frances Norris; Missionary and Pastor Lupita Rocha Q.; the young Western Washington woman I consider my daughter, whose undocumented status is the reason I’m not using her name; and my maternal grandmother, whose gentleness was entirely evident even after, as a widow and abused woman, she once shot a guy who tried to break in to her house.

And you would be forgiven — nay, profusely thanked — if you concluded from my writing after his death nine months ago that my father was also a hero in my eyes, from the very earliest memories of dancing a ludicrously clumsy “Swan Lake” with him as a little girl to the time in September 2008, the last time I was able to really speak with him in person, when I realized that my preternaturally youthful father was, at 72, finally beginning to look his age. Or, more accurately, the age of the late-50s-looking guy at the table next to us.

This son of a newspaperman was himself an uncompromisingly dedicated and gifted reporter, and as I sort through boxes of mementos shipped home after my visit to Tucson last month, I’m fascinated and warmed by the stories I’ve come to understand about him. (I realize now, for example, why a photograph that puzzled me greatly during my childhood showed my terribly handsome and impeccably groomed dad looking unshaven, disheveled, and thoroughly defeated. It was taken during an undercover assignment in his cop-reporter days and wasn’t, as I’d always thought, a grim souvenir of some vagabond state that my birth had somehow rescued him from).

So I grew up under the roof and in the shadow of a vastly imperfect man who I nonetheless idolized. In very many ways, a daughter can grow up to be just like her dad; in my case, I chose to study journalism and become a writer not just because I loved and respected Papa and my dad, but because I knew they were damned good at what they did, and that what they did mattered. I was raised in a household suffused with competence and conviction, which makes it easy to then recognize extraordinary virtue and talent in other people around you. And quite often that virtue and talent come to us through the written word, delivered by people who are strangers to us, words whose immediacy can jolt our complacency, feed our hearts, and sharpen our minds — and words whose permanence means that the reminder, perhaps even the rebuke, is always there, poised no less sharp between the covers just as surely as it’s etched on our consciences. Books can make heroes out of the struggling. Occasionally, heroes are made by the books they write.

Such is the case with New York writer Kathryn Joyce, a self-identified secular feminist whose just-published book, “Quiverfull: Inside The Christian Patriarchy Movement” (Beacon Press, 2009), I read last weekend. It’s powerful, more so, perhaps, than any book I’ve read in the last decade, and as a Christian woman opposed to patriarchy and doctrines of male supremacy with every fiber of her being, which I imagine you’ve picked up on, I will be discussing it here over the next month or so. It will stay in my heart and my mind for much, much longer, though. Dispatches reporting the depths to which humankind has fallen tend to do that. And the prophetic call for righteousness that usually accompanies such dispatches? It beckons forth something, planted by God, that never expires.

It was, for me, impossible to read “Quiverfull” without tears of rage and sorrow; I can’t imagine that Joyce, a journalist with extensive experience writing about culture and religion, was able to completely detach herself from the misery of which she wrote. She does not identify as Christian, and so the offense of “Christian” patriarchy likely struck her in ways similar and also different from how it wounded me. But her reporting is spot-on. She endeavored to know their stuff; she succeeded by clearly, then, knowing hers. As an important work of journalism and cultural critique, it’s a triumph.

I have read, in the last year, several books written by “secular” journalists critical of the Religious Right, and Joyce’s commitment to basic newspaper- and magazine-journalism accuracy and form is laudable. Max Blumenthal, the author of the newly released “Republican Gomorrah,” was careless in his reporting — the factual errors he makes would have earned an automatic “F” in Professor Emerine’s Newswriting 101 class, and there’s a snarkiness of tone, or perhaps just a detached haughtiness, that does nothing to strengthen conclusions that, better presented, I’d likely agree with. Jeff Sharlett’s “The Family” documents, with full journalistic vigor and abundant attribution, the “secret fundamentalism” that operates within and among the most powerful men in the world; his is an important work, impressive in its scope and chilling, as he intends it to be, in its conclusions. But a book about shadowy Christian laypeople who are nonetheless some of the richest and most influential men in power anywhere, and who don’t want you to know about them, can’t possibly be as personal as “Quiverfull,” and it’s in this that I find Joyce’s greatest success.

The stories told and the doctrines disseminated in “Quiverfull” were a kick in the stomach and a shattering of the heart — and I promise to present and analyze them very soon. But now I’m talking about heroes, about how being raised with one and seeing his work and having him expect that I would produce good work as well, maybe even writing that surpasses his, taught me to analyze and appreciate what he’d have called “solid stuff.” And, indeed, Joyce has produced rock-solid, enduring truth that speaks with authority about a movement here and now that ought to horrify men and women, especially those who hate when violence and injustice are enshrined as Christian virtues. (This should not be a subculture of the faith — which seems glaringly, even offensively, evident. But the embrace of bigotry and unrighteousness has its fervent supporters, too many of whom have pastorates and publishers). I’ve studied a lot about this and other aberrant, even dangerous, Christian movements, and it’s easily the best book I’ve read on “Christian” teachings on male supremacy. In that, Joyce has given the world, and me, a great gift.

As I write this, I’m thinking back to last weekend, when I read “Quiverfull” straight through and mentally cheered Joyce on, applauding each time she skillfully tore the veil off of evil and shined a light on some new example of bad men behaving badly. I was, even while wiping away tears and crying out to the Lord Jesus, stomping the bleachers at every solidly insightful conclusion. Finally, I thought. Someone sees, and someone finally gets it! And that’s true. Joyce sees, and she absolutely gets it. May God be praised for her work and for the good the Spirit will do through it.

But I mentioned earlier the “rebuke” that a prophetically powerful book can level, even after it’s been read, digested, and set aside, and there came a time last weekend during my cheers and tears and applause and outrage that I felt a different kind of . . . something. My more fundamentalist friends would call it “conviction,” the nudging of the Holy Spirit when we fail in our walk. Non-believing friends would call it “guilt,” and probably, because they love me, try to talk me out of it. But me? I call it the sudden, God-wrought realization that this woman, Kathryn Joyce, a hard-nosed, brilliant journalist writing as an outsider from the patriarchy movement and the Church that tragically birthed it, a writer not charged with evincing care and concern for her subjects, was nonetheless far more Christlike in her observations and conclusions than I, the publicly self-identified evangelical and preacher whose charge is to care, was. She spoke of these women with an ineffable kindness and respect. I was just mad at them.

And that brought me to my knees.

In my cheerleading and lamentations, as I burned with anger toward men who abuse women and pleaded with God to show me why, God showed me something else. Joyce, throughout her work in “Quiverfull,” demonstrates a quiet concern for the women she met — hundreds, probably, whose lifestyle choice must have seemed utterly insane, utterly tragic, to her, far beyond the tepid politeness represented by a phrase like “lifestyle choice.” She witnessed countless acts that demonstrated that in a fallen world, men can choose to act as God prohibits — and produce reams of sermons and scores of books that make them rich in the process. She immersed herself in a world where women betray themselves body, soul, and spirit — and willingly, in the name of worship, betray their sisters as well. She saw it all, in all its ugliness and rot, and emerged from it with her story intact, her facts straight, and her heart, it seems, sincerely touched by the plight of even the most arrogantly insistent woman defending her captors. In doing so, Joyce exhibits in her book nothing of the kind of battle fatigue that results in bitter despair, an “Oh, what the hell” surrender laced with contempt for the bad guys and enabled by separation from those weaker, more sullied, less enlightened, than you. Or “than me,” in some of my “Oh, what the hell” moments. And that’s my point.

I came to see, God be praised, a revelation that I didn’t feel terribly much like praising God for: It’s sometimes easier for my heart to break than for my heart to soften, and that perhaps some of the heartbreak I’ve felt in doing battle against bad theology and worse practice is because my heart has become brittle. I want the sharp mind and strong countenance, the things I know gave life to “Quiverfull,” but I see now that a broken heart isn’t always a soft heart, and without a soft heart, it can just be doing battle.

And so . . . Any woman, a stranger to me, whose words and work show me that in her book really is a hero in mine. Thanks be to God.

Veteran’s Day

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Thank you to all of my readers who have served in the military. May our troops be brought home safely, and soon, and may we never again send them into battle on the basis of a illegitimate lie, even one birthed in legitimate anger.

And Luke, my prayers continue for you ’til you’re home. You’re my son’s age; may God grant your mama the peace that passes all understanding and erupts in the precious embrace of a strong woman’s arms when you’re finally home safe, for good. God bless you.

The Execution of John Allen Muhammad

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Barring any last-minute clemency or accepted appeals, the man known as the “D.C. Sniper,” John Allen Muhammad, will be killed tonight for gunning down 10 Washington-area citizens and holding the Beltway in terror for three weeks in 2002.

The victims’ families will talk about “finding closure,” the media will talk about his final statement, if he chooses to make one, and speculate on his choice not to have a spiritual advisor present, and his family members will be asked, Larry King-style, “how they feel” about having their murderous father/husband/brother executed. And, just as certainly, the tailgating rowdies who descend upon State executions will conduct their righteous and rowdy vigils outside the prison gates, grunting about “justice” and waving placards that capture the entirety of a nation’s moral compass on foamboard and paint stirrers.

Most of them will call themselves Christians, and most of them will utter — and butcher — solemn portions of the Bible that they insist call for John Allen Muhammad’s “ass to be fried,” as one moralist phrased it. The more uncouth among them might paraphrase the Scriptures just that way; the more refined, if “refined” people are those who swoop down on prisons to celebrate executions, will explain that “the Bible says” an eye for an eye, or vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. They might even remind breathless newscasters that Romans 13 promises that God wants the State to wield the sword, and they’ll opine that this is what the Apostle Paul meant, just this very thing — the State killing a man who killed 10, avenging a tenth-fold on earth what the Holy One will avenge tenfold.

I think they’ll all be wrong. They do, however, unlike anti-capital punishment evangelicals and Bible teachers, make for great copy and exciting “color.” I’ll grant them that, but nothing else.

The Old Testament undoubtedly, indisputably, calls for execution for willing, wanton, murder. But we Christ-followers are people of the New Testament, disciples of the One who had, according to the Old Testament, every right to call for and participate in — with a holy alacrity, even — the stoning of the adulterous woman in John’s Gospel. We uphold not the Law of the Moses, but the Way of Christ Jesus, and that Way is more often than not studiously opposed to the easy settling-for of the quick read, and much more often than not subverts it with an approach to evil that, in Divine wisdom, results in more justice even as it offers more mercy. This is the character of a reconciling God. We just don’t want to see it, once we’ve determined that God has graciously reconciled us.

“An eye for an eye” doesn’t really leave the whole world blind, Gandhi’s life notwithstanding; it was the Old Testament regulator that ensured that retaliatory responses to violence never exceeded the initial offense. If, for example, the shepherd’s donkey kicked out my tooth, only the value of that injury could be extracted from him. I couldn’t send my cousin to beat him to a pulp. Quoting that “vengeance is mine” requires not only the completion of the sentence — “sayeth the LORD” — but also a recognition that God does not share that prerogative’s ultimate expression with mortals. Even the ones who foam at the mouth. And the correct exegesis of Romans 13 says much more about proper respect for and submission to governmental authorities; the swordplay therein is hyperbole that illustrates the allowed breadth of civil authority, not a call for State head-shopping, literal or otherwise.

The fact that the United States’ legal system is replete with bias, weakness, and injustice — that the poor are virtually guaranteed to suffer from the unrighteousness inherent in its makeup — means that calls for the widespread, or even occasional, implementation of capital punishment are nothing more than dangerous invitations to abuse and sin far more offensive to a Holy God than allowing a murderer — as John Muhammad surely is — to live. The only response the Christian can make in the face of the impending death of a human being by the State is grief, sorrow, and hope: Grief for the pain he visited upon other people, sorrow at what we might guess could be the state of his soul, and hope in the mercy of our righteous God, extended in infinite grace to each one of us and, perhaps tonight especially, to those who, by celebrating the death of a murderer, pretty up only just a little the evil they abhor.

Defended By A Woman

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

This is a re-posting of my Nov. 7 comments regarding the female cop at Fort Hood who has been credited for taking down Nidal Malik Hasan during the massacre there two days earlier. A reader objected and asked that I take the post down; I obliged, thinking that perhaps more time needed to pass before I risked “making a point” with what I think now is something that needs to be said — and needs to be heard by all of Doug Wilson’s fans and followers.

Wilson has said before that a nation “defended by its women” is not “a nation worth defending.” The off-duty base police officer who heard the call over her scanner came upon Hasan, who shot her four times, and ended the massacre by shooting him back. She has rightly been hailed one of many heroes in evidence that day.

I trust that Wilson’s pride in his nation and its soldiers has not become an unfortunate — frankly, an indefensible — casualty of last week’s horrific massacre.

The Ft. Hood Massacre

Friday, November 6th, 2009

The horrible shooting deaths yesterday of 12 Ft. Hood soldiers and one civilian is one of those tragedies that defy description or explanation. May God grant peace to the families of those killed and wounded, many of whom were just days away from deployment abroad.

That includes the family of alleged shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born observant Muslim charged with the shootings. He was shot and is in stable condition, reportedly, at a Killeen, Texas, hospital while authorities try to piece together what went so terrifically wrong with him. At a time when Muslims in our country are harassed by “patriots” and excoriated in the blogosphere by Christians convinced they’re doing the Lord’s work, Hasan’s family in America has the added burden of grieving while under the very real threat of retaliatory violence against them.

A local Christian church elder blogged this morning about “the 800-lb. gorilla in the room no one wants to talk about,” and it’s clear from his track record that he refers to Hasan’s Muslim identity. What would he have us do, once that “gorilla” is acknowledged? Root out all Muslims, or those with “Muslim-sounding names,” from the military? Put all mosques under surveillance? Is it time, in his “libertarian” line of thought, to round ‘em up and hold them indefinitely, as was the case with Japanese and Japanese-Americans here during World War II?

How ’bout praying for their destruction? Yeah?

I’m guessing that the answer to at least one of these is a hearty “hell, yeah!” commensurate to the richness of the patriotic blood coursing through his veins. And that response to the unspeakable horror of yesterday’s shootings reveals a manner of thinking that’s incompatible with Christian thought and practice. Make no mistake here. I know that there is in the Islamic world a violent cadre of people enraged at a people — Americans — they see as Satans and enemies. There’s not much hope for rapprochement with people bent on violence, whether Muslims or Christians or atheists or Jews.

But the Christ-follower’s response to the horror of violence and bigotry can never include calls for social violence and bigotry. We owe our very souls to the One we worship, the Prince of Peace whose victory over evil wasn’t established in violence and won’t be consummated through weaponry. Our God, through the prophet Isaiah, rejoices in the eventual reconciliation to him of not only the Israelites, but the Assyrians and the Egyptians — the “Islamo-fascists” and “terrorists” and “enemies” of his people during the prophet’s time. Because I’m not a Calvinist, I can say with confidence and humility that God desires the reconciliation of all humankind to him in Christ Jesus; he desires that the violent and the enraged from all peoples lay down their arms and rest in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Being a faithful Muslim does not require Hasan to don traditional robe and headcovering, stroll into a communal hall on the Army base where he was employed, and blast the bloody hell out of a couple dozen people. Being a United States Army Major doesn’t exempt him from the possibility of choosing great evil or suffering great sickness. We don’t know why he did what he did, but even if, as has been reported, he shouted in Arabic “God is Great!”, he can only — should only — be prosecuted as a murderer, not a murderer-while-Muslim.

My prayers for the dead and wounded soldiers’ continue, as do mine for Hasan’s family and for this sick, evil man himself. A God not able to save even him is not a god worth worshiping.

Honor Killings

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Dale Courtney, on his Right Mind-Us. blog, on the tragic death of a young Muslim woman killed by her father for being “too westernized”:

“Funny how you never hear about honor killing of the sons. It’s just the daughters.

I’m sure there’s an appropriate metaphor in that fact…” (Right-Mind.us 11/4/09)

Try this one, Dale. It may not be a metaphor, but it’s illustrative nonetheless:

One man, for reasons having to do only with his sex and the sex of those before him, amasses a fortune in goods and property and builds up a large household, where he rules over not just the women and children, but the men considered “below” him as well. He and countless thousands of men before him, for centuries, have used religion to justify his reign, even when less than benign, and are enabled by an understanding that this is not just how it always has been, but how it must be — so that society will remain stable, God will be honored, and the family’s position secured. In a community ruled by like-males, the affirmation of male privilege is not only necessary, but inevitable.

The women, of course, have no power outside of a narrowly-defined domestic sphere, and historically, and in many cultures now, have been kept uneducated, unexposed to the world outside the ruling male’s sphere of influence, and are presumed to be ontologically inferior in intellectual capacity. They are less considered “stupid” than they are dangerous — able to entice, by virtue of being women, any man in the household or in the community, no matter how upright and moral. The man’s sexual lust is satisfied by his wife or wives, whose sexuality is shrouded in mystery and confusion — she both attracts and repels him, and the resulting confusion causes him not to examine himself, but to blame her, imbuing her sexuality and being with both intrigue and fear.

The more religious of these men may believe that they are behaving in a sexually appropriate manner, as defined by either religious teaching or peer affirmation, and presume that sexual purity in their women is both her highest attainment and his most profound right. This demonstrates that he is a properly controlling monarch over of his household realm, regardless of his own behavior and regardless of the near-impossible dichotomous demands made on his wife. She must satisfy his robust sexual appetite without appearing to have encouraged it, and she must, at the same time, encourage it without appearing to have in mind her own sexual needs. Above all, this “good wife” is publicly viewed as a paragon of private virtue, whose purity says less about her own morality than it does about her man’s control of her.

Her daughter, then, is presumed to be an innocent. Not just virginal, but completely uninitiated into the world of the “feminine mysteries” of birth, menstruation, and caretaking of both young and old, all of the time learning a code of sexual contact that teaches her nothing about her body other than the fact of its eventual use by the man or men her father approves. Her father’s duty is to preserve her chastity at all costs — unless he avails himself of her body, asserting, in his mind, his right to do with his property as he sees fit. And if that exercise of property rights then disgusts him, his now-ruined daughter can be made to bear yet more, the shame and the blame accommodating itself in the contours of her broken body and shattered psyche.

The males’ affirmation of the necessity of satisfied male lust — the belief that when women provoke lust (just because of their female-ness), they must satisfy its longing — assures that the man has steady access to his wife. She who incites his lust must satisfy it; no man in proper control of his household can accept his wife’s refusal, and no woman under control of the ruling male can successfully offer it. Women, then, become caretakers not just of men, but of their sexual appetites as well, culpable both for fanning lust into flame and for the manner in which they extinguish it.

The sons they bear, then, come to see their own sexual need as uncontrollable — ignited as it is by women — and dangerous if not satisfied. Young men may be taught that sexual activity before marriage is wrong, but they see that men are always initiators and women always instigators whose subjection is assured by their availability to him. Moral constraints may cause the man to fear or dread his sexual impulses, controlling them as well as he can, but if he fails — if he sins according to doctrine or fails according to communal mores — his moral failure is mitigated by confirmation that he is demonstrably “all male.”

His punishment, if any, will be private so as not to shame his father. A woman who sins sexually, however, will be publicly shamed, beaten, or even killed — actions that, in confirming her guilt, absolve her father by separating her from him. A young woman who is presumed to be unchaste, whether she actually is or not, is viewed as a reflection of the ruling man’s control over his household. His status is restored when the offending woman is separated from him by death or desertion; his rehabilitation is assured by his swift, deliberate, punishment from his daughter or wife, the violence of which confirms his separation from her.

In a male-supreme world, a man’s failure to properly control “his women” can only be atoned for if the males around him see a deliberate, even violent, punishment, one whose fury is commensurate with the degree of humiliation or scorn with which he’s viewed by his peers. But who is punished? The one who brought shame to her father, the one who bears in her body the result of even the vaguest hint of male dishonor.
No woman in his household ever shames only herself by sinning; she shames him, and the urgency with which his control over his household must be demonstrated is equal to the urgency of the male lust that doomed the young woman in the first place.

That, Dale, is why you don’t see men being the target of “honor killings.” Male honor in some countries and religions is of the utmost importance, but no son can ever shame his father as much as a wife or daughter presumed sexually wayward. The young man who sins sexually may cause embarrassment to his upright father. He may be rebuked for his sin and rewarded for his prowess — but the preservation of his genital purity, separating his very soul and psyche from him in a bizarre focus on sex behaviors and organs, is never the provocation for or subject of his father’s violent wrath. An intact hymen is a badge of honor to the father of the girl examined, and a torn one — or eye makeup, tight jeans, or an iPod — is a threat to the father’s status. This most private of circumstances can only be addressed publicly, swiftly, and violently — and only against the possessors of hymens, the inciters of lust, and the vessels of male satisfaction.

It’s called “patriarchy,” and the soft form Kirk men model in their families is simply a gentler, more reasonable, version of the horror that elsewhere is visited upon women “owned” and “protected” by patriarchs all over the world. It’s a result of the Fall, it’s continuation is an affront to the work of the One whose death and resurrection began to reverse its effects, and every day it takes the life of a woman made in the image of a just and holy God.

The “honor killing” of this young woman by her father, because she seemed “too westernized,” is an outgrowth not of Islam, but of patriarchy. And that’s why I, and millions of other Bible-revering Christians, hate it.

Birthday Musings

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

How very kind of my younger brother to remind me that I’m now “four dozen and one.” Such a card, he is — and only 362 days younger than I am.

But today is my birthday, and I’m celebrating another year of just being alive and living in the most wonderful town in America with a really great husband and two wonderful sons, both of whom are bringing young ladies to my birthday dinner tomorrow (both women like me, so it’s not just for the free food at Applebee’s, which is a gift in itself!). Jeff and I hosted a dozen for dinner Saturday night — my famous chili, both vegan and the “a-cow-died-for-your-dinner” kind — and it was really nice to have my in-laws and my niece’s boyfriend’s mom here. But Jeff worked behind the scenes to make it a birthday party for me, and I was delighted. Vegan cupcakes for everyone, and the wine and beer flowed generously for the five of us who drink. It was a great time, and by 4:00 Sunday, the kitchen was finally clean. Or clean-ish.

I don’t often write of personal, family things on Prevailing Winds, because readers who are interested in that sort of thing are already friends or family members, and the rest of you couldn’t possibly care less, except that you now know that vegan cupcakes are just as good as regular ones. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the people close to me and how, as I approach 50, they’ve helped mold me and refine me into the woman I am now. Surprisingly, I think, it’s the people I’ve met since we moved to Moscow in February 2002 who have been especially used by God in my life, and the wonderful people I know and love here have not only made Moscow feel like home — really, like the place God intended me to live all along — but have helped me grow into who God has intended me to be all along. He’s given me a prophetic voice, and I’ve learned much about how to use it.

This may cause dismay to many of you, I know.

I get comments all the time about how I should pull back and just write about . . . well, something, as long as it’s not related to Doug Wilson or the Kirk. Or sexism. Or racism. Or “liberal” stuff, which is especially amusing, as Moscow’s liberals criticize my “anti-liberal” positions on business and schools. Besides, I see the Scriptures’ teachings on righteousness and justice and gender to be far above the “left-right” political spectrum; I just see it all as the Third Way of Christ, as I’ve written before — not “left-wing,” not “right-wing,” just Christian. (The Dove, representing the Holy Spirit’s work in the world, flies with both wings, as distressing as this is to some of us!)

But as I come to recognize and fan into flame the spiritual gifts I have and embrace the experiences that undergird their place in my life and ministry, I feel in myself a growing, unquenchable passion for justice and righteousness in this world — and a growing, unsquelchable impatience with those, especially in the Church, who impede them. The Gospel has, especially in the last several years, blossomed and burned into my very soul. While I would not list “evangelism” as my strongest gift, I find that I run into opportunities almost every day to speak of Christ to someone in need, and even as our financial situation shifts, I’m able to meet material needs as God does the loaves-and-fishes work with the little I have. I have always wanted to speak for those who have no voice, and speak louder, even, with the voice I have. When I moved to Moscow, I had worked intensively, sometimes 20 hours a week while raising two young boys, for almost a dozen years in my one-person ministry to undocumented Mexican workers in our area in Snohomish and King counties, teaching English, distributing Bibles and food, translating, mediating, advocating for, pastoring, and generally just serving the 200 or so wonderful people God led me to. I knew that wouldn’t continue when I lived in Moscow; there’d be no “Iglesia Vecinos” (roughly translated, “The Neighborly Church”), where I’d pastored. So I floundered just a bit, wondering what to do.

But there’s a lot happening in Moscow — the attentive, discerning Christian knows something’s terribly amiss, a splotch on the Portrait of the Gospel In Moscow. You can miss it if you try, and you can ignore it if you choose to. Or, you could speak words that ring out the Good News of the Gospel in the face of a storm of words that don’t. I don’t know why more don’t speak out; I do know why I do, and with God’s grace, I’ll continue. Mine might be a lonely voice, but it’s a necessary one, and it’s supported and refined by the believers in my life who see, and who know. And today, especially, I’m led to acknowledge how much the Lord has used my friends here to refine, encourage, correct, and teach me. And so:

CB, you are the sister I never had, and the friend I never knew could exist. SW and AE, you’ll never know how the Holy Spirit has used you in my life. BB, you’ve got my back and you’ve got my heart — always. BR, seeing you grow in the Lord is such a gift! JP, you’re a steadfast and patient Galoot and a true gem. C and WP, thanks for all the good times this past year — but only if you promise more! SP, your encouragement and love make such a difference. RH, you inspire me to be stronger than I feel. My church family, all dozen of you, I love you and the work you do for Christ. And DCB, my aman cara — God knows how, doesn’t he????

OK. I’m gettin’ all teary-like. But I’m always very reflective on my birthday, and very full of plans — I’ll write more, and more neatly, in my journal. I’ll eat better and exercise more. This year, I’ll wear my cowboy boots just because, and I’ll carry my nicest purse and count the scratches in the leather as character. I’m now a non-smoker and almost-vegetarian; I’ve got a couple of friends who are holding me to it. I would love to hit almost-50 without chronic pain, but it beats not hitting almost-50 at all, and the strength and sureness of my steps in no way weakens and wavers my voice and my pen. So it’ll be an exciting year, just because life always is. Thanks to all of you who read Prevailing Winds, and thanks especially to my critics, on- and off-line — you keep me sharp, and I take your criticism to heart.

So. It’s my birthday and probably not yours. But let’s each, while the time is short, run the race our Lord has set for us, and run it with integrity and passion. And remember — if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.