Archive for September, 2013

Something Bad’s Going On, But First … Some Painful Context

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

As many of you know, I worked in independent Christian ministry in the Snohomish County area northeast of Seattle from 1990-2001, working among hundreds of largely undocumented immigrants from Mexico.  Funded by my husband, I was, through the Lord’s kindness, able to bring my high school Spanish up to speed quickly, and during that decade I taught English, in Spanish, to scores and scores of people — mis vecinos, or neighbors, which became the name I chose for my work.  I translated in schools, courts, and hospitals,  helped encourage mothers during labor, provided transportation, and, for the last 18 months of my time, I pastored a Spanish-speaking church.

My pastoring, though, began long before my alliance with and pulpit presence in the Duvall, Washington, Evangelical Methodist Church in 1999.  Indeed, from the first week of my ministry, I was called upon to answer tough questions about faith and life, the Bible and the Church; I listened to heartwrenching stories of abuse, addiction, mental illness, physical decline, sudden injury, chronic fear and isolation, financial ruin and legal terrors.  I developed, by the strength given me by the Lord Jesus, broad shoulders, a tender heart, a deep well of empathy and a wide, sweeping perspective.  I had my faith tested by trauma and strengthened by the same trauma, and I was reminded time and time again that there is no trial, terror, trauma, or testing that can defeat true faith in Jesus Christ, built upon the Holy Spirit and the comfort of God’s eternal Word.

But I was also keenly aware that my love, sense of empathy, and B.A. in journalism made me thoroughly unequipped to offer true psychological counseling to my friends and congregants.  I could, for example, tell Arturo that the Bible assured him that no bruja, or witch, could curse him by making him impotent, and I could use my limited medical knowledge to advise that he see his doctor and begin to treat his diabetes.  I used the Bible to convince him that a mean woman’s words couldn’t “strip him of his manhood,” and I could use Scripture to pray with him as he experienced anew the love of Christ Jesus.  But I couldn’t treat his diabetes, and it would have been wrong — as I think we could all agree — to have represented myself as someone able to.

As a minister — behind the pulpit for a year and a half and in the trenches for more than a decade — I developed a clear sense of how much I could do to lead people to Christ and help them become true disciples.  Equally important, I came to see, and see quite clearly, how much I couldn’t do.  I could love Belen, the woman who couldn’t leave her house because she heard the houseplants on the front stoop threatening her, but I couldn’t treat her mental illness.  I poured myself out in encouraging Violeta in her depression, and I held Miguel’s hands as he went through the storms of withdrawal from heroin.  I loved and served them; I taught English and I taught the Bible and I taught that Christ Jesus walks with us throughout the worst of our lives.  I preached reliance on Christ, and I believe I modeled reliance on Christ.

But I knew my limits. And I had no problem, in acknowledging them, with sending them to people who were trained to help them.

Such is not the case with Douglas Wilson and his bevy of elders, nearly all of whom are financially dependent on his ministries, not incidentally.  One of them, Mike Lawyer, has, with Wilson and as a Christ Church “ministry,” opened this year in Moscow the Center For Biblical Counseling.  And, as is virtually always the case with things involving Doug Wilson and his various enterprises, what sounds benign, even helpful, isn’t what you’d think.  In this case, it isn’t by a longshot.

But before I begin my analysis of the Center for Biblical Counseling, an analysis that I believe will send the same chill down your spine as it does mine, I need to set a context.  You see, while Lawyer is the primary counselor — others, perhaps some after the “Counseling in a Week” training the CBC offers, will follow.  Lawyer is a Christ Church elder, and he reports directly to Wilson.  Not just as a Kirk elder, though.  The intake form the Center offers makes it very clear that anyone’s counseling information, besides being recorded, can and will be discussed with “any” pastor or elder or church leader Lawyer and his upcoming accolytes deem necessary.  The CBC acknowledges, and asserts that it will honor, its legal obligation to report instances of child or elder abuse, or cases when someone is in clear and immediate harm to herself or to others.

But, Lawyer and Wilson promise, they won’t limit their information sharing to the minimal legal requirements.  So counselees will agree to have their most personal information and life circumstances become fodder for pastoral consultations and elders’ meetings, and while it may make them uneasy, this is Idaho in 2013.   Mental health services here are tough to find and even tougher to afford.  The CBC is free, as it should be, given that Lawyer is not a trained, licensed mental health professional. But as anyone who’s followed Wilson, et al, arrogance and certainty are more than enough to propel them to imagined heights of expertise in virtually any area.

Wilson, after all, fancies himself an expert on art, architecture, economics, health care, politics, the Bible, church history, music, literature, history and nutrition.  Really, what’s a little dabbling in mental health to worry about?  I mean, people were shocked and angry about his historical analysis of Antebellum slavery, but no one was really, truly, HURT about it.  Tackling depression, anxiety, abuse, homosexuality, addiction, loneliness and masturbation CAN’T be tougher than defending slavery . . . right?

But let’s accept that mental health treatment is just a touch different from cobbling together a Biblical defense of indefensible manstealing.  After all, these people — these hurting, desperate people who come to the CBC — are not only still alive, but are sincerely asking for his help.  So it seems that an examination of Wilson’s judgment regarding sexuality, marriage, women’s issues, family, and other likely counseling issues in the past is important in assessing the wisdom of his starting up a Bible-based “ministry” that purports to deal with those and other problems.

That, unfortunately, will involve a painful trudge down a filthy, rock-strewn memory lane — one that you can begin by searching Prevailing Winds for five articles I wrote in May 2011.  Read those, all five of them, and then come back.  I’ll be talking quite a bit about the Center for Biblical Counseling in Moscow, and after you read these, you will, too.  Go to the Archives on the blog and click on May 2011.  The last of the five-part series is at the top; I suggest that you read them in the order they were published in.

I also suggest that you pray for the dear people who go to the Center to see how the Bible can cure their problems, only to find that the judgment and knowledge of those who wield it is sadly, sorely, and sinfully lacking.

 

 

 

A Little Nugget Of Delight On The Intertubes. Interweb. Internet. Whatever.

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Nothing makes my day like stumbling across a witty, dead-on site dedicated to pointing out the foolishness that is Doug Wilson’s Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, or CREC, as well as the heartless folly of his numerous other pseudo-ministerial forays into entrepreneurial capitalism.  Kudos, hugs, and, at the asking, beer of any sort to the man or woman behind www.crecmemes@wordpress.com.

‘Tis a joy unparalleled to see Kirk insiders unafraid to break out, break away, and break up the tight lil’ clubhouse that is Wilson World.  Meme-sters, you have my thanks and admiration.  You’ve got the big guy sputtering.  Frankly, I think that means you’re doing something right.

And I mean it — God bless you, and then some.

 

Good Words On Dogmatism

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

If you are thoughtful about things other people are dogmatic about, you become their enemy.

(Anonymous)

I think this might be a perfect motto for this blog, wherein I refuse to “toe the evangelical line” simply because it’s the evangelical line, and endeavor to search the Word and hear the Spirit as truths buried become truths resurrected, and truths falsely enshrined become subject to critique.  It could be a bumpy ride, but if you’ll hang in there with me, I think we’ll both learn a lot!

May God treat us graciously, honoring our desire to understand not just more, but better.

 

Welcome to My New Blog

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

This is edition 2.0 of Prevailing Winds. My old blog, www.keely-prevailingwinds.com is not functioning but is still available at keely-prevailingwinds.blogspot.com, though all posts have been imported here.

From The Road … On Weather And What They Call "Politics"

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Once again proving that I’m no stolid, stationary stay-at-home mom, I write — again — from the road, specifically, this time, from a too-crowded Starbucks in Monroe, Washington.  We thought we’d combine a trip to Bellingham, Washington, to see our son with a brief celebration of our long marriage — 29 years on September 8.  We left last Thursday with our older son and his dear girlfriend, who’d been visiting us in Moscow, and have had a wonderful time exploring Bellingham, discovering Whidbey Island, and reconnecting with the community we called home for nearly 20 years.

Because of my weird form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I’ve been exultant at the chill air, low, gray skies, and endless rain of the West side of the Cascades, which I’m fairly sure annoys the sun-lovers around me.  But I can’t help it — growing up in the stultifying sameness of the desert Southwest was like an inoculation against the winter-blues version of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and when we moved to the relatively sunny, drier Palouse in 2002, I mourned the loss of cozy gray skies almost as much as I did the separation from dear friends and family.

I learned the moment I arrived in Moscow to not go around making sunny, cheerful comments about how neat the late-February dreariness was.  And I’ve discovered that during the summer, it’s not a good idea to whine about how endlessly sunny it is outside — it puts a damper on outside activities when someone’s gravitating toward drawn blinds and low lights, and I’d hate to ever be accused of putting a damper on things.  It would put into question your view, dear reader, that I’m in possession of a perennially chipper disposition.

Of course, there are other things that threaten my sunny mood.  They don’t have to do with weather, which you’d guess, but they also don’t have to do with what people call “politics,” no matter how much it appears.

You may have detected in me a strong and specific stand against the GOP, the Tea Party, and the Religious Right, and if you do, then I’ve done what I set out to do.  I had no part in the formation of the GOP in history, nor in its genesis, since the mid-70s, as an ideological club for budding fascists and crazies.  I haven’t had a thing to do with the establishment of the Tea Party, which enshrines ignorance and bigotry as civic virtues worth pursuing, and I have had disdain for the Religious Right ever since I gave my life to the Lord who commands my obedience in 1981.  These three strands of one dangerous cord of selfish gain and social disregard wove themselves together entirely apart from my influence; I bear no responsibility for their inanities.

But neither does the Christ they claim as patron, role model, and premier affirmer of their convoluted Gospel.  And that’s the point:  The Religious Right and the GOP it finds itself in bed with have forcefully shoved the mantle of Christian witness onto their proud and arrogant shoulders with no regard for the un-Christian, even anti-Christian, policies, pronouncements, and practices they evince.  Not since the days “Christian” slaveholders and their defenders kept kidnapped human beings in bondage like cattle has the Gospel of Jesus Christ been as maligned as it is now by the strangling cord woven by the Tea Party, the GOP, and the Religious Right.  (Remember, please, that here in Moscow, the days of a Christian defense of slavery aren’t past; they continue merrily along in Wilson World and its various entrepreneurial suburbs).

This cord, like most things birthed in evil, isn’t easily unraveled.  However, unlike most movements and ideas birthed in evil, it DOES claim to be largely influenced by and in alignment with the Christian Gospel.  Which, as you can imagine, but perhaps choose not to acknowledge, puts the Church in the awkward position of embracing an ascent to power that has produced horrific examples of anti-Gospel practices, just because those who’ve ascended have convinced it that they, too, are brothers — and that those on the outside are undeserving, insignificant, and unnecessary.

It’s easy to call the nearly four-decades-old seizure of the GOP, the embrace of the Gospel of the Religious Right (it’s not only the Galatians who were stupid), and the rise of the Tea Party merely “political,” since the currency they deal in has to do with bills, policy, elections, and campaigning.  And this three-stranded cord hasn’t become prominent because it focuses on evangelism, ministry, or Bible teaching — which would be entirely inappropriate for a political party, which is kind of my point — but because it’s wrapped itself in a chokehold around the political, governmental institutions that run our society.  It all looks political, and certainly IS political, but it’s far, far more than that.

Mere politics wouldn’t be enough to command such passion and energy from me; while the effect of politics is profound and life-changing, it’s still temporal.  It’s still, at the end of the day, just what it is:  The occasionally noble, most-often damnable, exercise of power in civic society, and as such is entirely unworthy of a greater reservoir of energy or a greater depth of passion than is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is, however, that life-changing, soul-transforming, eternally-minded Gospel that is threatened by the Religious Right- and Tea Party-embracing GOP, even more than the social order.  And that makes the “political” maneuvering thereof infinitely, eternally, more significant than simple politics — it makes its confrontation and eventual defeat a Gospel imperative.

I used to say, back in the late 1970s, that all politics is personal.  In a sense, I still believe that — but all politics is personal because all politics affects the human beings and the planet that our Lord Jesus created for his good pleasure in fellowship.  All politics, then, is personal, because all persons affected by politics are beloved of Christ, and when those who’ve become “the least of these” in our world are oppressed in his name by those who are “the most” politically, it becomes not just political bickering but a crisis of faith.

Believe it or not, politics doesn’t excite me a whole lot.  But a crisis of faith launched in grotesque technicolor in the public square, one that makes the Gospel into an ugly and filthy thing in the eyes of outsiders?

That, by the grace of God, really gets me going.