Archive for September, 2010

So, Just Exactly Where HAVE I Been Recently?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Some of you know that I have some life-altering, but not at all life-threatening, chronic health problems that generally don’t keep me from doing the things that I need to do — including blog frequently on issues that matter to me. For the last month, though, I’ve had a flareup that hit its apex over the last 10 days or so, and both it and the treatment for it kept me out of the blogosphere and nicely ensconced in the doctor-ordered pajamasphere. Which, while keeping people from sniping at me and all, is ultimately quite boring. You can only watch so much “MonsterQuest” before you begin to think the dude you went to the prom with in ’78 might, in fact, have been the mythical Chupacabra. It’s been a long week and a half, but I’m getting better.

So let’s agree to meet here again in just a couple of days. We’ve got a lot to cover: The sinful Islamophobia flooding into and spewing from the Church, a local move to make Idaho a medicinal marijuana state, the likelihood that Latah County’s Democratic Party will ignore Gresham Bouma by dismissing him, rather stupidly, as just another “right-wing, fighting fundy,” and lots of neat stuff emanating from the pastoral blog whose name is a kicky little play on the Bible’s archetypical, eschatological king and kingdom allied against God.

Give me just a bit of time, and Prevailing Winds will blow out of Moscow once again. Thanks for your patience and your prayers, although I’d rather not hear your contention, however earnest, that you’ve personally encountered the Chupacabra.

Good Stuff On Ephesians 5

Friday, September 17th, 2010

On “head” in Ephesians 5:21-33, from Christian feminist and Princeton University divinity student Lisa Baumert, quoted in the September 15, 2010, e-zine from Christians For Biblical Equality:

“By selecting the Greek word kephale, or “head,” Paul speaks both of marriage and salvation history. Just as Christ’s body was the source of life for the church, so too Adam’s body gave rise to Eve (Gen. 2). Thus, Paul was also seeking to highlight the unity and mutuality by which husbands and wives were to live. Christ and the church exist in a reciprocal and unified relationship of dependence. The church is dependent upon Christ for its wellbeing and life, and Christ lived and died for the sake of the church. Likewise, husbands and wives are to be unified and mutually loving toward one another. Therefore, the metaphorical similarity between the relationships of Christ and the church, and husbands and wives, is found in the idea of “source” — social dependence and unity — rather than in the commonly interpreted ideas of hierarchy and authority. . .” (Lisa Baumert)

Baumert continues to make an important point. Had Paul used the Greek word “arche,” not “kephale,” we would be correct in extracting a meaning of “boss,” “hierarchy,” or “authority” to describe Christ’s and the husband’s positions. He didn’t, though, and to the Bible student interested in a proper exegesis of the Scriptures that leads to a fuller understanding of the Gospel and its effect on human relationships, that’s significant.

But to the traditionalist supporter of patriarchy, it’s a problem, and like most instances in the Word that illustrate, announce, or prescribe the abolishment of distinctions made on the basis of race, gender, and social position, it’s explained away as either the rant of Christians corrupted by culture, or as an anomaly that surely can’t mean what it appears to. I wonder, really, why so much effort is expended to refute clear Biblical teaching on gender equality when the Church is wading through a world choking in a morass of decadence and violence, poverty and oppression, that could be greatly alleviated if its men truly formed common cause with its women. Our source is Christ Jesus; our need on this earth is for one another in mutual dependence and support.

That this continues to be an issue in 2010 suggests, I’m afraid, that some boys never grew beyond the “No Gurlz Alowed” sign posted in their clubhouses, or never learned anything other than “I’m The Boss Of You” in their relationships with women. I fail to see Christ in the boys’ club or applauding the boss man on the podium, just as I fail to see Christ taking delight in a marriage that features any man exercising authority that belongs only to his Lord over the woman he shares his home with.

I plead with my patriarchy-embracing brothers to realize that while they have enormous support in the Church and among their fellows, their beliefs and behavior don’t comport with Scripture or with the testimony of Christ and his Gospel. It’s great to have buddies and it’s wonderful to be in the majority, but Jesus calls all of us to a different Way. That Way stands in direct opposition to earthly hierarchies and the triumph of power, privilege, and position. A lot of your brothers and sisters are walking in that Way, and we’d like very much to offer our hands to you in mutual humility and submission.

Which Came First — The Liberal Or The Law?

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Ashwin objects, according to a comment he left on Prevailing Winds earlier today, to my statement “Has it occurred to you that some of us hate racism precisely because it offends the very Word of God?”

I’m highlighting once again a discussion with my favorite correspondent, who takes me to task for hating racism because of what he sees as my liberal inclinations, and not because the Bible demonstrates that racism is a sin. This is too important to be left in the “comments” section, and so I’ll answer his remarks here. Ashwin says, in response to my contention that racism is a sin because the Bible says it is:

“There might be some for whom the above statement actually holds true. However, I strongly suspect (and I have seen nothing to allay my suspicions) that the dislike for racism happened BEFORE the Word of the Lord was consulted. It is a great and wonderful thing when a poor backwoodsman reads the Bible and goes – “I have been wrong about those foreign types. It seems they are my brothers as well.”

It is a horrible and nasty thing when a well-heeled leftist reads the Bible and goes – “See! I have been telling you poor backwoodsmen all along. Look your own Bible agrees with me! You have been bad Christians. I hope you understand what a favour I am doing you. Now let me tell you how to think …”

There is the difference between Heaven and Hell right there.”

My response:

I’m dismayed that you have so little understanding of, and respect for, the witness our God has left all of humankind attesting to his very character. Call it conscience, prevenient grace, or “eternity in their hearts,” but God has graciously condescended to illumine in even the roughest, unplowed hearts a testimony of what’s right and what’s wrong — even before a person reads the Word of God. You suggest that I hated racism long before I ever came to Christ or read the Bible, because I am, in your mind, a liberal. I fail to see the error in correctly understanding, by the grace of the Spirit, that humankind has an innate understanding that some things are just wrong. How little you trust in God’s common grace, and how free you are to judge the intent of my heart!

Before I became a Christian, I knew that racism was wrong, and that conviction was only strengthened by my reading of the Word. Other beliefs of mine didn’t hold up to the testimony of God’s Word, and I rejected them. Prior to my conversion, I believed, for example, that capitalism was inherently evil. My study of the Scriptures convinced me — again by God’s grace — that I was wrong. And yet I knew, even before coming to Christ, that confiscating the property of a poor man was utterly wrong. When I was young, single, and unsaved, I thought marriage was just a a contract between two people, represented by what I described as “a simple piece of paper.” But God’s Word showed me that I was wrong and that marriage was a sacred covenant between two people and God Almighty — and my subsequent marriage illustrated that even more profoundly. Still, even when I denied the sacredness of marriage, I knew that cheating on one’s spouse was a sin. Do you honestly condemn me for holding to correct beliefs — beliefs wrought by God’s gracious illumination in my unsaved soul — simply because they made sense to me and then were confirmed by the Word?

The reality, Ashwin, is that there are many Christians who proudly — defiantly, it seems to me — embrace racism and justify it with a perverse exegesis of the Holy Scriptures, and who believe that the primary calling of a Christian man is to preserve the “purity” of the “white race.” These ideas deserve nothing less than sharp, public, specific rebuke; those who hold to them deserve nothing less than the same — not to score points, but to disciple them in the hope that they’ll repent. Some do, and God be praised. Most don’t, and their public, defiant preaching of racist doctrines must be confronted with truth and named for the ugly sin they are. I intend to condemn racism in every form, in every place, and under every guise. I wish you would join me.

Finally, I cannot share your apparent high esteem of liberalism, which you seem to view as the font from which all correct and just social policy flows — or so it seems, since you persist in calling opposition to racism and other forms of bigotry “leftwing” and “liberal.” I couldn’t possibly care less if what I believe is “liberal” or not; I care not one white if what I embrace is “conservative” or not. I only care if it’s Biblical. If much of what’s Biblical is represented by the left wing of the political spectrum, then God be praised — he truly has left eternity in the hearts of all people, even people who, to you, seem far less likely than others to get it right. Your judgments are harsh, and often incorrect; insofar as you judge the intent of my heart or anyone else’s, I’m afraid you sin. I trust you’ll take that to the Lord.

Well, This Really Furthers Dialogue Between Cultures, Doesn’t It?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

It’s as if one of Moscow’s most prominent Christian anti-diversity apostles has gifted us with an example of ugly engagement with others. And yet here I am, not at all thankful.

From Christ Church Elder Dale Courtney’s Right-Mind blog, Sept. 6, 2010:

Quote of the Day: Mark Steyn

“Multi-culturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched tribal dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing “Rudolf the Red—Nosed Reindeer.”

—Mark Steyn, author of “America Alone”

My goodness. I’m going to assume that defense of a silly, secular kiddie song isn’t the point here, either for Dale or for Mark Steyn.

Rather, their intent is to shower disdain on programs and philosophies that attempt to educate kids about other cultures and ways of life. Now, there might even, I realize, be a deeper purpose to multi-culturalism, in the same way Jeff and I have been determined to raise our two sons to not become convinced growing up that as white American males, they were superior — the standard by which all others ought to be referenced and compared to. Multi-culturalism attempts to open avenues of understanding between cultures. I think that’s a good thing. Clearly, Dale doesn’t. Which, I think, makes my previous post, and the apology therein, all the more necessary.

I wish it were otherwise.

What A Week We Christians Have Had

Monday, September 6th, 2010

(A post of mine originally appearing on Moscow’s Vision 2020 forum, Sept. 6, 2010)

This has been a really bad week for the Church whose Savior is Christ Jesus and whose members, unfortunately, are behaving just atrociously.

The screeching protests about an expanded Muslim Center at Ground Zero, the vicious lie that Islam is a great religion for pedophiles, the public Koran burnings, and the continued insistence that President Obama is a secret, swarthy Muslim out to entrap and disable our country have been in large part made by evangelical Christians — the people most identified with Jesus Christ, whether by similarity or, as is the case here, by contrast. Evangelicals, and I am one, are considered within the Church itself and outside of it to be those who hold most dearly to a high view of the Bible, a personal and transforming encounter with Christ, and the importance of bringing the Gospel to the world. The public nature of that identity means that how we act, what we do, what we say and how we say it is, more than any other “Christian thing,” what people will link mention of Jesus or the Gospel to. I shudder to think what decent non-believers must think of Christianity after a week like this.

Those evangelicals who screech and holler about a country threatened by “Muslim terrorists,” godless liberals, a socialist, terrorist-embracing President, and a sentimentalist, Islam-affirming culture, and who do so as good Americans fervently committed to the Constitution, honor neither it nor the Bible when they try to violate the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment and the notion of peaceful civil engagement spoken to “aliens and strangers” — that is, Christians, who believe we are “not of this world,” but of heaven — in the Scriptures. Hatred of Muslims is not a Christian virtue, it’s not a civic virtue, and it’s not possible among those who claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If we can’t engage with a culture, even a hostile culture, in truth and love, then it’s best we not engage at all.

Likewise, Christians who whip up hate by tapping into the wellspring of bigotry and anger in this country and who then claim innocence when the floodwaters of violence and hate engulf the culture, are not only steadfastly anti-American, but also anti-Christian. Christians who demonize others who also call Abraham the father of their faith are guilty of the sin of bearing false witness when they lie about Islam, and they’re guilty of malice and division when they use differences in belief to call for the subordination of those with whom they disagree. There are certainly parts of the Jewish Old Testament, which Christians revere as the very word of God, that, apart from context and without proper exegesis, make my faith appear violent, unjust, and even barbaric to those unfamiliar with God’s Word and the redemptive culmination of his purpose represented by the New Testament Gospel. We don’t appreciate being tarred as a people eager to stone adulterers, sack foreign villages, or enslave those who owe us money, and most of us have an answer to what the Gospel — indeed, the Christian faith — really entails. What possible justification is there, then, for doing unto other faiths what we would never want them to do to ours? Can any Christian truly envision the Apostle Paul striding into Ephesus and holding a public burning of silver statues of the goddess Artemis? Would he whip up a crowd to trash the philosophies of the various Greeks worshiping there and demonize them for their belief in what Paul claimed, in reasoning respectfully with them, was a god unknown now revealed in Christ?

I am not a Muslim. I am a Christian, which means, among many other things, that I don’t hold to or believe in the doctrines of Islam. Muslims don’t believe in or hold to the doctrines of Christianity, either. But the respectful reasoning together modeled by the Apostle can only honor God. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; in fact, I would gladly die for the glory of the One it points to. But I am ashamed of those of my brethren who have demonstrated recently not actions born of the Spirit of God but of the spirit of this fallen world, and I grieve at the damage they’ve done — to the Muslim people, to the President, to civil engagement in our culture, and, mostly, to the testimony of what Christianity really is. I apologize, with all my heart, for the ugliness displayed in Christ’s name.

And who am I to apologize? No one, really, except for one woman who has made many mistakes in her own testimony for Christ. That doesn’t relieve me of, or excuse me from, the burden to offer something better . . . and I can’t try to offer something better without pointing out that what’s being offered now is really, really, awful.

I’m so sorry for it all.

Race, Conversation, And A Nation Ignorant Of Its History

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I grew up in a neighborhood and went to a public school that was about one-third African American, one-third Mexican-American, and one-third Anglo. My first friends were Jacinta, Rudell, Arma, Esperanza, and Tanya, whose parents, Willie and Tommie, worked with mine to build the NAACP on Tucson’s westside. My childhood was as filled with Juneteenth picnics and quinceaneras as it was with Little League and First Communions. That I could order a beer in Spanish by the time I turned four probably isn’t something to brag about, but my English was peppered with Spanish and my accent well secured by the time I entered first grade.

While I was well aware that racism was alive and well all around me — my parents weren’t involved in the civil rights movement for the music — it never occurred to me that truly religious people would ever — proudly, even — call themselves supremacists, separatists, kinists, and neo-Confederates, much less hold to the noxious ideals and follow the odious prophets thereof. I grew up, of course, hearing about the Klan, and I would often find myself startled when one of my Arkansas relatives would make some breezily racist remark, but I didn’t understand the Klan’s claim to Christianity, and I didn’t find my relatives to be drunk most nights on the Holy Spirit.

High school and college opened my eyes, and my first “real” job as a cop reporter in Odessa, Texas, in the early ’80s knocked my hemp-woven socks right off. The overtly racist cops I gathered news from were almost all deacons or elders in their Baptist or Full Gospel churches, and it was head-spinning for me as a believer of only a couple of years to encounter people whose commitment to Jesus Christ appeared to sanctify the most vicious and vile beliefs and utterances I had ever heard. There are racists all over this country, and race bigots who preach Christ from the pulpit, or who follow those who do, can be found on each coast and all throughout the heartland. But there’s something about the South, where devout “Christian” neo- and paleo-conservatives, who find common cause with our Wilsonistas here in Moscow, truly believe that defending from race-mixers and defiant Blacks a hierarchical homeland for Anglo-Celts, and preserving a “Christian” culture of ethnic elitism in the face of liberal feminism, is the calling, perhaps the primary calling, of a Christian man and his family.

That makes me sick.

Racial bigotry of any sort, from any source, for any reason, is the primary calling only of hate-filled people ignorant of God’s Word and hardened to his voice. To equivocate on this point is to equivocate on the testimony of Scripture, the nature of God, and the essence of all that is good, holy, proper and true. But I live among people — educated, affluent, successful people — who cozy up to racists, explain away the vitriolic rhetoric of their spiritual leaders, and insist that while they themselves are not “like that,” they understand some of the points made by “Christian” kinists, separatists, and neo-Confederates. In doing so, they condemn themselves; there is no common cause to be found among the Body of Christ and the body of ignorance, hate, violence, and arrogance of those who believe there can be.

That ours is a racist society is a truth so evident, so undeniable, that it pains me to have to argue the point. The election of a Black president, rather than sounding the death knell, finally, to what Sojourners founder Jim Wallis calls “America’s original sin,” has in reality cranked up the volume of the cacophonous symphony of racism that swells in the hearts, homes, churches and community centers of this nation. The Tea Party needed a Black president just to exist; while it’s true that the Constitutionalists, the Religious Right, the professional anti-elitists and the God, guns, and grain crowd are always with us and gain considerable strength whenever a perceived liberal is in office, Barack Obama’s race has energized an already hate-filled crowd and fanned into flame the sparks of racial bigotry already smoldering. What ought to be opposition to his policies is, instead, opposition to the man himself — his presence as a brilliant, confident Black man with a foreign-sounding name amidst a racist people in a racist, racially divided nation that dares to call itself “Christian” while struggling to forget, rather than repent of, two and a half centuries of sin.

That the statement “racism is a sin” will provoke argument from those who call Christ Jesus their Lord makes my point better than I ever could. And Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor of The Atlantic magazine, says it well when he explains why the lofty, well-intentioned idea of a national “conversation on race” is in itself mistaken. He nails it, I think, when he writes that the idea “rankles” him so because:

“The source is the peculiar notion that we can talk our way out of anything, that talk is some sort of cure-all requiring no context or prep work to be effective. But conversation is not, in and of itself, a demonstrable good. Uninformed conversation is often a demonstrable bad. This is a country where any variant of the phrase ‘slavery caused the Civil War’ is still considered controversial . . . In short, this notion of conversation is premature, and we are not qualified to have it. Expecting an American conversation on race in this country is like expecting financial advice from someone who prefers to not check his or her bank balance. It’s not that the answers themselves are pre-ordained — perhaps affirmative action actually is bad policy — it’s that we are more interested in answers than questions, more interested in verdicts than evidence. Put bluntly, this is a country too ignorant of itself to grapple with race in any serious way. The very nomenclature — conversation on race — betrays the un-seriousness of the thing by communicating the sense that race can be boxed from the broader American
narrative . . . ” (The Progressive Populist, Sept. 1, 2010)

Hard truths, well said and well worth pondering.

This Thing Called "News" And That Other Thing Called "Integrity"

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

“The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its own propaganda to be accepted as news.”

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, quoted by Gene Lyons, The Progressive Populist, Vol. 16, No. 15, Sept. 2010

“(The press) should ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported.”

Sharron Angle, Tea Party favorite and U.S. Senate candidate who asserts that her candidacy is “a calling from God,” High Country News, Sept. 1, 2010