Archive for November, 2012

A Quick Take From The Road: Women’s Ordination

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I’m in San Diego because of a family emergency, and I may not have much time to address Doug Wilson’s Blog and Mablog blather Monday regarding N.T. Wright and the ordination of women.  It does, however, need to be addressed, and as things settle down, I’ll write more.

For now, though, let me say that 1 Timothy 2:12-15 is one of those verses rabid complementarians like Wilson cling to when they don’t know what to do with the New Testament verses that speak of inclusivity and mutuality between women and men in the Body of Christ — because, on first read in English, it appears to utterly prohibit women’s teaching from the pulpit and, Wilson insists, makes the ordination of women a sin.

Wilson likes the easy verses that look cut-and-dried, even when they’re not — unless they’re cut-and-dried in stating something he disagrees with.  This passage, however, isn’t an easy, immediately clear one.  Wilson and other patriarchs pull v. 12 out to deny women the right and ability to use their Spirit-given gifts — after all, he says, it’s right there in plain English.  And, he warns, where Paul says “blue,” we are not to suggest “pink.”  Therefore, N.T. Wright and every other egalitarian is simply denying the obvious prohibition in Scripture of women’s teaching and ordination.

That would be tragic, and certainly wrong, if that were the case.  But it isn’t.  These verses are some of the most problematic, least clear words in the New Testament — in English, yes, but more so in Greek.  The word for what Paul doesn’t allow women to do is, in the Greek, “authentein.”  It means everything from usurping, bullying, engaging in coup attempts, to murder of reputation by slander, and I doubt that Wilson is as able as Wright, or many other scholars, to apply “authentein” to the issue at hand.  That word helps us understand what women must not do.  Not understanding it does not allow us to simply reach for the most simple, most convenient, or most agenda-serving explanation.

Further, most Bible scholars agree that Paul is saying that he is not NOW permitting a woman to teach men, something understandable in light of the pagan culture in Ephesus that sometimes catapulted unstable women into positions of authority and rule in a reckless, excessively liberal response to the worship of the goddess Artemis.  Paul commends the teacher Priscilla, the apostle Junia, the deacon Phoebe, and the house-church leaders Lydia and Nympha elsewhere in the New Testament, while here, in v. 11, insisting that women learn.  It’s not a stretch, and it certainly isn’t in response to some feminist agenda, to suggest that his concern in v. 12-15 is the proper preparation for and conduct displayed by anyone, male or female, who has a Spirit-given gift of teaching. 

But it’s not the Greek that trips Wilson up; he trips over the English “first read, plainly read” verses that follow by insisting that v. 12 be taken rigidly and at face value, something neither he nor any other evangelical can claim for v. 15.  Women are not “saved” through the bearing of children, no matter how their conduct is judged.  Scripture is clear that women and men, as well as children, are saved by grace through faith.  Wilson knows this, and because he does, he can’t take this verse literally — which is the only way, he insists, v. 12 can be taken.  In the span of four verses, he goes from a fundamentalist insistence on what scholars have debated for centuries to an avoidance of a literal take on v. 15 — because he has to.

Not even Doug Wilson, who finds reason and opportunity in far lesser things to divide and order the sexes, can claim that the salvation of women is achieved differently from that of men.  And, should he read “saved” as some do — “saved through childbirth” — his experience has to tell him that even good, devout women sometimes die in childbirth.  The passage, v. 12-15, cannot be read out of the context of the New Testament at large, and the verses cannot be separated like so many links on a chain.  If v. 15 cannot be taken at literal face value — suggesting that women are somehow saved in a manner different than men, or will never, ever die during childbirth if they show virtuous character — a reasonable exegesis would suggest that v. 12 can’t either, particularly with a Greek verb that can mean many different things.

Further, while v. 13 rightly remarks that Adam was created first, v. 14 points out that Eve was deceived; she didn’t sin intentionally but fell because a lack of understanding.  This suggests, and is confirmed by Romans 5-7, that Adam sinned with understanding.  Wilson and his fanboys, as evidenced in the comments following his post, may be comfortable suggesting that this verse teaches what life experience contradicts — that women are simply more gullible and more prone to sin and deception than men — but seem blissfully unaware that the take-away from v. 13 and 14 is that Adam’s sin was one of intention.  That hardly seems, and isn’t here, a reason for women not to be able to teach.

It’s a great sin, Wilson says, to ordain women or let them teach authoritatively from the pulpit.  I would suggest that it’s a worse sin to isolate in the service of one’s unwavering prejudices an uncommonly difficult passage of Scripture — one that seemingly contradicts not only the ability of the Holy Spirit to gift whomever He wants however He wants, but also flies in the face of other New Testament teachings that command the abolishment of class, race, and gender differences as barriers to full service and participation in the community of Christ Jesus.  To malign the integrity and wisdom of the exegete who disagrees with him, while entirely Wilsonian in character, compounds that sin. 

But Wilson can’t bear disagreement in his ranks, and so the reputation of N.T. Wright and every other defender of women’s full participation in ministry is sullied, and every woman who is ordained and does teach mixed-gender groups is called a sinner.  That’s Wilson’s M.O. — but it isn’t anything at all like that of the Holy Spirit, who gifts and calls women and men together to serve His Church and serve it based not on their gender, but on their gifts.

Confidential to J.B.

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Hey, thanks for reading, and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!  Feel free to drop me a line sometime . . .

On Immigration And The "Browning Of America," Dedicated To Those Who Rightly Fear Their Loss Of Position And Power

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

The current murmur of lament from Wilsonistas here and across the country over the perceived death-blow to white, male, conservative values and culture — by which we agree that you are to read “Christianity” into that — has, at its core, tremendous concern that the browning of our nation is now unstoppable, owing, it seems, to the re-election of that dark-skinned, foreign-born, socialist usurper to the throne of the American Presidency.

I’ll discuss the shamefulness of a Christian pastor’s lighthearted approach to the admittedly remote threat of current-day secession in a later post, although I will say that the threat of a far-Right revolt against people of color, the Federal Government, the “47 Percent,” women, and virtually everyone else not like them is far from remote.  To toss off with studied insouciance the idea that secession in this, a culturally and religiously divided 21st Century America, isn’t necessarily a BAD thing, as long as you don’t go into with hat in hand and tail tucked between one’s patriarchal Christian thighs, is the height of recklessness.

That the commentator doesn’t particularly think a divided Union is problematic is frightening.  That he’s known as a Christian pastor makes his determined contempt for the Gospel tradition of reconciliation and justice, however, utterly despicable.  But “despicable” is something Doug Wilson does easily, and the thinly veiled white supremacy and racial divisiveness evident in the comments following his secession post demonstrates that his followers have embraced the despicable as well.  Their caterwauling about their white-male loss of privilege and power has a distinctly anti-people of color bent to it.

It does make you wonder if they’re aware that the Savior they claim to worship was not a Scottish kid named Kevin O’Shaughnessy, born in Monroe, Louisiana, and raised in a nice Scots-Irish Presbyterian family.  How inconvenient our dark-skinned, Semitic, homeless, bastard-perceived Jewish Christ must be to them and to all racists, Confederates, nativists, and supremacists.

So when a friend forwarded me something I had written in 2006 about the respect and justice due to Latino immigrants for the online magazine New West, it occurred to me that words I wrote back then are even more true now:

(Originally published in New West online magazine, 2006, written by Keely Emerine-Mix, originally titled “If You Criticize Hispanic Immigrants, Don’t Do It With Your Mouth Full”):

It used to just be “the Californians.”

When Idahoans grumbled and murmured about newcomers and city slickers and McMansion builders on pristine hills, the culprits were a known commodity: Californians, those privileged sons and daughters of hi-tech who scooped up all that Silicon Valley could give them and ran to the wide open spaces of the American West. Once here, they blithely ignored our ways and standards and began to impose theirs, knowing that money and education trumps rural culture, ruining it, the argument went, for those of us who earned our livings by the sweat of our furrowed Idaho brows. Of course, we envied them; some of us, to be honest, were them — but like the next-to-last kid left in a game of tag, we called “game over” once we arrived and joined the natives in deriding those pompous, posing Californians.

Now, though, newcomers and long-term Idaho residents alike have a new group to deride — illegal immigrants, those men, women, and children who build our homes, tend our gardens, pick our fruits and vegetables, and milk our cows. They’re here, we whisper, just to soak up our benefits, use up our tax dollars, and bankrupt our cities and towns with their incessant use of social services — services to which, we say more boldly, they’re not even entitled, having often arrived without legal papers. Nothing, it seems, can unite rural natives, small-town newcomers, and urban settlers like a heapin’ helpin’ of good ol’ nativistic bigotry, and, as might be expected, Northern Idaho is no different. Idahoans have been united in the worst way possible by a group of people who lack the political power to unite themselves — illegal aliens.

By “illegals,” of course, we don’t mean “U.S.-born persons of Anglo descent who commit illegal acts,” a fact confirmed by that which it modifies — “aliens,” those who, if not actually from another planet, might as well be, so different are their customs and ways. These “illegals,” as distinguished from our own, genuine, convicted criminals, are foreigners. They’re people, usually born in Mexico or Central America, who cross the U.S. border without proper papers. The contention is that they do so to pillage and plunder our security, our way of life, and, most gratingly, our social services budget. The Californians at least buy a lot of stuff; the illegals just . . . well, they buy a lot of stuff, too, but do so only to position themselves closer to the government handout line. Or so rumbles the groundswell of anti-immigrant sentiment around us: The illegals live lives of difficulty, to be sure, but only on our dime. And only, says the nativist, because America has gone soft and weak, bled dry by those who would lance the hand it extends at every turn.

For 12 years in Western Washington, I was privileged to work with recently arrived Mexican immigrants to the U.S. Some were here with legal papers. Most weren’t. But I don’t know of anyone who didn’t work, who didn’t try to raise a family, and who didn’t try to fit in. Some made use of government services; all paid taxes into the system that provides them those services. I knew of families who were provided beat up old travel trailers to live in — with water provided by a hose through the window — and then had rent totaling nearly half their wages deducted for the privilege. Choice? Nope. Some dairy owners want their employees on site and considered this living arrangement a requirement. It certainly was a money-saver. Others trained their new workers for two or three weeks without pay, claiming that U.S. law didn’t require “paid training.” Quite a few pocketed FICA and worker’s comp deductions, leaving employees without coverage in case of an accident, and others refused to provide even simple amenities like toilets and fresh drinking water. Landlords rented one- and two-room apartments with standing water, cockroaches, and mold-covered walls to groups of men and families, then denied them their deposits for things like leaving the key on the window sill instead of the table upon vacating.

I used to eat pollo en mole every Wednesday with a family of five living in an old travel trailer. I’ve stood more times than I can count ankle-deep in cow manure pleading for someone’s paycheck. I’ve helped bail water out of the sink and bathtub of apartments I wouldn’t keep my dog in, and I’ve seen children playing in fields of effluent and living in trailers so damp that floors were reinforced with cement blocks from underneath. And, most tellingly, I’ve eaten the fruit they picked, dieted on the lettuce they pulled from the ground, drunk the milk they pumped in filthy dairies, and enjoyed the beautification they provided for my community’s lawns and gardens. And so have you.

I’m aware that hospitals, schools and, much less often, jails and prisons are suffering under the weight of illegal immigrants who require services. I’ve seen the effects of compassion fatigue from providers as well as the effects of under-funding in their agencies, and my tax dollars pay for those services. So do the tax dollars of those who benefit from our government’s ragged safety net. I’m not someone who argues for a sudden flinging open of our nation’s borders, but neither will I assume that legal immigration is accessible and simple enough for anyone with a few months and a few bucks. The people I worked with were sub-literate, undereducated, desperately poor, and had almost no power, economic or political, in their home country. The Mexican government is, without question, utterly corrupt and it of course shares the blame for making Mexico inhospitable to its own poor. Poverty breeds contempt — not just from the powerful, but amongst the poor.

Not surprisingly, but tragically, lighter-skinned Jaliscans scorned darker residents of the Durango or Coahuila, who in turn often loathed the Oaxacans, who spoke about being glad they weren’t some other, darker-skinned group. It seems that racism demands that its ugly voice be heard, even among those who suffer from its effects courtesy of the majority. And so legal immigration, while certainly preferably — and while certainly within the power of the United States to grant — is largely unattainable for those who most need relief, the poor. I’ve known a few people who immigrated legally, and I’ve known many more who arrived without papers, who were granted amnesty in the mid-80s and are now citizens with a greater respect for the responsibilities and duties thereof than most native-born Americans I know. They came the hard way, giving their all to a country that didn’t want them, and they stuck it out to become a part of that country.

I’m a witness to the struggles of those who heroically risked life and limb to make a life for themselves and their families in the United States. I’ll let God decide whether their coming here was a sin or not — and I believe the Holy One will say it’s not — but I have no hesitation in pointing out the sin of bigoted assumptions, those assumptions that attribute wrong motives to people whose motives, providing for their families, are crystal clear.  I’ve seen these heart-rotting assumptions comfort the comfortable, and work to further the affliction of those who suffer. Not all immigrants are noble or self-sacrificing; some do cross with malicious intent. But I steadfastly deny that the “malicious intent” is to work for less, suffer more, be separated from family, and live in fear solely for what the bigots say is the privilege of draining your and my benefits and bank accounts.

The hue and cry over the high cost of illegal immigration rarely comes from people who are equally vehement in their opposition to the cost of our “war” on terrorism and our “war” on drugs. It appears to echo primarily from those whose sentiments are at least somewhat in line with a nativist approach that suggests our country is being overrun by, well, you know, “them.” The symptom might be a burdened social service system (which staunch conservatives generally disdain under most other circumstances), but the disease is made clear: the evolution of the U.S. from an Anglo-American bastion of Western culture, bland Christianity and a melting pot whose broth always tastes more WASP than Tex-Mex. I would be inclined to think that the high cost of providing services to undocumented persons truly was the concern if I saw other high cost endeavors of dubious value and outcome being targeted by the anti-immigration crowd, but I don’t. It’s difficult for me to see how anyone can salute the $400 billion effort the Bush administration has launched in Iraq so far and yet feel justified in denying medical benefits and education to immigrant children. Why are they not also railing against the hemorrhage of killing debt with which we have saddled our children? The war on drugs has incarcerated even first-time drug users, bled resources from urban and rural police forces, and destroyed families all over the nation, costing billions of dollars in its execution and even more in the result of it, but I don’t hear how drug users, much less the war against them, is soaking up our benefits and bankrupting our nation.

Whatever the solution to our nation’s immigration situation, it’s time to realize that the hand in your pocket is far more often the hand of a white guy from Texas, born in privilege and steeped in avarice and corruption, or the hands of those in power around him. What it’s not is the calloused, weathered, and work-stained hand of the Mexican immigrant or her children.

Grateful For A Three-Lb. Furry Ball Of Blessing

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Umm, have I mentioned it’s been a rough year?

Yeah, thought so.  It’s amazing how self-focused you can get on your own blog . . .

In wanting to express my prayer that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of realization of every blessing of the Lord, I want to tell you what I’m grateful for this year. Not “most grateful.”  That would, of course, be for my amazingly patient and gentle husband, Jeff, and my two sons, Anthony and Jonah.  Nothing in my life makes sense apart from them.  Then, I would mention three or four friends who have sustained and supported me through a difficult year — or, in one case, through a difficult lifetime.  I may be partially disabled and dealing with a chronic pain condition, but there’s nothing that threatens my life, or even keeps me from living a normal, day-to-day life.  And we have a nice little house, plenty of food, cars that run, and enough money left over to give to people who God brings across our path. 

In short, I have a lot to be grateful for.

But about a month ago, the Lord brought me something else entirely different, and I enter into this Thanksgiving season really, truly, tearfully grateful for . . .

. . . a scruffy little kitten.

I was headed out to my car October 18, probably running late for something, when I heard an anguished, high-pitched wail from atop a pile of junk in the carport.  I thought it was our adult male cat, Rowland, who had not come in from his mice-annihilating rounds the night before.  But when I went over to check on what I thought was an injured 5-year-old HUGE cat, I saw a pissed-off, back-arched, piteously wailing little kitten the color of an old tweed jacket.  He had a lot on  his mind, lots of grievances he was eager to air.

He was hungry.  I ran and got a couple of dishes for food and water, endured a furious wail and hiss, and went on my way.  Jeff came home mid-day and pronounced him a “winner,” which, for a kitten in Jeffspeak, means that he’s cute and should be fed again.
I was happy to oblige, noticing that he — the kitten, not Jeff — had begun to let me hold him and run my fingers through his matted fur.  But I was NOT hooked.  I was NOT interested in having another kitten; in addition to Rowland, we have Rugby, who, at 16, is on her way out, it’s true, but not quite there yet.  We also have two dogs.  My hands are full and my sofa is furry.  I didn’t need another pet, and I sure wasn’t looking.

But this little guy had different ideas.  By the end of the day, he was on the doorstep, meowing politely and trying to dash in at every opening of the front door.  It was cute, and I was flattered, and he was cute, and I was even more impressed with his bravery and initiative, and . . .

. . . it’s November 20, and after a round of shots and a date with the groomer, Gunther Emerine-Mix is curled up on our bed, purring happily, shedding profusely, and irrevocably lodged in my heart.  He’s about 4 months old, maybe a bit younger, and is already loved by most of the four-footed members of the family.  He’s funny and energetic and beautiful and gentle and affectionate and silly and . . . at a time when I needed to unabashedly love something that wasn’t part of my “regular life,” whatever that is, and be shamelessly courted by a tiny little guy who made his way from God-knows-where to my heart, my arms, and my bed. 

So.  In a life already greatly blessed, I have one more to count — a new little buddy named Gunther, who found me when I was feeling more than a little lost.  Thank you, Lord, for him and for all of our pets — the blessings you’ve brought us in your wisdom and graciousness as we struggled towards Eden renewed and recreated.

The Company He Keeps . . .

Monday, November 19th, 2012

I really am trying to not spend much time dredging through the rhetorical cesspool of Doug Wilson’s Blog and Mablog, because too much exposure to his pompous claims of expertise in every possible area — art, architecture, poetry, politics, science, sociology, history, hermeneutics, culture, capitalism — and his hateful take on anything that differs from his own views isn’t good for me.  And if it isn’t good for me, what I write about it tends not to be part of the “good” I want to spread through this blog.

But it is necessary for someone living in Wilson Central — Moscow, Idaho — to be well acquainted with the pernicious vapor of reckless bigotry pouring from this man’s keyboard, if they feel called to expose it, so I wandered over this morning to see what was percolating in the putative Bishop of Moscow’s mind.

Secession.

Specifically, a handful of Texans’ impotent attempt to persuade the White House to take its’ petition to secede from the Union seriously.  Wilson, ever quick to embrace the noxious, doesn’t think secession is a bad thing.  In fact, he’s pretty clear that it’s only the tactics and tone of the Texans’ wails that bother him, not the idea of Texas’ secession from the Union itself.  And, like a self-described old war horse unable to control its excretion, he lectures these non-Classicist, non-paleo-Confederate weenies to man up and do it the right way — which, he says, is not to ask, but demand.

The post, on today’s Blog and Mablog, is predictably Wilsonian — belligerence couched in lofty rhetoric that fools his toadies and accolytes into thinking that their Master is, indeed, a wise and perspicacious man.  He’s not, of course.  Not anything like it.  But what’s truly revealing — what tells you a lot about the beliefs that fuel Wilson, Inc., — are the 30-odd comments, nearly all of which contain or defend viewpoints that are dangerously close, to the clear-thinking, of racialist, white-supremacist, nativist thinking. 

Only one comment cautions against the racist undertones bubbling just barely under the surface of the comment log.  The rest is a sampling of white, male, conservative lamentation about the changing demographic (read: dark-skinned immigrants) of the United States that has rendered the (white, male) conservative movement impotent and irrelevant, which, in turn, is a threat to the Western Christian heritage on which this nation was built.  They say so, at least.

That the U.S. was first a land of indigent, non-Anglo, non-Christian nations whose growth was heavily dependent on their extermination and on the irredeemably sinful slave trade seems not to matter to these defeated warriors of All Things Anglo-Protestant.  That women — civilly disenfranchised by the original Constitution and socially disenfranchised by the GOP this election cycle — are a part of the diverse fabric of 21st century America appears to not even occur to the forlorn defenders of Western Civilization.  And the truth that immigrants to this country are overwhelmingly religious and usually Christian hasn’t yet entered their battle-weary minds.  The country is getting darker, and darker means “less friendly to white men” in their reasoning.  That, in turn, can only lead to disaster, the comments wail — manfully, of course.  And while men who call themselves Christians bandy about ideas about racial differences in intelligence, immigrants’ contempt for white men, the “give-away society” whose largesse comes directly via a kick to their collective crotch, only one guy cautions that, whoa, boys, the talk may be getting a little out of hand, here.

The running commentary provoked by Wilson’s blog post is as sobering as it is sickening, and it ought to tell you a great deal about his “ministries” and beliefs.  Wilson is an apologist for slavery, a defender of the Confederacy, a proponent of succession (done his way, of course), and a man whose mockery of the poor is rivaled only by his mockery of the Gospel, which he insists is a ticket to the good life, a life of plenty, prosperity, patriarchy and Sabbath dinners and Christmases that can never, he says, be too bountiful, too materialistic, or too full of fudge, wine, and full plates.

He is a man whose fans and friends tell you a great deal about his values and character.  And while his merry band of advisors — his Elders’ Board — is largely comprised of men financially dependent on his various enterprises, his accolytes are equally loath to risk his ire by correcting him, rebuking him, or repudiating his beliefs.  His power in Moscow is undeniable and unparalleled, to be sure, and his reach is nationwide as he has become accepted, contrary to all common sense and Biblical standard, as a sort of statesman of the Reformed movement. 

I, however, will tell you that this is a dangerous man whose congregation ought not include anything or anyone with cognitive power greater than that of a gerbil.  He is not a shepherd of anyone’s soul; he’s a shepherd of his toadies, and the rod and staff with which he rules is that of public scorn and ecclesiastical shaming.  But he is what passes, in Moscow, for a Man of the Cloth — a pastor of unrivaled influence and audience. 

And while I am unable to call him “Pastor,” I will acknowledge that he is a man of the cloth.  That cloth, however, ought not be one of finery and respect.  It ought to be the torn and riven cloth of sorrow and repentance, and I pray for the day he humbly dons the cloak of a broken man renewed and restored by the grace of the Holy Spirit he claims to be filled with.

Sunday Word — It’s A Test, Not An Exam

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” 

James 1:2-4  (NRSV)

If you know me, you know that the last year has been one of enormous difficulty.  Not a little consistent difficulty, not one or two enormous life events, but a steady stream of loss, conflict, despair, and defeat.  And if you know me, you know that I don’t exaggerate.  It really has been, and continues to be, that tough.

Of course, if you don’t know me, you may well think I am overstating the degree of stress that threatens at time to weigh me completely down — and you get to.  While I might write at some point about some of these things, the details remain firmly in my provenance.  I would, if you are so inclined, covet your prayers, even if I don’t furnish you with the script.

What truly matters, though, is that if you know the Lord Jesus, you know that the call of the Christian life is a call of suffering, of carrying our cross by the strength of His cross, not just occasionally, not just when life explodes on us, but every day.  The Word promises that problems and worries are sufficient for the day, a distressing thought if not for the assurance God gives us that His grace is sufficient for the day and for any challenges we face.  All of us see that life serves up a heaping helping of difficulties, sometimes, it seems, at every turn.  It would be easy to walk in defeat.  Sometimes I have.  Sometimes, after 31 years of knowing Jesus and being filled with His Spirit, I still walk like a woman defeated — feeling, I suppose, as if I were being asked to run a race through a lane waist-high with peanut butter.

I imagine most of you can identify.  If you can’t, that’s great — but be kind and be patient to those exhausted by life’s challenges and feeling their grip on Christ Jesus fading in strength, even though it’s not the strength of our grip on Him but His grip on us that keeps us safe.  We are kept in the heart of God by the sacrifice of Christ, and we walk in the Holy Spirit’s strength, meted out second by second, not kept in reserve for us to draw from in times of distress.

I’ve learned much in the last year, and — deep sigh — I honestly wouldn’t trade it for a year full of tranquility and harmony.  I long for such a year; I learn and become conformed to the image of Christ through times like this.  And in being conformed to the nature of Christ — such is the promise of the Spirit, not just a wish of mine — I have learned something of precious value and unerring truth:

It may be a test, but it’s not an exam.

The Lord is not allowing these things to assess my performance or grade my maturity in Him.  The Holy One is not testing me to see how far He can go or how far astray I can.  There is no “final exam” for those in Christ.  That ultimate assessment, that eternally significant “final exam,” was the obedience of the Savior in the crucifixion and the victory secured by the resurrection.  He passed the test.  I don’t have to; indeed, there is no “test” in my life that comes with a scale of success or failure from which God assesses my performance.  The problems and defeats in my life are buried with Christ, and their temporal emergence in my life is meant solely to lead me into greater worship, greater discipleship, and greater intimacy with the One in whose strong and tender hands my life is held.

May it be, for me, for you, and for all who call Jesus Savior.  You’re not being tested to be assessed, graded, and evaluated for failure or success.  You’re being tested — I’m being tested — so that we can become, in our suffering, more like Jesus. 

There’s much talk on the Palouse about the Church “living the good life” for the glory of Christ.  Praise God, I say, for true peace and prosperity in any believer’s life.  But I wonder if Christ can be as fully known in the good life as He is in the real life — the life that saddles most of us with burdens, stings most of us with briars of betrayal and loss, and bathes most of us with sadness and despair. 

We pass the test and pass through the testings because Christ did.  Nothing more is needed, and no “good life” can substitute for the intimacy found in “filling up the sufferings” of our Lord Jesus.

Peace to you this Sabbath, and may your burdens be lightened by knowing the One who permitted them so He could carry them and you through to the Light.

Yep, Isaac’s Recipe Is Pretty Tasty!

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Our recent houseguests, whose 5-year-old son, Isaac, offered Prevailing Winds readers his Scrambled Quesadilla recipe, wonder if I’ve tried it yet.

I have, and while I lack some Mozambique-specific spices, it turned out great!  And my son, the Bellevue, Washington, grad student and gourmet, promised to give it a shot.  May I recommend it for your family’s Sunday lunch?  Scroll down for the recipe, and to Isaac — thanks, buddy! 

Sabbath Words

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

In light of the healing that all of us need in order to work together to bind the wounds of a divided country, I thought these words from Hosea 10:12-13 — my personal “theme verses” — are appropriate.  I present them here in reverse order; without the context before and after, they read a bit more smoothly as v. 13-12:

“But you have cultivated wickedness, reaped perversity, and eaten the fruit of falsehood. Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety.  Break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the LORD, ’til he comes and rains down justice upon you.” (NAB)

Other translations read “break up for yourselves your fallow ground . . . ”  I pray that the fallow, unproductive, corrupt soil of contempt, bigotry, greed, and untruth will be broken up by the Gospel imperative of reconciliation and humility.  May the Church take the lead in the replanting — and repent for its role in the laying waste of the American body politic.

 

On Friendship And The Depth Thereof

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Anglican-Catholic curate and theologian John Henry Newman, writing and ministering in the late 1800s, believed the friendship of two people — of same or opposite sex — was a glimpse of the immensely great love of heaven.  He loved his male friends deeply, causing suspicion,  and his female friends dearly, causing friction, and found himself terrifically misunderstood by the Victorian-era “muscular Christianity” appalled by his celibate lifestyle and tender sentiments.

I’m being kind, of course, to the Christian masculinists of 150 years ago.  What they really thought was that he and his ilk were foppish, effeminate dandies unfit for the testosterone-fueled expansion of Christianity in pre-Industrial Britain.  Celibacy was deemed suspect — a state that made men too soft for the rough-and-tumble demands of Christian ministry and women too independent for the genteel, fluffy back seat of Gospel ministry.  Men like Newman were maligned and gossiped about, their heterosexuality never presumed and their “queer,” in the Victorian sense, ways maddening to the “tough Jesus” preached in Victorian pulpits.  There’s no evidence that he ever engaged in any homosexual, or heterosexual, activity.  He just openly, profoundly, loved his friends.

I suspect Newman, raised Catholic, converted to evangelical Protestantism in his youth, and beatified a few years ago by Pope Benedict, would be greeted with the same withering disdain in Moscow — where men are men and classicists, poets, artists, and three-part-harmonic Psalms singers nonetheless dare not show phileos affection for another man, lest they be thought of as liberals, sentimentalists, or “sodomites.”  While secular “bros” and “buds” might be a bit too crude for Moscow’s Latin-studying classicists, they’re preferable to men in touch with their feelings or men who touch their male friends.

But I’m a Newman-ite in this.  I make love with my husband, and I hold hands with him walking down the street.  But when my friend is hurting, I’ll take her hand.  If my friend is celebrating, I’ll hug and kiss them.  And if my friend needs a shoulder to cry on, my arms are open.  I cease to be Keely if I cease to extend my hand in affection and aid to a friend.

One of the sadly oddest things I’ve experienced in Christian culture is our fear of being thought of as homosexual.  I remember once meeting at a Starbucks here, talking with a Christian woman friend about the dismal state of her marriage.  She was miserable; i was trying to be supportive.  As we were walking out to her car, I put my arm around her.  She immediately wiggled out from under it and nervously joked that people might think we were “that way with each other.”  Even after pouring her heart out to me, even after acknowledging what a wreck her life was, her concern was that someone at the mall would see my arm around her and think we were lesbians.

I find that sad, and even a little bit terrifying.  What do men with such fears do with the Scriptural picture of Jesus and “the disciple he loved,” John, who reclined against his chest at the table?  What do women besieged with fears of being tagged lesbians think about the intimacy of Ruth and Naomi?  And what do young people raised like this think — about themselves and about those they love — when their faces light up at the arrival of their best friend, or the spontaneous hug from a new one?

Newman had a beautiful response to the evangelical determination, then and now, that friendships be bland and tepid and that strong emotion be reserved only for marriage:

“There have been men before now, who have supposed Christian love was so diffuse as not to admit of concentration upon individuals; so that we ought to love all men equally…. Now I shall maintain here, in opposition to such notions of Christian love, and with our Saviour’s pattern before me, that the best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate our intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.” 

The affection and treasure of friendship is a gift given and modeled by Jesus Christ.  It’s tragic that we’ve polluted with our fears and suspicions the love we could experience in the friendships that our Lord and millions of other sisters and brothers not so culturally fettered have enjoyed.  It leads to our functioning not like the stones comprising the Temple of the Lord Jesus, but a bunch of balloons blowing freely apart from each other, grounded entirely in the Gospel-or-something-like-it, never intending to touch and being thought of as odd and twisted if they do.

Rob? Are You There, Rob? And Then, Let’s Talk About Joseph

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

One of the frustrating things about having an infinitesimally slight degree of tech understanding is that when Blogger, the Prevailing Winds platform, changes things, I’m usually the last to know.  And once I do figure it out, it’s still hard for me to know how to incorporate the change into something I can use.

So.  Imagine my dismay that back in August of 2011, someone named Rob wrote a very nice series of questions and comments regarding my take on 1 Corinthians 7 as a more accessible text on marriage than Ephesians 5.  Unfortunately — and I say this knowing that some of you either won’t believe me or will think I’m ineffably dumb — I just found where his and other comments have been stashed for about the last two years. 

You know, it did seem a little quiet around here.

Thus, and with my apologies, I’d like to ask Rob to engage with me again on both that and the larger egalitarian/complementarian debate in the Church.  I’d also like to send him and his wife a bottle of wine, as a way to say I’m sorry.  His points deserved a timely and thoughtful response, and I’m more than a wee bit mortified that they didn’t pop up on my radar. 

On another subject, I’m saddened by the “bitch goddess” remarks churning out of Anselm House, particularly as applied to government’s right to tax people — or, as Doug Wilson says, practice thievery via taxation.  (Anselm House is the nerve center, or primary clubhouse, of the Federal Vision/Reformed Patriarchy/Classical Christian Education movement here).  So I’d also like to toss out a bottle-of-wine-on-me challenge for anyone, locally or not, who can refute my contention that the Genesis account of Joseph’s ordering the collection of and overseeing the distribution of the citizenry’s grain in response to the seven-year famine is a Biblical model — a model lauded by God — of the State’s right and responsibility to provide for its people via taxation, situational interference in the market, and even — horrors! — income redistribution. 

I truly want to know why no one waxing shrill about “piglets suckling at the teat of government,” or about the “bitch goddess of statism,” ever acknowledges that.  I scarcely expect them to applaud, recommend, or enact an Acts 2-4 collectivism, which is a model for the Church and not the State — except that we’re told up here in Moscow (and this is how classicists talk ’round these parts) that it’s bad juju to separate what the Church ought to do from what the State ought to do.  Still, I’ve asked before without offering wine; knowing that much gets done around here via the lubrication of a timely gift from the vine, perhaps now I’ll get an answer. 

Rob, I hope you can forgive me.  Get back to me, and send me your address and red/white preference to me at siyocreo@live.com, the Official Prevailing Winds Contact Email.  Be the first on your block and all that, but please do let me hear from you.