Archive for August, 2011

A Church Without Distinctions?

Monday, August 29th, 2011

While I’m still crafting my response to Rob’s earlier challenge to me about 1 Cor. 7, I do want to make clear one thing arising from a comment from him that just came in today:

No, I don’t believe that Christ’s Church is a Body with no distinctions — a formless, uniform, bland, and monotonous corpus ecclesiastis with no diversity at all. The New Testament, especially Paul in Romans and First Corinthians, makes it clear that’s not the case.

But I also believe that the entirety of Scripture, and most markedly, as we’d expect, the New Testament, endeavors to point out that while the God-given distinctions between the members of the Body still exist, and God be praised that they do, those distinctions are never meant to be ordered hierarchically, to reflect the sinful divisions of the world, or to deny full participation and opportunity for the exercise of gifts amongst the members therein. It’s the multitudinous differentiation found within the Body that gives it the strength of an infinite Christ Jesus, and so we celebrate the differences in language, culture, gender perspectives, and other areas of diversity.

The weakening of the Body, the denying of the victory of Christ in redeeming the world, and the impotent testimony the Church offers a waiting, watching world occurs when Christ’s Body takes the reality, even the blessedness, of Body-differences and constrains them within the brittle old wineskins of sinfulness: sexism, racism, classism, etc. I believe that service in the Church ought to be based on Godly character and Spirit gifting — and neither of those things is gender-based. To deny the one with Godly character and evident Spiritual gifts full participation in the Body because of gender is wrong, and not because I say so, but because the Bible says so.

I yearn for a Body more diverse, more full of the vibrancy and strength that comes from differences respected, instead of a Church that gives lip service to “distinctions,” but primarily as a means to harness them in the buttressing of hierarchy and power — contrary to the testimony of Scripture and in favor of a weary, sinful, worldy sameness of thought and impotence of effectiveness. A Church whose earthly leadership is always male and usually “male-among-the-most-powerful” is a Church unable to reflect its true diversity — a Church that erases, not respects, distinctions and does so in favor of the elevation of a distinction it must not privilege

Expect more engagement with Rob, with my thanks, in the next day or two.

From A Comment On My Life In Sports — Words Well Worth Noting

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I’ve posted this comment in its entirety in the comments section, but my anonymous correspondent here makes a point that deserves more prominence, so here it is:

“. . . I’m so glad that women have equal opportunities to play. I do see equality in Christianity more than in sports. Physical upper body strength isn’t needed to read the Bible, pray, preach or live a righteous life. Is a soul male or female, or just the shell? I see Jesus eliminating the barriers that separated us as people. I see the veil in the temple ripping from top to bottom and the system that kept the Gentiles in the outer court while inviting Jewish families inside. The sign on the next door said, “Women go no further.” The temple guards protected the next door from men who were not priests. Lastly, the curtain kept out all who but one high priest in for one day of the year – until Jesus blew it all away with his sacrifice. Why do we put the dividers back up?”

Excellent points. This silly, all-too-convenient reliance on “roles” simply perpetuates sinful, culturally-bound divisions that Christ’s sacrifice did away with. The Gospel is not a message of “roles,” it’s a promise of reconciliation. It’s not a perpetuation of worldly divisions, but a promise of love between family. And it’s a counter-culture strike against a world struggling in the enmeshment of the Fall, not an endorsement of that enmeshment.

Paul On Marriage — The First Corinthians Sermon

Friday, August 26th, 2011

I’m not feeling real well today, so I’ve cut-and-pasted some quotes for the previous two posts, and this one, my own words, will be shorter than usual.

Your sigh of relief is noted.

Anyway, it never ceases to amaze me how infrequently Paul’s discourse on marital mutuality in 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 is referred to in Christian weddings. It’s Ephesians 5 almost all of the time. And that’s usually with precious little emphasis on the mutual submission of v. 21, and focus instead on a difficult metaphor in v. 25-32 that, if taken to its literal, logical conclusion WITHOUT the benefit of a proper hermeneutic, would have the priesthood of the wife and her conformation to the character of her Savior mediated by her husband.

Bad Gospel there, folks, and a risky way to start a young couple on the road to a Christian marriage.

But if you study what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, you come away with two conclusions after his discussion of marriage. One is that Christian marriage has mutuality and sacrifice as its defining characteristics; there are eight distinct “points of symmetry” in husband-wife relationships just between 7:2-16. This steady drumbeat of mutuality is inescapable and eternal, and to avoid it in favor of the murkier passages in Ephesians 5 doesn’t make for a good foundation on which to build a truly Biblical message. It’s a great way to buttress a complementarian one, though. And you know, that might just be the point.

The second conclusion, from chapter 7:25-38, is that marriage is NOT an imperative, contrary to what the Wilsonistas would have you believe. In fact, Paul suggests — and, granted, with a more immediate eschatological perspective than we now employ — that the believer would be better off not married. That “the last days” have lasted longer than Paul would’ve expected doesn’t negate his message, and that’s that not all called to marry, and those who don’t are freer, in most circumstances, to work for the Lord. I praise God for the pastoral ministry of my 50-year-old single friend Lupita, and I praise God as well that she didn’t, contrary to the advice of Nancy Wilson, focus her younger years hoping for marriage and preparing for it by amassing a proper collection of table linens.

I have now officiated at two weddings, and my message has been for both that the Author of marriage has given us a pattern of how to live in it, and an example in Christ Jesus of how to love while in it. First Corinthians provides the minister a wonderful source of marital teaching and encouragement, as does Ephesians 5, properly understood. I long for the day when these precious portraits of intimate marital mutuality become the standard for Christian marriages, which God intends, and not the obfuscatory and imbalanced rendering of Ephesians 5 that too many ministers fall back on.

Which is not what God intends, because Yahweh is not a God of confusion, selfishness, inequality, or anything else not in keeping with the Divine character, for which our praises ring out and our marriages, if they occur, glorify him.

That Radical, Dwight Eisenhower, Part 2

Friday, August 26th, 2011

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Forget the Republicans. The Democrats have wasted their opportunity to respond courageously to his words, and we’re all the worse for it. Especially the poor.

That Radical, Dwight Eisenhower

Friday, August 26th, 2011

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible, and they are stupid.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 8, 1954

This was when the GOP exercised common and moral sense. Those days appear long gone.

My Life In Sports — Competition and Mastery, Not "Ladylikeness"

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Athletic competition is important for women. Yeah, even shotput, which Douglas Wilson has decreed is a forbidden pursuit for a woman.

(You needn’t genuflect . . . )

But while I’ve never heaved a heavy iron ball in competition, much less picked one up in my non-competitive life, I was an athlete for all of my life, until the wreck in 2005 that left me partially disabled. I also grew up in the era of Title IX, which, lo and behold, did not introduce the end of civilization nor the end of a generation of girls’ maturity into reproductively capable women.

(There was much talk in the 1960s and early 1970s about our delicate uteruses and the potential for grave damage if, for example, girls’ basketball moved from a zone to a one-on-one defense. For those of us just blossoming as women, this was potentially frightening, but the opportunity to wear a uniform and play ball was too exciting, even if we were potentially looking at dislodged female organs leading to infertility. I also remember a Boys’ Little League official in the early 70s insisting that girls should have to wear the boys’ protective cup, not just to “protect” us — how, he failed to mention — but to “treat ‘em like guys if that’s what they want.” I was grateful when my dad called him an ass and told him to shut up, as I was literally faint with embarrassment at the mention of a protective cup).

Little League was a huge part of my and my family’s life, evidenced by the City of Tucson naming a Little League field after my father following his death in 2009. My brother, Eddie, started playing at age 7. There were no programs for me, but my dad taught us both how to throw, how to catch, how to hit, bunt, run the bases and field a grounder. I got my first glove when I was 7, and I have never, even now at age 50, been without one — oiled, banded, broken in and ready. Dad insisted, contrary to Doug Wilson, that there was no “throwing like a girl” or “throwing like a guy,” but simply a proper way to throw a baseball, and it was a skill I mastered early and well. I learned to throw a curve before my brother did, and as he rose through the ranks of Little League, I chafed on the sidelines, knowing that I was as good or better a player than the boys on the field, but unable to participate because I was a girl.

In the 1960s and early 70s, Little League baseball was closed to girls, in the minor League, ages 7-10, the majors, 11-13, and the seniors, 13-15. But there was nothing on the books that prevented me from coaching or umpiring, so my dad made sure I mastered the intricacies of the baseball scorepad — if you’ve never played, it’s not what you think — and the strike zone, infield fly rule, and other baseball rules and plays. I was about 12 when I umpired my first minor-league game, and I helped my dad, who managed every team my brother was on, as his assistant until Little League allowed girls to play when I was, I think, 13. I played two years — third base — and could easily throw the 60-foot bases, although at the plate I often went 0-for-September.

We had a roughed-out basketball court in the rocky clay soil of our Tucson home, and I spent untold hours learning set shots, jump shots, lay-ups, hook shots and free throws. I dribbled the ball better than my brother and had a wicked — and not in the Wilsonian sense — hook. My kinda-sorta brother Darrell played on the high school team, and he was nice enough, when Ed and I were in junior high, to coach us. Dad taught me to throw a football in a spiral, and although my hands are still too small for a regular football, I still can. Growing up in Tucson then meant that most of my athletic successes were in pickup games or at home, because there were no opportunities for me to play on a real team until I was 13. It seemed unfair to me then, and it was.

I was in high school when Title IX, which guaranteed equal funding and access for, among other things, girls’ athletic programs, was implemented. In junior high and high school, tennis legend Billie Jean King was my hero — she not only beat the insufferable Bobby Riggs on national TV, but also brought tennis and women’s sports in general into the spotlight. Yes, I’m aware that she’s a lesbian; I couldn’t care less, but I realize some of you do. Let me assure you that my love for Billie Jean King was and remains entirely platonic, and I’m still grateful for all she’s done for female athletes. I played tennis, albeit it not very well, and my dream of playing basketball finally came in my senior year, 1977-78, when Cholla High School finally formed a girls’ team.

Unfortunately, I dropped a huge roll of butcher paper on my foot while helping to decorate a Homecoming float, breaking two toes and putting an end to my basketball career. I was heartbroken.

I shifted to bicycling while in college, often riding 75 miles on a Saturday morning on my 19-inch lightweight Fuji, and I once rode nonstop from Tucson to Phoenix — 135 miles — and then celebrated by partying all night. And while my athletic career stalled and then sputtered out after career, marriage, and children (lo and behold, my uterus was entirely functional after all), it was briefly revived in 2001, when I played softball on a church team. Unfortunately, I was the catcher, and the one game I played without my mask was the game in which I took a hard foul tip to the eye and nose, resulting not only in a run scored but in a run on my part to the ER, where a CT scan revealed that, indeed, my clock had been thusly and thoroughly cleaned. There would be no more softball for me.

Now, my athletic endeavors are seriously limited, if existent at all. But even if I’m unable to participate these days, I nonetheless take exception to Wilson’s and anyone else’s assertions that women can only play sports in a “ladylike” way. (I say “take exception” because it’s more ladylike than what I want to say, which involves a word I don’t normally use in Prevailing Winds). Sports IS neutral. There is a proper way to throw a softball, shoot a free throw, kick a soccer ball, spike a volleyball, and put a shot. That men have had infinitely more opportunities to master those skills does not make the skills themselves “masculine,” and only those men who are insecure in their own manliness would dare suggest that women’s mastery of athletics and robust participation therein is somehow dangerous. It’s long past time for guys like Wilson to let go of the ball and share the field with women, and his continued insistence on keeping them in their place — which would be wherever he isn’t, save the kitchen and the bedroom — is deplorable.

It also suggests a somewhat desperate grasp on masculinity that in itself raises questions, not the least of which is why Wilson and his pals are so terrified that the gals will wrest it from their grip. I would hope that’s not the source of his “ggkkk” feelings of disgust for physically strong women, because he’s really not at all relevant to any of us, and threats to his macho-ness are solely in his own frightened mind, not ours.

This Speaks For Itself, I Think

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

“In every aspect of religious life, American faith has met American culture — and American culture has triumphed.”

Dr. Alan Wolfe

An Existential Battle Between Douglas Wilson and Pat Summit

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The news that Pat Summit, the winningest coach in collegiate basketball history — that’s any division in the NCAA, men’s or women’s — has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was devastating. Summit has lead the Tennessee Lady Vols (Volunteers) to unprecedented strings of victory, and has done so with grace, humility, guts, and brilliance. I pray for her health and for her continued success in coaching.

But this news comes on the heels of some typically inane blather from Douglas Wilson, who, of course, has a well-developed and Scripturally-sound view of women’s athletics — as he does every other possible subject in the world. His Logos School’s K-12 program isn’t exactly a leader in girls’ sports, and this perhaps explains why.

“To illustrate, I don’t have any problem with girls competing athletically. But you cannot just say that ‘basketball is basketball,’ and throw them all in there to compete like generic human beings. No, if you are going to have a girls’ basketball team, then one of your goals should be to teach the girls to play and to compete like ladies. If masculine patterns of competition are just accepted across the board, the results will be appalling. In some sports, the girls should compete differently than the boys, and in others, it is grotesque for them to compete at all — in shot put, say, or boxing.” (Blog and Mablog, August 21, 2011)

Well, at least he didn’t suggest that the girls’ uteruses (uteri?) would be rendered unusable by playing sports. That’s a start, I suppose.

But Wilson’s insistence on both injecting his warped view of “masculinity” into every subject and then protecting it like, well, a frail, tiny lil’ gal with a big ol’ heavy basketball, is puzzling and disconcerting. It also reveals an odd insistence that fierce and cheerful competition, athletic energy, enthusiasm for victory, and the exhilaration of exercise is solely the providence of masculinity. Really? Who says? Just because Ruth, Abigail, Deborah, and Phoebe weren’t known for their athletic ability doesn’t mean that girls shouldn’t enjoy robust athletics. The world has changed; it’s inevitable, but they’re not always, these changes, an indication of God’s displeasure. Culture changes, thankfully, but character doesn’t, and it’s character that counts in athletics, not the degree to which ladies sweat. And, yeah, that includes when a big woman uses the gift of her beautiful, healthy body to put a seven-pound iron ball farther than the other women. (I agree with Wilson that women shouldn’t box; I don’t think men should, either, and Wilson’s 2002 sponsoring of a little kids’ boxing tournament via Logos and Christ Church was a nauseating exercise of aggression and macho bluster that, frankly, is far more offensive to God than a female shotputter).

I described Pat Summit as a woman with “grace, humility, guts, and brilliance,” and I’m sure Wilson would be relieved that she exhibits the first two; he might even acknowledge that coaching brilliance might be found in a woman. But Summit’s teams win, and they win because they play hard; they’re “winners,” though, because Summit insists on sportsmanship and character, something all too rare in the world of men’s sports. I think God is pleased when the wonderful game of basketball is played with gusto by anyone — athletics is part of the “dance of life” he delights in.

What displeases God is boorishness, whether on the athletic field or court, or in the halls of Christian academia. And in Moscow, at least, that blustering boorishness is entirely the product of menfolk who dare to claim masculine character over all things good and beautiful — including the joys of athletic competition. Like Soviet hegemony in decades past, Wilson preaches an encroaching masculinity over the things he and his pals enjoy and desire, and then works to keep women out of them by appealing to “reason” that is entirely unreasonable, unenlightened, and unappealing in its arrogance.

Yes, Obama Said That. Here’s Why He’s Not A Hypocrite.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

A Tea Party-supporting reader who prefers I not name her challenged me to respond to this quote by then-Senator Barack Obama. I’ll give my thoughts, briefly, before I turn to the upcoming Douglas Wilson-Mark Driscoll symposium on all things true, good, beautiful and totally macho.

Here’s the quote:

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”– Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

I’m reminded of a bumpersticker I saw once that had a smiling George W. Bush saying, “Hey, it was all my fault, but thanks for blaming the black guy!” Way too simplistic, but not too terribly far off the mark.

Here’s my response to my correspondent:

Obama’s speech above is not something I find terribly odd or offensive or inconsistent with his current position. Do you not recall that he made this comment in the midst of the George W. Bush debacle, eight years of spending-gone-wild on two failed wars, one so poorly planned as to border on criminal, the other criminally sold to the American people through the proliferation of lies, deceit, and obfuscation. Why wouldn’t Senator Obama object to the rampant debt OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION that fostered the need for a raising of the debt ceiling?

I don’t believe he voted against it AT RISK OF GOVERNMENT DEFAULT, and it’s pretty common — I’ll grant you this — that in the numerous “raisings of the debt ceiling,” the party of the president votes to do it (that would be the GOP, which was largely in favor this time around of raising the debt ceiling, except for the Tea Party), and the party not holding the White House votes NOT to do it. If you want to accuse Obama of objecting to the debate over raising the debt ceiling in 2006, and then calling for it in 2011, go ahead — but remember the times (Bush’s taking a surplus and running us trillions into the ground with his tax cuts and warmongering), and remember the stakes (this year, a potential government default at a time of worldwide recession). It’s a sign of political expediency, perhaps, but only if the circumstances are equal — and here, they’re not.

Frankly, only an immature, blinded, misinformed crank would hold to a position, regardless of changes that affect it, just so he/she can be called “consistent.” I don’t believe Barack Obama is an immature, blinded, misinformed crank. I do believe many of the Tea Party leaders are.

It Just Warms My Heart

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

From yesterday’s correspondent, the brother who wanted more information on Biblical egalitarianism, this comment:

“There are many punishments for sin in scripture. All of them disappear in the grace of Christ, thanks be to God! Jesus freed us from the curse of sin; this makes Gen. 3:16 history as of Calvary.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, men who work the soil find success and wives can walk hand in hand with husbands not two steps behind. Redeemed men and women desire Christ together voluntarily submitting to the rule of scripture. I am the NH person who is looking for Evangelical Free History and thank you for the book tip. I’ve put in for No Time for Silence and also Men, Women, and the Bible.

You site is interesting. Every year at our church meeting, I write in the name of a woman I admire from our congregation on the ballot on the “write-in” line for elder. Now that my daughter is in early elementary school, I wonder if I should do more to show her that she can be President of the United States, CEO of international company, race car driver, doctor, electrician, astronaut OR senior pastor in our small town church. Our question as parents is why she can be anything she wants in life, except in church where she can teach only women and children.”

Thank you, brother, for your kind words of encouragement. We’re in the minority, of course, but the Word says what the Word says — and Christ did what Christ did. Your daughter is greatly blessed, and I hope you continue to write back. Please share “Prevailing Winds” with your friends and congregants; we need to get the word out about Biblical equality!