Archive for June, 2010

Sen. Robert Byrd And Renouncing Racism

Monday, June 28th, 2010

(Adapted from my post originally on Moscow’s Vision 2020 discussion forum)

The New York Times reports that West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd died early this morning at 92.

Certainly West Virginia has benefited from the Senator’s decades in Congress, but to me the most important consideration in any evaluation of his legacy is his despicable early involvement in the Ku Klux Klan.

There are no circumstances under which any support whatsoever of the Klan and other racist organizations can be excused or “understood” — I don’t buy into the “product of his culture” or “different times, different views” thing that people employ to rationalize disgusting, hateful attitudes, actions, and alliances. I reject that when applied to Byrd, my grandmother, and generations of Southerners like them who embraced Christianity while at the same time holding on to subtle and not-so-subtle racist views that devastated both the objects of that racism and the Gospel that was used to justify what can never be justified, not then and not now. They might have had to work harder to see the wrong, but the sinfulness of racism is clear, the empowering grace of God undeterred when truly sought.

I understand, however, that Byrd decades ago renounced his racist past — his views and his involvement in organizations like the Klan that spread them. That, I think, was the only right thing to do. People change, God be thanked, and good works in the present can ease the ugly effects of sinful ones willfully committed in the past, as well as demonstrate a real commitment to the One who is both Truth and Love and in whom there is no bigotry, no hate, no racism.

Only God knows if Byrd was sincere in his repentance, and perhaps it was only an example of political expedience. But if he was, he showed character and courage that I hope those of us in Moscow will see from men here who curry favor and align themselves with organizations and movements that espouse a form of bigotry sanitized by “religion.” It takes a firmness of conviction to renounce publicly one’s sinful public actions and attitudes. It also, I suppose, requires a firm conviction to hold onto and promulgate them in the first place.

So what’s the difference?

For Christians like myself, like Byrd, and like those here who proclaim Christ as Lord, it’s a change wrought by grace and confirmed by repentance. Byrd appears to have lived the final decades of his life in a state of wisdom and character that I pray will be emulated and echoed by the paleo- and neo-Confederates here — men who espouse Christian theology while defending a despicable past and working for an equally despicable “Anglo-Celt,” “Sothren” future. I just pray that these men fall to their knees in sorrow before they hit their 90s, because there’s an awful lot of damage left for them to do if they don’t.

A Western Heart

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

I am unabashedly, immutably, a Western gal at heart.

I spent the first 22 years of my life in Tucson, Arizona, and after a year in Odessa, Texas — officially, although it’s not noted as such in the Chamber of Commerce literature, the worst place in the entire world — I moved to the Puget Sound area, where Jeff and I spent our first 18 years together. And now we live in, and dearly love, the hills of North-Central Idaho, where I plan to live for the rest of my life, counting every day a blessing.

I wouldn’t change a thing, geographically; I was born to live between mountains, among hills, around canyons, and in the wide-open spaces of the desert Southwest. I’ve been a Desert Rat, a Westside Webfoot, and a part of a homesteading Palouse family. And with the entire world ahead of me, I’d still rather explore the endless joys and fascinations of the American West before I squeeze in Rome or Paris. I think it’s safe to say I carry in my heart a strong sense of place. That’s why the words below, by UC-Berkeley Professor Edwin Dobb in the June 21, 2010, High Country News, resonated with me so strongly:

“We all create experiential maps — singular, emotionally charged geographies in which what holds the world together, giving it form and meaning, is neither calendar time nor geometric space but the lasting impressions certain occasions make upon us. According to these interior bearings, some thing that occurred, say, 35 years ago and a thousand miles away can possess a stronger presence, and feel closer in every important respect, than what happened yesterday.”

Yes, and amen . . .

I feel that way about Sabino Canyon north of Tucson, or Tumwater Creek just east of the Cascades in Washington State, or on Main Street of beautiful Sonoita, Arizona, and the one-block-long main drag of Carmen, Idaho. These are the places I will never live in, but have felt the most alive in — Western places full of the rich, perfumed soil of the desert, the mountains, the flatlands bursting with quiet promise and redolent with the fragrance of hope, discovery, and new things hewn from the oldest things on this Earth: rock, soil, and water. I find those things in abundance out West, and only the day I cease to draw breath will make it not so.

Women Can Be So Troublesome . . .

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

“I would think that the biggest factor in how much less we’ve had on the air really has to do with (war correspondent) Lara Logan’s pregnancy than it does with anything else.”

– CBS News Executive Vice-President Paul Friedman, on the sharp drop in coverage of the Afghanistan war. (http:www.broadcastingcable.com/article/453933/The War You’re Not Watching)

Oh, for the days when a respected news-gathering organization such as CBS could see fit to adjust to the pregnancy of a single
reporter . . .

Yet once again, the reality of a woman’s fertility has seemingly thrown a monkey wrench into the well-ordered plans of that half of the population that will never bear a child. Prior to legislation protecting women in the workplace, her conceiving a child was often used as a weapon against her, threatening not only her job but, in all likelihood, her career — as well as instilling fear, guilt, and condemnation in the women she works with. That was a tragedy then. It’s still, CBS would have us believe, an insurmountable hassle for them. Poor guys, and darn that woman anyhow.

Pregnancy is a wonderful, life-changing time for a woman, full of anticipation, joy, trepidation and hope. There is nothing more precious to experience. However, I’ve experienced my own. I’ve attended about a dozen births. I joyfully hold my friend’s hand when she confides in me the details of her pregnancy, birth, and blossoming forth as a mother. I wish Lara Logan well, but I don’t expect to have my access to news, particularly news of a war this entire nation is fighting (at least in word), interrupted by the pregnancy of a woman truly known only to her family, friends, and co-workers. I suspect that journalist Lara Logan wouldn’t want that either — if her pregnancy were, in fact, relevant to the coverage of the war in Afghanistan.

The thing is, it’s not. And Friedman knows it.

Shame on CBS for proffering such an inane, sexist, stupid, short-sighted and clumsy excuse for failing to do its job. Logan is owed an apology, and the rest of the nation is owed what only journalists in a free society can provide: A truthful, fact-filled, penetrating examination and fearless reporting of a war that’s not only shredded Afghanistan, but shredded as well the hearts of every woman, Afghan and American, who’s endured the deaths of the sons and daughters she birthed.

When Republicans Put On Their Thinking Caps

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Here’s what one good ol’ Republican says about immigration and border security:

“We could put land mines along the border. I know it sounds crazy. We
could put up signs in 23 different languages if necessary.”

– Tom Mullins, Republican nominee for New Mexico’s 3rd congressional
district during a May 18 interview with KNMX radio in Las Vegas, NM.

Golly.

It’s all clear now — killing, maiming, and dismembering men, women, and children IS the most responsible way of addressing simple trespass. And here we were, debating immigration as if it were something . . . ohhhh, complex . . . complicated . . . policy-intensive or something. Involving actual people, even.

Thanks to Mr. Mullins for steering us toward a sensible solution. I haven’t heard of any GOP reaction, official or not, about his idea, but I’m sure they’ll climb aboard soon. (Lots of Republican buzz these days about illegal immigration, after all, and it takes awhile to get to everyone). And I’m guessing that, like most of the Right these days, Mullins has a church family. I bet they’re impressed. Impressed not just with his grasp of domestic policy, but with his profound interest in protecting the rights of others. This guy’s a winner, and if many of the churches I’ve been in are any indication, he’ll be a deacon in no time.

It’s Something Novel For Me . . .

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I read a lot, but I don’t read a lot of fiction; as what I suppose is an occupational hazard of a writing ministry, I read an enormous amount about theology, history, social sciences and feminism. Fiction has generally seemed to be an indulgence — I could be LEARNING, even LEARNING FOR THE CAUSE OF MINISTRY — and I have a hard time with the idea that I might ever glean anything useful for ministry while reading about people who don’t actually exist, and so cannot ever be put in my path to receive a New Testament.

I mean, how can I risk it????!!!!!

But I sense some evolution: One, the last couple of years have shown me that I can go “off-duty” without being “off-grace.” Two, as if to confirm the first, I’ve found some good stuff in the form of two novels I’ve just finished that are causing me to re-think my choice of late-night page-turning. (There’s real joy in finally accepting that being beloved of God doesn’t mean being indispensable to the proper running of God’s world . . . )

“The Condition” (Katherine Haigh) is a remarkably rich study of a family’s unraveling after a daughter’s non-frightening but complex medical diagnosis. It’s full of really interesting characters, some of whom you wish you could meet at a party, and the storytelling shattered marriages, private schools, and scuba diving) is as solid as the writing is graceful.

Kate Atkinson’s “One Good Turn” is a mystery unlike any mystery you’ve ever read, and most emphatically NOT a mystery in the sense represented by the impulse-buy racks of paperbacks at Rosauer’s and Rite Aid. It takes place in Scotland, and the background stories (Russian call girls, suburban housing developments, and kittens) are every bit as interesting as the actual mystery.

Good stuff, both of them, and easily ordered at Moscow’s BookPeople.

Ashwin On Qualifications For Preaching, With Reference To Burger King

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Ashwin ends his June 13 comment, featured at the end of my “Shocking Truth” post on Doug Wilson, with something that I felt deserved prominence of place beyond that of the “comments” section of Prevailing Winds.

“And lastly, you don’t have to be a trained minister to be a good preacher. All you have to do is read the Bible with the view that it is inspired by God.” (Ashwin, comment on Prevailing Winds, June 13, 2010)

OK. I have not made an issue, and haven’t, of Wilson’s lack of formal, accredited, seminary-based and graded theological training, primarily because I don’t have it, either. Wish I did, and I plan to someday if the Lord opens those doors. But I do think Wilson’s education is relevant, given his pastoring and oversight of a rapidly growing media and ecclesiastical empire that’s quickly becoming fouled by the aberrant (she said kindly) theology of his Federal Vision. It bears little relation to Scripture or to the Gospel most of us were evangelized with and now share with others, and it’s a tragedy of errors not only for his congregation and followers across the nation, but also for the Evangelical wing of Christiandom that has elevated Wilson to prominence, and that ought to — has to — know better.

Or so you’d think, at least until you open up the Christian Book Distributors catalog and your heart sinks under the realization that the level of discernment in Evangelicalism, based on books and other media enthusiastically marketed, is roughly as sludge-under-your-feet low as is Mick Jagger’s commitment to Puritan-era romantic courtship.

Anyway . . .

I highlight Ashwin’s remarks here for another reason — another Shocking Truth Revealed! is that I actually sort of agree with him. Let’s repeat his comments:

“And lastly, you don’t have to be a trained minister to be a good preacher. All you have to do is read the Bible with the view that it is inspired by God.”

Pretty simple, and I know that Ashwin would agree with me that a preacher should also be articulate, literate, and not terrified of the people to whom he speaks. However, Ashwin’s basic point — that the preaching disciple of God must hold reverence for the Word of God — is spot-on. It’s the Spirit’s work, after all, to take the printed language of the Bible and, working through the preacher, reveal it in power as the Word of our God. Without the Holy Spirit, all the learning in the world won’t be “preaching,” just public speaking, and no one has ever been saved through a good speech.

But here’s the catch: Ashwin doesn’t believe, I think, what he says. Our previous correspondence, public and private, reveals Ashwin to be a committed complementarian — “sexist” indicates an attitude of disrespect and disregard I don’t find in him — who believes that the Bible clearly and strictly delineates separate gender roles in home, church, and society, roles that would preclude, utterly and absolutely, the presence of a woman preaching (proclaiming, teaching, announcing the Gospel) from the pulpit.

I’ve been that woman in the pulpit, many times, and, like Ashwin, hold the Bible in reverence as the Word of our Lord and Savior. I also believe that women and men who don’t, don’t belong in the pulpit of an Evangelical Christian church. But I’m a woman, and so, to Ashwin, Wilson, and others who cling to what I believe is a wrong interpretation of Paul’s admonishments to the churches, I shouldn’t ever have been there, shouldn’t ever be there now, and shouldn’t ever be there again.

So, no — it’s not, to Ashwin, a reverence for God’s Word as God’s Word that trumps a lack of formal training, but the ontological reality of being female that trumps-in-reverse even the gifts and calling of the Holy Spirit. Gender — masculinity — is the Big Gun, the thing that sweeps aside the gifts women possess and sweeps into the pulpit men neither gifted, faithful, nor qualified. Of course I’ve seen it happen. You have, too.

Neither of us would want to be pastored by someone empowered only by his own particular talents and experiences — commanding of presence, masterful of subject, stately in demeanor but utterly alienated from the God he purports to speak for — and I pray that neither of us would ever be denied the blessing of sitting at the feet of a pastor on fire for Christ, filled with the Spirit, and brimming with passion for the Gospel and appreciation for the Word — simply because the one so gifted also happens to live in a female body.

Why, that could almost be seen as a strategy for disabling and crippling the Body, while appearing for all the world to be desperately concerned for its health. Fortunately, most evangelicals, having relegated the existence of Evil to a fleeting sense of feeling bad about oneself, are more than happy to be led by a theology birthed by one who only appears to be an angel of light. That one eagerly watches in the wings as the Church he hates operates with one hand tied behind its back, runs the race on only one foot, speaks with only half a voice, sees with one eye, and alienates the very world it tries to reach.

I’ve known preachers and pastors whose directions to Burger King weren’t clear even from the drive-thru thereof and in whose care I wouldn’t leave a gerbil. I’ve known too many of their wives who were clearly gifted in what the Church — but not the Word — sees as “men’s gifts,” and it kills me to see them and the Church around them withering on the vine because their gifts aren’t discovered, believed, encouraged, and celebrated for the glory of the One who gives them, and gives them freely apart from gender.

I pray that Ashwin would hear, and take to heart, that message preached from the pulpit — with the same regard to gender in the distribution of spiritual gifts that God gives. Which is to say, according to the Word I revere as his own, none at all.

Shocking Truth Revealed! Why Everyone’s Always Picking On Doug Wilson

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Ashwin, my frequent correspondent, insists that something odd is going on in our neighborhood, given the Internet’s buzzing with criticism of Moscow’s Bully-in-Chief, Christ Church Pastor and media sensation Doug Wilson. What to make of it all?, says Ashwin, clearly perplexed, but not really, that this one man somehow attracts so much shrill, virulent lambasting from the very Church he purports to serve. Lord love a duck and golly gee — ’tis a mystery, but Ashwin believes he’s solved it.

It must, he says, be Wilson’s WORLDVIEW. He is a Biblically conservative Christian in a hostile culture; therefore, the criticism he attracts is because of the power of the light he shines in a darkened, debauched world around him. Satisfied with his solving of the riddle, Ashwin then asks me to explain how it could be any other way . . .

Huh. Where to start? I could point out that the dozen or so OTHER conservative, evangelical, male Protestant pastors in town DON’T find themselves to be the targets of mass dissent. I could point out that faithful, ultra-conservative men like Andy Stanley or Max Lucado or countless other media pastors share Wilson’s worldview as defined by Ashwin, and they don’t receive the criticism Wilson does. Are these men not brave? Aren’t they faithful to Biblical, conservative truths? Why aren’t they lightning rods like Wilson? What makes him so different?

Well, for one, he’s a bigot, a bully, and a bloviator whose perceived expertise in all areas seemingly knows no bounds. His behavior is regrettable and has been for years, his theology — his Federal Vision, which I hope you’ve explored and rejected — is errant, aberrant, and, some say, heretical; his embrace of questionable theology, his alliance with racists and bigots and neo_Conservative white men seeking an Anglo-Celtic “homeland” in the American South; his defense of slavery — SLAVERY, Ashwin! — and his grotesque portrayal of Christian abolitionists; his hyper-control and out-of-place judgment in pastoring his followers (mocking people who worry about food allergies?); his insistence on divisiveness (real wine at Communion; grape juice is what’s wrong with evangelicalism, he says); his perpetual, constant choice to offend when offense isn’t necessary; his network of “ministry” and real estate and other ventures shrouded in secrecy and, often, a slippery evasiveness not becoming of, well, anyone; and his general arrogance in perpetuating among his followers the belief that, lacking formal ministerial or professional training, he is nonetheless a gifted, authoritative historian, philosopher, theologian, apologist for the faith, Latin expert, businessman, Oxford-like don, epistemological and pedagogical wunderkid, counselor, proud father of a Shroud of Turin expert, food critic, literary critic, cultural critic, poet, fighter jet pilot, fireman, pirate, and All-Star third baseman for the Yanks.

Sadly, it’s not only the last four of those you can dismiss out of hand as indicators of an absurdly overblown ego.

Wilson’s problem isn’t his “worldview.” Wilson’s problem is that bad behavior, theological, personal, and civic, is received in the marketplace of ideas and the town square of conviviality with distaste and dismay, as bad behavior ought to be. This shouldn’t be a mystery to Ashwin or anyone else who’s familiar with all things Wilsonish — if he’ll not only look, but see.

Ashwin, have you analyzed the Federal Vision? Really examine it, from his side and that of his critics. Does it bear any relation at all to the Gospel you’ve embraced? Have you explored Wilson’s “ministry” history? Have you ever spoken with people hounded and abused after they’ve left the church he pastors? (I have. It’s uniformly tragic). What about his conduct in our community? “Topless lectures?” “Sweet Home Alabama” gleefully sung in Moscow’s downtown during the height of the slavery controversy? Why do you think it’s true that virtually every book he’s written is from the publishing company he created, and created for that purpose? Might that tell you that, just perhaps, his theological and personal “worldview” is out of the mainstream of conservative Christian thought? That there might be a reason he and his men created their own denomination, the CREC? The development of a new denomination is neither, on its face, good nor bad — but you might wonder why no Reformed denomination would settle with him, nor Wilson with them.

You might wonder about all of these things, Ashwin, if you weren’t so insistent that the problem is a few screeching liberals ganging up on a misunderstood prophet in whose hometown he’s generally recognized as nothing more than a bearded, bullying nuisance bringing the kind of attention North Central Idaho hardly needs. I challenge you to really analyze the FV. Tell me what you think. Read up on his history and his interactions with critics. Attend a conference; too bad you missed last year’s sexuality conference in which Wilson gleefully embraced Tim Bayly’s assertion that egalitarians (that would include me) are the cause of the bloodshed of abortion. That’s not just untrue, and untrue to the point of absurdity, but utterly hateful. Where Wilson is, there’s ugliness. That’s not a “worldview.” That’s nothing more than a crying, pitiful shame.

I don’t understand why you continue to defend it.

Helen Thomas On The Jews In Palestine

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Veteran Washington, D.C., reporter Helen Thomas rightly apologized for her stupid comments that Jews living in Palestine should “get the hell out” and “go back to Germany and Poland” in order to ensure peace in the Middle East.

I don’t know enough about Thomas’ past remarks about the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli sovereignty, a two-state solution, or the rights of Palestinians on Gaza, and I hope this bit of blather is an anomaly. Israel isn’t and hasn’t been perfect; in fact, often it’s been the aggressor, which I think even the most rabid pre-trib, pre-mil Dispensationalist has to acknowledge. So, at times, have the Palestinians. But this is war, and no party is entirely innocent, nor entirely at fault. Meanwhile, non-combatants (let’s call them “families”) die needless, bloody deaths in a theatre of horror Thomas’ remarks contributed only more ugliness to.

Shame On You, Dale

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Local blogger and Christ Church Elder Dale Courtney, on his Right-Mind site Tuesday, had this gem regarding the announced separation of Al and Tipper Gore after 40 years of marriage:

“The Gorey Details

One of my readers writes:

Just one more reason why Gore can’t be trusted. “The Transformation of the American Family” has as much credibility as the Transformation of the Climate. New edition title: “Al Gore: A Disjointed Head and Heart”

And now Gore has increased his carbon footprint by doubling the number of households.” (Right-Mind, June 2, 2010)

Shame on the person who contributed the initial comment. Shame on Dale for adding it to his blog, and then continuing with a snarky reference to the Gores’ famous kiss at the 2000 Democratic Convention. He thought it might have been staged for effect, a remarkably foul instance of hypocrisy for a man who’s used the Gores’ marital problems to score points both political and puerile from the perpetual adolescents at Anselm House.

Dale appears to have a spectacularly underdeveloped sense of decency, for which my rebuke will no doubt offer only humor, not reflection. But since his pastor evidently finds Dale’s repeatedly nasty musings appropriate for vertebrate life forms over the age of 12 as well as for Christian church elders, Dale’s not likely to receive any other. Still, it needs to be said; mocking the devastation of another couple’s marriage is out of bounds, and particularly when the couple professes the same faith as the one doing the mocking. There’s been no hint of adultery, abuse, or other bad behaviors in the Gores’ marriage, and after an extended season of Religious Right and conservative GOP sex scandals, it’s more than a little hypocritical, not to mention just ugly, to treat the Gores’ separation as fodder for the kind of targeted, stinking vitriol for which Kirk men are notorious.

Divorce is a tragedy. I speak from experience; my own parents divorced a couple of years after their 30th anniversary, and my in-laws split after 50. Most of my dearest friends have suffered through broken marriages, and not one of them experienced that pain lightly. My own 25-year marriage has had its challenges, just like every other marriage, and while I’m sure Dale drooled with delight over a prominent liberal’s personal difficulties, he once again demonstrates in his slobbering a rotten fruit that reeks of all things not from the Spirit. I don’t say this lightly. I say it out of concern for Dale — the Gores will be fine even with him sneering on the sidelines, but he won’t be. An ugliness of heart rarely is contained within, and I pray for his repentance, as well as for a pastoral response from the media mogul under whom he serves.

And for those of you who’ll email me condemnation for not following Matthew 18, let me remind you of two things:

One, Dale only recently acknowledged me in public; the other people at my table would have made it difficult for him to pretend he doesn’t know me, or that he’s not Dale Courtney. He also won’t take my calls, answer my emails, or let me post to his blog. Two, public sin deserves public rebuke. He posted this to his blog, whose readership is huge — bigger than mine, yes — and who he figured would eat it up. The sin is his. It is not mine for pointing it out and pleading for him to reconsider this and every other instance of verbal vomit he’s spewed in the past.

There’s been too much of it, some directed at me personally, and my concern for Dale himself and my concern for the witness of the Gospel compels me to do what his brave, bearded patriarch of a pastor seemingly won’t: Hold one of his elders and his brother in Christ to some reasonable form of public behavior that comports with the conduct Scripture demands from an elder and not the conduct code held by ten-year-olds farting and belching in a tree house.