Archive for February, 2013

The Somewhat-Less-Than-Great Debate, Wilson vs. Sullivan

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

For background, you might want to first read yesterday’s column about Doug Wilson’s debate last night with journalist and gay-rights activist Andrew Sullivan.

Obviously, the debate hadn’t happened yet when I wrote yesterday, but you can congratulate me on my prescience in describing Wilson’s likely debating style.  Last night he was at his obfuscating and evasive best, dwelling more on polygamy than on homosexual marriage, refusing to answer even the simplest questions, and saving his argument — that gay marriage is bad for society — for the conclusion of the debate, when Sullivan couldn’t respond.  This looked especially disingenuous as Sullivan tore out of the gate with a cogent defensive of gay civil marriage and its benefits to society.  While Sullivan used data and reason, Wilson argued from a bizarre mix of the grammatical (“the change in pronouns changes the verb”) and the tautological (“it’s wrong because I believe it to be, and I believe it to be wrong because it is wrong”).

And he still managed a comment on the national debt. Turns out, I wasn’t so far off with my Vietnamese shrimp fisherman comment.  It makes me look wise beyond my years . . 

Or, rather, it makes me look like someone more than a little familiar with Wilson’s debate tactics.  R. Clark Cooper learned the hard way; Sullivan now gets it, although had he done his research he’d know that, in fact, there are fewer moral or civic areas of presumed common ground with Wilson than with virtually any other human being of the 21st century.  Sullivan’s shock at Wilson’s dismissal of evolution, the ubiquity of masturbation, Social Security, and, seemingly, the presidential authority of Barack Obama, was obvious.  What should have been obvious, and what would have been if Sullivan had done his background work, is that Wilson’s worldview and Wilson’s world are radically different from his and from that of the fewer than a hundred or so gay-marriage supporters in the audience.

And how do I know there were a hundred or so gay-marriage supporters in the audience?  Because the moderator, the insufferably pompous Peter Hitchens, who wielded his “curmudgeonly British gent” persona as a blunt-edge Derbyshire walking stick against Sullivan, asked before the debate for a show of hands of people of those who agreed with, disagreed with, or were unsure about their stance on civil marriage for same-sex couples.  He did it again after the debate.

And then, because he evidently hadn’t finished carressing the monstrously large ego of his friend, Hitchens asked for a show of hands from the crowd indicating who they believe “won” the “debate.”  (Pardon the quotes, but it was hardly a debate, what with Wilson’s refusal to answer direct questions or address Sullivan’s points, and so it’s hard to say anyone really won).  Hold on to your coffee, faithful readers:  In a debate sponsored by the University of Idaho’s Collegiate Reformed Fellowship, full of CRF and New Saint Andrews students, Logos teachers, Christ Church and Trinity congregants and Wilson family members who comprised about 80 percent of the audience, the handcount went solidly toward Wilson.

One wonders how tiny one’s membership in the College of True Intellect must be to require that sort of nakedly compensatory assurance. 

Nonetheless, I think that honest observers would see that Wilson remains the undisputed Sultan of Snark, Oracle of Obfuscation, Prince of Pomposity and Duke of Dishonest Engagement.  He belittled audience members, stayed on topic with a topic — polygamy — that had nothing to do with the subject at hand, and even told a gay joke.  This was in response to my question about the utter lack of integrity he showed by being respectful and gracious to Sullivan in person and in front of an audience after spending years on his blog and in other writings — shielded from scrutiny and distanced from the object of his scorn — calling gay men sodomites, homos, catamites, and poofters.  While he declined my challenge to call the real-life homosexual man standing two feet from him a “poofter,” he did rise to it by tossing off a typically juvenile joke about why Episcopalians don’t play chess anymore:

All the bishops look like queens.

Finished with your knee-slapping guffaws?  OK.  Because ultimately, Wilson continued to demonstrate a stunning integrity deficit unbecoming a pastor or, I suppose, a common street thug.  And, just to secure Sullivan’s frustration, he and Hitchens seem not to have informed Sullivan that the debate format would include his being grilled by a moderator not even remotely neutral and not even able to attain simple levels of decency in interacting with Wilson’s guest.  Of course, Wilson doesn’t generally debate in formats that aren’t guaranteed to tilt in his favor; the only exception I know of was in our debate, where there was no audience and the moderator was a KRFP host unknown to both of us.

That the debate went well for me was, as I said yesterday, because the Holy Spirit was with me in giving me gifts that revealed the paucity of Wilson’s wisdom and the shallowness of his profundity.  He’s not a quick thinker, preferring to stay on script and “going extemporaneous” only when making a joke or tossing off comments on issues unrelated to the topic.  Like the Wizard of Oz, he is a substantial force capable of motivating thousands by his words — until the curtain is pulled away and he’s revealed to be a small man of great pretensions.  And while I don’t much like Sullivan, who mocked the Christian virtue of abstinence before marriage and told us a wee bit more than we needed to know about his views on masturbation and male promiscuity, his presence made it clear that there was, on that Wilson-leaning stage, only one true intellect.

Sadly, hundreds of young people, many of whom are undoubtedly struggling with homosexual desire that won’t go away and that leaves them defenseless in the face of the grossly homophobic church and academic culture they find themselves in, left the Sub Ballroom last night convinced that the Wizard was confirmed in his status as the Master of their Fate and Architect of their worldviews.

How different the character of their leader is from the character of the Savior they worship — and how tragic that most of them will never see the difference, preferring instead to make Jesus conform to the image of Wilson rather than see in him a man thoroughly conformed to the character of the One who is his Lord and mine.

Wilson And Sullivan Debate Gay Marriage

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

For the second time in the last six months, Doug Wilson is debating tonight a nationally-known, politically savvy gay-rights activist over the merits of same-sex marriage.

The Log Cabin Republicans’ R. Clark Cooper rode in a few months ago with an impressive resume and a thorough background in politics; he slunk back home with his R. Clock cleaned — not entirely by his own fault, although he was clearly unprepared, but because Wilson’s rhetorical jiu-jitsu had him in tangles the entire night.

I’ve debated Wilson before (July 2007; you can find it on YouTube).  I’ve asked questions of him in public forums, and I’ve seen him perform in numerous debates and disputatios.  He’s not a master debater.  What he is is a guy who sticks to his script, regardless of where the debate goes, and in doing so, manages to re-frame the entire show as an exercise not in argument, but in doggedly reiterating his point and ignoring challenges to it, with the occasional out-there, irrelevant remark thrown in to keep his opponent off balance.

So, in a debate about, say, the availability of condiments in the public schools, he will begin by reading off pre-scripted remarks about the threat to the Gospel and to social order of relish packets, mustard jugs, and ketchup dispensers in the cafeteria.  If his opponent, then, discusses the benefit to public schools of these and other sandwich toppings such as Miracle Whip and anchovy paste, Wilson won’t expand his argument or respond to his co-debater’s expansion of his own.  He’ll just repeat his arguments, although not by reading from his script.  By this time, he’ll have them well memorized.  Or, he’ll seize on anchovy paste with a commentary on Vietnamese shrimp fishermen’s intrusion on the livelihoods of generations of native Louisianans, leaving his pro-condiment guest looking punch-drunk and befuddled. 

Either way, the night will likely be his because the script, the flow, the venue, the direction and the moderation are all his.  A young NSA protege’, Gabe Rench, “moderated” the Cooper debate.  This time, Wilson’s upped the ante — and secured favor — by tapping the late Christopher Hitchens’ brother, British evangelical and staunch conservative Peter Hitchens.  You’ll remember that Christopher Hitchens and Wilson had a series of debates and discussions about faith and atheism.  In Peter, Wilson has a friend, as well as someone whose own intellectual prowess isn’t as widely recognized as his brother’s.

My point here isn’t to make fun of Wilson, but to observe that he “wins” debates, or at least his debate with the rhetorically-less-agile Cooper, by re-framing them.  A debate should be a two-person stroll through the garden of The Issue At Hand or a dance where one leads, the other responds, and they dance to the same tune all night with their own interpretations.  The audience for my KRFP Moscow debate in ’07 generally believed I did well against him.  If that’s the case, it’s because of the gifts God has given me — gifts that didn’t allow him to wiggle out of a difficult issue or remain so stolidly on point that he stanched the flow of actual debate.  Unfortunately, Wilson seems to view debates as either a game of tag wherein he taps his opponent and then runs off, or an outing to the park where his companion heads boldly down the path, only to have to return to Wilson’s bench in order to hear him repeat his main point. 

That both Cooper and Sullivan are intellectually way out of my league is obvious.  But prevailing against Wilson in a debate isn’t a game of matching wits with him.  Without anticipating his manipulation of both format and flow, even the whip-smart Cooper was reduced to befuddlement. 

I hope Sullivan has done his homework, and I hope to be there tonight to see how he fares.

CNN Drops Her Like A Hot Potato. Or Like A Real Journalist.

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The news that CNN, the “most trusted name” therein, has dropped Soledad O’Brien from any regular, consistent programming on the network is dismaying.  One of the few broadcast journalists anywhere to actually behave like one — challenging half-truths, attacking spin and vapidity, demonstrating profound knowledge of the issues before her, and confronting policy-makers if their policies were unrealistic — has now, with NBC’s Ann Curry, found herself in the no-woman’s land of “special projects” and “ways to contribute.” 

It’s too bad, and it’s too bad that it comes from CNN, which, unlike MSNBC and FOX, has carved out a centrist, fairly balanced role for itself in a market full of polarizing forces.  Sadly, it now appears that it will attempt to continue in that role while doing very little hard-hitting journalism, not a whole lot of actual reporting with in-depth analysis.  That analysis is the only thing keeping the public from spoon-fed, spin-selected sound bites.  “Hard-hitting” is the only way journalism should be practiced; I say this as a third-generation print journalist (University of Arizona, BA, 1982). 

I write this also as a woman who held Soledad O’Brien up as a role model of sorts.  Like her, but in an entirely different category, I’ve been accused of being too aggressive and not terribly nice, too forceful and not ladylike enough.  This past campaign season saw O’Brien emerge from the pack as a journalist who, in going for the heart of the matter, never went for the jugular — but didn’t go for hand-holding and strokes, either.  That, I suspect, was her downfall.  She just wasn’t very, you know, LADYLIKE.  And in 2013, corporations are a little put off by that, and not a little put off by their sponsors’ discomfort.

Ted Turner’s billionaire status and eccentricity should make CNN less dependent on market forces than other networks, but money talks.  And it doesn’t like its voice drowned out by an intelligent, aggressive, articulate woman who holds those it represents to a standard higher than that to which they hold themselves. 

Remembering Joseph Wiederrick, Revised

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

“Give to everyone who asks . . . ”  Luke 6:30

I’m writing this in the early morning hours of February 20, safe and warm in the little cottage I call home, just outside the city limits of Moscow, Idaho.  There’s just a skiff of snow on the ground — the kind so light it brings to mind images of frosted breakfast cereal.

A month ago, in the early morning hours of January 20, a young man — to look at him, really, a boy — was drunk, confused, lost and literally freezing to death as he wandered around Moscow, making his way for miles throughout town wearing a light jacket and Vans tennis shoes.  There was ankle-deep snow all around him, deeper the further out of the city limits he went, and the temperature that night was in the teens.

Joseph Wiederrick, 18, was a University of Idaho freshman, a fresh-faced, handsome kid who died early January 20 near a stream northeast of Moscow.  He died of hypothermia, finally, apparently after slipping into the stream and further soaking himself.  Police found his body that afternoon, frozen to death under the bridge where he sought shelter as hypothermia, with its teasing sleepiness, false sense of warmth, and gleeful confusion overtook him. 

The bridge wasn’t the first place he sought shelter.  It’s where he went after those he sought shelter from turned him away.

It’s taken me a month to write about Joseph. I wept for days when it first happened.  I remembered my eldest son walking home a few years ago once after enjoying New Year’s Eve a bit too much, his car safely parked a couple of miles away from our house but his clothes and shoes caked with snow as he knocked on our door at 3 a.m.  I remembered the grief my youngest son feels over the culture of intoxication he’s certain simply overtook Joseph, who was a friend of some friends of his, and which will, inevitably, take another young life before the end of spring semester.  I grieved for his parents, tears even now trailing down my face, as they drove up from Hailey, several hours away, to help look for their son, who left a UI frat party, drunk, and got so terribly and finally lost. 

And I wailed with anger and disbelief that an 18-year-old who, my son says, stood about 5′ 7″ and who was so slightly built that he looked years younger, was turned away by at least two people whose homes he visited as he wandered, aimlessly and desperately, around my town.  News accounts say he left the party around 1 and meandered, dazed and disoriented, through town.  He first broke into a basement of a house just down the street from the apartments we own, thinking it was his dorm room.  The woman who found him there told him to go away, although she did say, later, after he was found dead, that she had offered to call the police if he needed any help.

Joseph said he didn’t, and he apologized.  She didn’t call the police.

Then he made his way, hypothermia accelerating as drunkenness receded, to the house of a young woman, pregnant and alone.  She was afraid, she said in news reports, and told him to go to the house across the street, where they would help.  It was nearly 3 a.m. on a frigid, snowy winter night.

She didn’t call the police, either.

Joseph wandered around, close to the hoped-for house across the street, but his tracks in the snow indicate that he continued further north, where he came to the stream that runs just east of North Mountain View Drive, outside of the city limits.  Exhausted, hazy from alcohol and hypothermia, he slipped and fell into the trickling brook, where hypothermia triumphed.  Curled up, wet and freezing, Joseph went to sleep under the bridge sometime after about 4 a.m.  Police found his body some 12 hours later.

I am not without honest sympathy for the two people whose houses Joseph went to for help; I can’t imagine the horror they now feel.  One woman said he didn’t look like he needed help, although, with a post-morten blood-alcohol level about twice the legal limit, he had to be considerably inebriated some 12 to 14 hours earlier, and more than a little disoriented from creeping hypothermia.  I know they’ll live with their guilt for the rest of their lives, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone and not particularly on people who are undoubtedly decent, conscientious people.  I would have let him in.  They didn’t.  But that doesn’t make me terribly noble and it certainly doesn’t make them evil.

Nonetheless, their neglect, whether borne of fear or indifference or optimism, had terrible consequences.  An 18-year-old boy, a year younger than my youngest son, had gotten wasted at a frat party on our university’s campus, walked through our safe and friendly little town, gotten turned away by our own neighbors, and died under a bridge near the park where we celebrate birthdays and watch our kids play.

There was the predictable mourning and immediate condemnation directed toward the two people we know of who turned him away when he was in obvious distress, not thinking to call the police — a horrible example of “not getting involved” that far, far exceeds the gross inhospitality of simply not inviting into our homes, or onto our front steps, a slight, drunk, freezing young man, obviously confused and in distress.  Predictably, after the first week, everything died down around Moscow, just as two parents and their family in Hailey, Idaho, mourned the loss of their precious son and shook from their heels the dust of a town that, in their eyes and mine, turned their boy away when his life depended on their response.

I struggled at first to try to write about what happened to Joseph Wiederrick, because I was angry, angrier than I’ve been in a very long time.  The knowledge that the two people who refused to help him — who refused, even, to just call the police and say that a kid was wandering around town, apparently lost and breaking into basements and knocking on doors — were feeling anguish did nothing, at first, to ease my anger toward them.  A month later, I’m still angry, because I see that this has shattered them, too.  And I sincerely wish for them a restorative peace that passes all understanding.

Because what passes my understanding, what I simply cannot seem to believe and will never accept, is that a young man in trouble literally and figuratively had the doors of help and compassion shut in his face.  In the deepest Red state in the union, where pompous assertions that “family values” and “Biblical standards” guide our legislature and our beliefs, two people turned away the most likely example of Jesus’ “the least of these” they’ll ever encounter.  And in the bright Blue dot that Moscow is in Red-state Idaho, where much deep thought is given to how locally sourced the organic lamb at the Co-Op is and how endangered girls in Pakistan are, this same community let fear and indifference dictate their refusal to help one of our own.  Joseph was one of our own, in the same way that every milk-carton kid and every bullied teen is one of our own, whether we act on it or not.

A month ago, the lost and scared kid came right to us, and we turned him away and left him wandering until he died, curled up under the only shelter — a concrete bridge — opened to him.

Joseph Wiederrick’s parents identified their son’s frozen-dead body on the same day that our family celebrated my son’s 24th birthday.  On future January 20ths, I’ll be missing a son who lives six hours away, working hard to make a career for himself for the life that stretches ahead of him.  Another family, though, will spend every January 20 living in grief that, if I can bear to try to imagine, must feel like a dagger imbedded in what’s left of their hearts.  Because their son will not become the architect he wanted to become.  He won’t get married and have kids for them to spoil; he won’t come home on holidays and celebrate his birthdays with them or with his friends.  He’s dead.

He’s dead.  He’s not dead because he went to a party and got smashed; there is no death penalty for drunkenness.  He’s dead because of an alcohol-sodden Greek system and an impotent and cowed university and, most of all, because at least two people he came into contact with decided, with no malice whatsoever, that their own convenience, their own property, and, perhaps, their own safety, were all of greater importance than the needs of a drunk kid.  They held on tightly to their rights and to their security, thinking, I suppose, and suppose generously, that they were holding on to their very lives.  They had a tight grip on what was theirs.

And a boy slipped through their fingers as he wandered along to his death.

Abdicators, Usurpers, And A Throne Already Occupied

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Upholders of patriarchy and the rigid gender roles required to sustain it are fond of describing marriage as a dance between initiator and receiver, servant leader and helpmeet, household head and hearth-warming heart, and the one who bows and the one who only then curtsies.  That’s when, at least to them, marriage is going well and “Biblical submission” is rigorously practiced at every turn.

Problems occur, the patriarchialists insist, when these roles are abandoned, flexible, or reversed — when women lead and men follow, or when leadership is assumed by competence in an area and not by genitalia, or when no one is positioned hierarchically over the other.  This is marriage-gone-bad, marriage as practiced by feminized men and feminist women, marriage that stomps on the precious Biblical doctrine of submission, and only disaster, the patriarchs say, can come from a union between a man who abdicates the throne of his rightful headship and a bitter woman determined to usurp it.  This is not only NOT “Biblical submission” — it’s a recipe, they cry, for the wholesale undermining of all things good, pure, and true in society as well as a slap to the face of a Holy God.

I shudder to think what marriage counseling offered by a marital hierarchy-promoting patriarch would be like, given the endless list of ways a competent woman and a sensitive man could offend patriarchial sensibilities, as well as the very limited ways “lovely” wives and “headship” husbands can operate without the sirens of Scriptural infidelity begin to wail.  Indeed, it almost makes me wonder how my loving husband and I have not just survived, but thrived, during our 27-plus years of marriage, what with me being me, with all the horror that evidently conjures up, and him being him, which is a wonderful thing to be — even if it offends complementarian hierarchy and order.

But we had this odd idea, as we prepared for marriage, that we were equals, best friends, soon to be lovers, and partners in everything, with no need for either of us to “function according to the roles prescribed for our gender.”  As 20-somethings just three years or so into our Christian walks, we innocently assumed that the throne at the center of our marriage would be occupied by the only One worthy to do so — the Lord Jesus Christ, the object of our worship, the author of our salvation, and, we believed, the One who brought us together, with different personalities, gifts, experiences, and needs.  It was and remains Christ Jesus who is the Head of our family, the Sanctifier of spouses, the Provider of all of our needs, and the highest point of our marital triangle. 

Of course, if unilateral submission in marriage were, in fact, what Scripture teaches, we would be having problems we’re not having, and if we weren’t, we’d nonetheless be unaware of the degree to which we’re out of step with the Scriptures’ teaching on marriage.  That, indeed, would be awful and certainly worthy of pastoral rebuke.

Unfortunately for patriarchial pastors and masculinist marriage counselors, the New Testament teaches mutual submission (Eph. 5:20), not unilateral submission — unless you want to argue that the verses that follow allow me to not love my husband at all, as long as I submit to him, and that he doesn’t have to submit to me, but still has to love the wife not commanded to reciprocate that love.  Not even the most rabid gender-roles proponent would preach that, because it’s illogical and, most important, violates the clear and direct commandment that leads into the entire Ephesians 5 discourse on marriage — “Submit ye, therefore, one to another . . . ” 

That would seem to mean that husbands and wives are to submit freely, from a position of security and volition, to each other.  And I didn’t even have to ask my husband . . .

It would also imply that, as mutually submissive, mutually loving, partners in marriage, neither the husband nor the wife can use the Word to pull rank over the other.  First Corinthians 7, the Bible text on marriage complementarians never seem to want to preach from at weddings, is full of parallels that describe Christian marriage, with lots of “as the husband, so the wife,” and “as the wife, so the husband” language that seamlessly flows with the entirety of the New Testament message of new life in Christ, the One who reverses the curse of the Fall and ushers in the Kingdom of reconciliation, righteousness, renewal, and redemption.  Those are words of harmony and mutuality, not words of hierarchy and masculinism.

The throne of Headship in our marriage is occupied — but it’s not occupied by Jeff out of male privilege unwarranted by Scripture, and it’s not clawed at and bitterly grasped at by me.  The presence of Christ on the throne that governs our marriage involves no abdication on Jeff’s part, no striving on my part.  It’s the gift and the promise of the Lord Jesus to those who are married in Him, and it’s a gift that is horribly sullied by those men who seek His abdication that they might usurp what is never and can never be theirs.

And It Happened Because …

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

I live in a college town.  That means a lot of things:  Art galleries, concerts that wouldn’t have come my way in Monroe, Washington, robust political discussion, and the realization that some of the dumbest people I know have Ph.Ds.

It also means that I read a lot of newspaper articles about alcohol-inundated frat parties, drunken students, and sexual violence.  Often, the sexual violence occurs in the aftermath of alcohol-inundated frat parties to drunken young women, leading to community-wide murmuring regarding how girls these days ought to be more careful, more chaste, less intoxicated, and less trusting.  It’s clear that being careless, reckless, intoxicated, and undiscerning ups the risk of being raped — as too many young women know all too well — and I wish none of our young people engaged in the intoxication culture so prevalent in the college years.  More libraries, fewer libations, I say.

But missing in this analysis of female student safety amidst the raucous atmosphere of university life is one thing, and that one thing is the most important, and really the only, point when discussing sexual assault:

Rape happens because there’s a rapist.  Period.

Silence Is Assent. Silence Is Denial. Silence Is The Mark Of A Spirit Neglected And Fettered.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

“We do not have the right to be silent sentinels. We must cry out when we see evil being done.”

Charles de Foucauld

We cannot be silent because its easier.  We can’t be quiet because it’s “not our business.”  We can never keep to ourselves knowledge of error and evil that affects others, and we must not believe that we are free to speak only when we have the solution to a problem before us.  Above all, we must never be silent, whether evil slips through our midst or stampedes over us, because it seems that others are more competent or more called to address it.

A more clever lie the enemy has never wrought.

The very strength of the Body of Christ is the commandment to use the gifts given those who comprise it.  The assembly of saints that we call the Church is an assembly of those gifted by the Spirit to do the work of the Spirit — to defend the Gospel and proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ through love, through truth, and through the faithful exercise of our gifts in the fulfillment of the Gospel mandate.  We each are gifted, literally and figuratively, with a voice.  We each are gifted with a Spirit-informed conscience that sighs, squirms, and sobs in the face of oppression, debauchery, violence, and falsehood.  That conscience is the voice and testimony of the Lord Jesus, and it demands to be heard.  The one obedient to the Almighty will not deny it its voice.

What transformation would be ours to behold if the groans and utterances of the Spirit in response to evil and error were given voice by His Body — with feet standing sure, hands extended, voices raised in prophetic hope, and eyes focused on the One who equips us.  That equipping, that strength, isn’t intended to be used in containing and restraining the voice of truth.

The strength we’ve been given is in accord with nothing more, nor anything less, than the will and the power of the Spirit of Jesus.  But the Church has too often applauded those whose efforts are focused on remaining silent and enforcing silence throughout those around them.  In a sinful world, their efforts are doubled, whether frantically or smoothly, to ensure that the Church never offends, never disrupts, never causes the world around it to stumble, by remaining placid and undisturbed in the face of evil.  It looks like a heaven-focused serenity and a cross-honoring quiet faith, and it fools those within the Church and outside of it, especially in the midst of the chaos roiling around it.

But it is neither.  There is no serenity that comes from the denying of truth, and there is no honoring of the cross in the bliss and willfulness of ignorance acquired and nurtured.  The lament and groans of the Spirit are soul-sounded not for us, but for a world dying for lack of hearing.  Those laments and groans are the cries of the oppressed and the wailing of the wounded.  Those cries reach the LORD above, as the Word promises, and they are never loosened in vain.

The question for the Church today is simply whether we will allow those cries to reach those around us — the oppressed and the oppressor, the wounded and the wounding, and the victimized and the victimizer.  The Spirit has much to say to them.  Whether they hear or not is largely up to those of us in whose hearts He speaks. 

The Most Competent Theologian You’ve Never Heard Of

Friday, February 8th, 2013


Katharine Bushnell, who lived and wrote from the middle of the 19th ‘til the middle of the 20th century – the time I really think I should’ve been born in, the height of this country’s greatest Christian-led social reform movements, was a brilliant theologian.  But, writing as a woman in the waning years of the 1800s, when women’s voices were more readily heard outside of the Church, and during the evangelical Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy toward the end of her life, when her egalitarian convictions were deemed suspect, her work never reached the prominence of a Wesley, Finney, or Moody.
And that’s a pity.  Fluent in Biblical Hebrew and Greek, she undertook her magnum opus, God’s Word To Women, as a response to the degradation of women that masculinist theology and sexist culture wrought.  God’s Word To Women is a series of one hundred lessons, divided into hundreds of exegetical paragraphs, that comments on the entirety of the Scriptures’ testimony of womankind’s equality of worth and position with man’s.  She was an unabashed egalitarian because of her familiarity with the Word of God in its original languages, and beginning with the creation account of Eve’s derivation from the man Adam, she charges out of the gate with the pointed observation that male scholars have overlooked God’s clear intent for women and men and deliberately obscured, in the service of patriarchy, the Almighty’s promise of full equality and access to the riches of the Atonement for women.
Which, I think, is why you’ve never heard of her; the male-dominated world of evangelical theology has been and continues to be protective of its position of privilege, often under the guise of being “protective” of women.  But her defense of the truth and promises of Scripture endures – not because she’s “right,” but because the Scriptures themselves endure in their faithfulness.  Bushnell had little patience for theological liberalism, and her writing – sharp, decisive, and occasionally acerbic – reveals her as anything other than a sentimentalist carried along by winds of progressive social reform.  She wasn’t content to accept the word of more prominent theologians in their exegesis of the Word; she undertook an exhaustive study of the Bible in its original languages to uncover the unfortunate, sometimes deliberate, twisting of the text to protect the masculinist status quo.  Her efforts were rewarded with derision then and undeserved obscurity now – just when the Body of Christ most needs her message. 
I’ll be peppering Prevailing Winds with notes and quotes from God’s Word To Women, and I’ll make you an offer:  I’ll buy a copy for the first three readers who contact me at siyocreo@live.com.  If you’re comfortable with the idea that the most common exegetical conclusions are obviously the most correct, if you’re reassured by the Wilson/Piper/Grudem/Driscoll approach to defense of patriarchal privilege, you likely won’t take me up on my offer.  You should.  And if you’re a Bible-believing Christian uncomfortable with the doctrine of an Atonement that extends fully its benefits to men but still binds women from full exclusion in the Church, home, and society, you’ll find comfort in the conclusions Bushnell arrives at.  Not because they confirm your beliefs, but because they confirm God’s. 
As my husband once put it, the Church is guilty of adhering to and practicing a two-thirds approach to Galatians 3:28.  We would never dream of using the Bible to defend the exclusion of, say, Asian or Black people, or poor people, from full ecclesiastical participation and service – the full and unfettered exercise of their Spirit-given gifts – in the Body of Christ.  But poor exegesis, bad theology, and the comfort of unearned, false privilege has enabled us to accept with ease the denial of full participation in the Body to Christ’s female children.  We’ve read into Genesis a “creation order” that isn’t there, and we’ve taken a small handful of verses from the New Testament and used them to override the full message of Jesus Christ and His Word.  So we’ve stripped Galatians 3:28 of any semblance of actual meaning and in doing so made the Gospel abhorrent to a society still struggling to free itself from the odious grip of patriarchy. 
The Body of Christ desperately needs more Katharine Bushnells and more voices, male and female, to condemn from the Scriptures the certainty of the insecure and deceived – men like Douglas Wilson, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Marc Driscoll, and all of the others who, having stormed the evangelical stage, command our attention even as their errors surround them.  There can never be a tailoring of the Word of God to satisfy human beings or support the mood of the audience it seeks to reach.  The Gospel of sinful human beings’ redemption through the life, message, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is an offense to the unregenerated.  
The false masculinist  Gospel is an offense to the unregenerated, the Body of Christ, and the Lord Jesus Himself, in whose humanity and not masculinity all humankind may be redeemed.   The message of Katharine Bushnell is the message of Scripture.  Those who revere the Word and seek truth in studying it will avail themselves of her and others’ scholarship. 
Those who jealously guard their privileged positions as men, and those women who shirk from their God-given mandate to serve the Lord with their whole hearts and minds, won’t.  It really is that simple.

The Concussion Chronicles

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Savvy readers of Prevailing Winds — and would there be any other kind? — undoubtedly have noticed that I’ve not posted much in the last 10 days, and many of them have experienced what L. Ron Hubbard would call “enturbulation,” or distress, because of it.

Most, of course, have simply not noticed, their days blissfully unaffected, their level of upset non-existent, their notice of my absence in the Blogosphere minimal at best.  But a couple of you have checked with me, so it seems I should offer an explanation.  Here it is:

A week ago Monday, on January 28, I slipped and fell on the ice right outside my house and, breaking the fall only with my skull, I got a concussion.  The doctor said I’ll be fine unless I suddenly start acting loopy.  I’m sure some of you would say the bar for my making much sense is already fairly low, but I didn’t feel quite confident enough in the days after the incident to write; my standards and expectations are fairly high for myself, and while I knew I was unaffected, I also knew that what I needed most was rest.

But now it’s time to take quill in hand and unroll the papyrus — there’s just too much going on to sit still much longer!

So Much Left To Do

Monday, February 4th, 2013

“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton