Archive for February, 2014

This Is The Gospel. What We Hear Around Us, Isn’t.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014
This is the essence of the Christian faith. Bishop Oscar Romero was killed because he followed it, while our “christianish” culture and “family values” politicians who presume to speak in Christ’s name can’t even muster approval for the extension of food stamps to poor people.

Lord, have mercy.

“Those who, in the biblical phrase, would save their lives – that is, those who want to get along, who don’t want commitments, who don’t want to get into problems, who want to stay outside of a situation that demands the involvement of all of us – they will lose their lives.

“But those who for love of Christ uproot themselves and accompany the people and go with the poor in their suffering and become incarnated and feel as their own the pain and the abuse – they will secure their lives, because the Father will reward them.”

- Oscar Romero, Violence of Love



Severed, Amputated, Or Pruned?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Those of us who, having been born into new life in Him, worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, consider ourselves part of the organic, inter-dependent, functioning Body of Christ — as the Bible describes and as most Christians experience.  That means, at its most simple, that we gather together on Sunday mornings, believe the same things, more or less, and generally fill our lives with relationships gathered from the community of believers we refer to as our church family.  That’s what the Bible both prescribes and describes, and it’s been the case for Christians for more than two millennia.

And I have no idea what it’s like.  None at all.

I’ve been a Christian for 33 years — I was raised Catholic and was always religious; indeed, I wanted to be a nun for the longest time in elementary school, until, as I once said in a stand-up routine, what appeared to be the obligatory facial hair scared me away.  But I took my First Communion and Confession seriously, lived a rigorously disciplined life — in other words, no kissing boys, no swearing, no sneaking booze from my parents’ alcohol cabinet.  Then I hit college, went into a pretty significant tailspin, and heard the Gospel for the first time.  I was angry, angrier than you can imagine, with everything and everyone, but I came to understand that I had no anger towards, couldn’t have any anger towards, the One who died and rose again for me.  I’ve been going to church from the very beginning, attending, and leaving, more churches than I can count.

I’ve just submitted my letter of resignation to the church I’ve been attending for the last year and a half.  They’re a great group of people; it’s just that while I’ve gotten a lot of support for my decidedly left-of-center politics, I haven’t felt as though we’re on the same page theologically.  I believe that the political and social views I hold, which upset other Christians tremendously, come from my belief in Scripture and my desire to adhere to Christ’s teachings — meaning that I have embraced radical feminism, gay marriage, personal pacifism, evolution, democratic socialism, and the other “left-wing” positions that I hold to because I believe them to be the most coherent with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.  To say that that’s a minority view would be a tremendous understatement, and I have friends and family members who honestly love me just as they honestly disbelieve that I’m truly a Christian.

I am.  I would even say, if the sociological three-point definition of “evangelical” still meant something, that I’m evangelical.  I have had a personal experience with Jesus Christ, I believe in sharing and applying the Gospel He proclaimed, and I revere the Bible as God’s written revelation to us, although I am not a biblical literalist.  So, if those things still came to mind when people think of “evangelical,” I’d gladly claim the title.  But it isn’t, and I don’t.  Evangelicalism has become a carnival of immature, silly, insignificant, superfluous, and idiotic cultural conformity and a cesspool of bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, environmental contempt, and violence.  I no more want to be a part of that garbage — in Jesus’ name — than I would want to be one of those victimized by it.

By joining a mainline, more theologically liberal church 18 months ago, I thought that I was shaking the patriarchal, ignorant dust of current evangelicalism off my feet for good.  Jeff and I had already determined, after experiences that caused me trauma beyond what you can imagine and beyond what I can go into here, that we would never again be part of a complementarian church — a church that promotes the (anti-Biblical) idea that while men and women are ontologically equal, women are to be permanently subordinated to men in home, society, and church.  I am married, for almost 30 years now, to a feminist ally, and I don’t let misogyny outside of my home go unchallenged.  I am a radical feminist; I believe that the Gospel is the axe that is lain to the root of all evil — the patriarchy that breeds masculinism and masculinity, which begats greed, violence, hierarchy, and every social ill confronted by women and men across the world and throughout history.

I will not be part of a Christian movement, organization, church, or institution that belies the radically egalitarian message of the Gospel by embracing and enshrining the grotesque evil of patriarchy God predicted in Genesis 2.  It’s not mine to judge the hearts and soul-destination of complementarians, but I cannot accept the evil of patriarchy within the one place it should never be manifested — the Body of the One who rose from the dead to defeat it. And I cannot believe any longer that it’s a benign “secondary issue,” that it’s a mere difference in theological and hermeneutic understanding.  No mere disagreement among those who worship Christ can ever lead to the permanent subjugation of any of those involved, and I simply do not see it any more as something benign.

Patriarchy and misogyny are never benign.  And while it may, in the Church, manifest with a lesser degree of physical and emotional violence — and may very well not — it is no less evil.  What is Christ-defying outside of the walls of the Church is Body-killing inside, and when those who presume to call me their brothers, and who want me to call them my brothers, defend, benefit from, and rejoice in my subjugation and that of my sisters, it’s not just a disagreement — and I won’t be a part of it.  Indeed, I have chosen to be “apart” of it by never attending, never recommending, and never defending a complementarian church, individual, or point of view.  A sinful world presents opportunities for otherwise good men to revel in their dominance over others, even in the name of Christ.  That sinful world is what the Gospel is supposed to address and correct — not what it’s supposed to enshrine.

I went to a more liberal mainline church because it rejected complementarianism, but I found that, sadly, it appeared to also reject a clear embrace and teaching of the Gospel and the classic doctrines of the faith.  So here I am, 53 years old, in love with Jesus, 33 years into my walk with Him, and separated from the Body.  It is wrenching.  I cannot go where sin is enshrined; I cannot go where the Gospel isn’t.  And now, as I find myself alone, wondering if God wants me to start a new work here in Moscow, I have plenty of time to wrestle with the deeper things of life . . .

Such as this.  Have I been amputated from the Body by a Church co-opted by the Right and the Left?  Have I severed myself from the Body, sinfully ignoring the command that I not forsake gathering together with the Christian community?  Or am I merely being pruned, still attached to that organic Body of Christ’s people, but feeling the wounds of God’s work in my life?

It’s not what I wanted, nor what I expected, at this point of my life — but it is where I find myself.  I love the Lord Jesus with all of my heart, soul, mind, and body; in fact, I find that my love has deepened as my disenchantment with — and, frankly, fear of — church has as well.  But there appears to be no place for me here, and I’m here.

Has Christ’s Body left Him?

 

 

 

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane — The Debate

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Newer readers of Prevailing Winds may not have heard of my 2006 debate with Doug Wilson, in which I discovered that, with all glory to God, our local Bishop of Bluster is actually not a very accomplished debater.  I think the 2 1/2-hour debate did not go well for him, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves:

http://www.tomandrodna.com/notonthepalouse/Church_Debate_Mix_Wilson_071106.htm

Wilson knows that I’ve issued him a standing offer to debate him anytime, anywhere.  The thing is, I don’t think I’ll be hearing from him.  He is not a skilled debater; he is not an honest debater, as his engagements with R. Clark Cooper and Andrew Sullivan demonstrated, and his performance in ours was, I think, not a high point in the great Classical art of the Disuptatio.

Why Not “White History Month”?

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

I hear this every February, which is nationwide “Black History Month”:

“Well, why don’t we have ‘White History Month’? The blacks get their own month — why not us?”

I’ll be brief, because a longer response would likely confuse those whose petulance and historical ignorance is evinced by the question.  One, “white” means “to the exclusion of Black/Latino/Native American.”  It doesn’t mean “Irish,” or “Italian,” or “German.”  It means exactly what the picture in your mind when you hear it conjures up — the exclusion of Blacks and other people of color.

Second, all of American History throughout the nation’s inception has been presented from the white male point of view.  That’s the fruit of a sinful world, a country birthed by sin, and a sinful elevation of non-Blackness and maleness.  We’ve had more than 200 years of “white history,” because only the experiences of white people throughout the United States’ existence have been deemed an accurate record of the significant events of this nation’s history.

In the same way that your autobiography will include information about you and not a great deal of information about your neighbor’s cousin Jerry, the written and taught history of the U.S. has been considered its “autobiography,” gathered, written, interpreted, and disseminated by white males as the only story worth telling.  Only in recent decades have the stories of the United States been considered a BIOGRAPHY — a record that can and must invite other voices.  Those voices tell the stories of those deliberately shut out of places of significance, positions of influence, and platforms of power, and they are and have been desperately needed.

For most of its existence, the U.S. historical narrative has been an autobiographical account of White Male and his power.  Black History Month should, for almost two and a half centuries, simply have been part of the fabric of United States history.  The original besetting sin  of this country — racist patriarchy — ensured that it wouldn’t.

Those whose stories have been the only ones heard betray their privilege by questioning the validity of other peoples’.  And, as with any other sin, repentance and reform is the only remedy.

 

 

Recovering Grace: Bonhoffer On Inaction

Friday, February 7th, 2014

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Dietrich Bonhoffer

God Bless The Ones Who Speak Out …

Friday, February 7th, 2014

If you came to Christ in the mid to late 1980s, you likely heard about Bill Gothard and his various ministries and outreaches, and even if his name was and is unfamiliar to you, it’s far more likely than not that you, as an evangelical,  were influenced by his teachings — which focused on authority, submission, hierarchy, chains-of-command, and such under his various “Christian” programs and outreaches.  He’s a favorite of most Quiverfull patriarchs, home-churchers, and arch-conservatives, and even municipal governments have incorporated his teachings on authority and service — stripped of their Biblical references, of course, but chock-full of his insistence that top-down hierarchy is the Gospel way, the Godly way, and, by Golly, the only way to instill order in church, home, and society.

It’s as toxic and disturbing as it sounds, as this report from Recovering Grace, a ministry of support to those fleeing the ruination Gothard’s teaching and conduct has wrought, illustrates:

http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2014/02/the-gothard-files-a-case-for-disqualification-x2/

The article speaks for itself — Gothard is clearly, by the Biblical standard of evidence, a predator and a molester.  He is a bully and a liar and a false teacher whose esteem in the Church ought not to have lasted more than about five minutes, if that, and the harm he has visited on individuals and families is incalculable.  May God have mercy on his victims — and mercy on a soul clearly in need of the Holy Spirit.

But I want to take this time to publicly thank Recovering Grace for their courage and integrity in posting this information.  They’ve provided a powerful, prophetic, service to the Church, for which they will undoubtedly receive great blessing from the Lord Jesus and great condemnation from His people.

See, we don’t like it when our heroes tumble, and we like it even less when someone tells the world about it.  The evangelical Protestant Church in the U.S. has for decades demonstrated a trifecta of bad judgment, non-existent discernment, and Biblical illiteracy that has lead it to elevate particularly vicious men to absurd heights, often not in spite of their bad teaching or weak characters or shallow intellects, but because of them.  Even messages that clearly don’t sound like anything Jesus ever said sound appealing to people convinced by bad teachers that the priesthood of the believer is applicable only insofar as it convinces you — or your “covenant head” or “Biblical authority” — to set it aside to follow them.

That such a message is not only an example of head-spinning self-promotion but also jaw-dropping theological manipulation is evident only to those the Gothard ministries teach are operating outside of their “umbrella of authority” — those divisive truth-tellers, unsubmissive women, and arrogant self-learners who, his defenders have already begun to maintain, are simply out to ruin a good man and spread division in the Body of Christ.  It’s unlikely that any serious examination of the man and his message will result among his defenders, but the rest of the Church should be grateful to Recovering Grace, and Gothard’s many victims will, I pray, take comfort in the validation of their stories.

They deserve that.  What they’ve suffered only reached its apex of horror in the predictable sexual abuse of young women by a man deemed too vital to the Body to be confronted or questioned.  These girls’ victimization began the moment their families welcomed Gothard’s masculinist, authoritarian, non-Biblical blather into their homes.  From that moment, they were vulnerable to the perverted machinations of a man who inspired unquestionable allegiance not only by preaching unquestionable allegiance, but also by insisting that any “disobedience” was simply sinful rebellion.

May God grant us not only a generation of Jesus-following girls and women who rebel — vehemently and vocally — from any hint of authoritarianism-as-Gospel, but also from men who finally understand that whatever pumps up their masculine thirst for power and privilege must, for the sake of the Church and the sake of all in it, be resisted with every fibre of their being as antithetical to Christ’s message.  I pray for Gothard’s repentence, and I pray for the destruction of those institutions that made his ascent to power even possible.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

As I said yesterday, I was disappointed with the debate — I apply the term loosely — between Bill Nye of Science Guy fame and Answers In Genesis creationist Ken Ham, livestreamed at the NuArt before a group more or less split down the middle between Ham and Nye supporters.

But before you read my post, you ought to take a look at this:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/02/05/creationism_debate_should_we_engage_anti_science.html

I am a Trinitarian, Bible-revering, saved-by-grace-through-faith Christ follower who believes that God created everything ever in the universe — about 15 billion years ago through the astonishingly complex and beautiful method of evolution. I belong to a group called BioLogos founded by Dr. Francis Collins, who headed up the team that encoded the human genome and who is a conservative Christian evolutionist.  As the article points out, there are many of us.  It would’ve been better if Ham had debated someone from BioLogos — someone who also reveres and knows Scripture, as Nye clearly doesn’t — so that the Church and those outside it wouldn’t witness yet another embarrassment to Christianity.

Because it was embarrassing.

Nye didn’t know enough to ask Ham what he thought about two distinctly different creation accounts in Genesis, and Ham clearly wasn’t going to volunteer that there was a conundrum.  What Ham did do was offer silly things to explain serious things — that the observable expansion of the universe is explained and predicted by the Bible’s declaration that God “stretches out the heavens.”  That’s not only intellectually dishonest, but frankly embarrassing — embarrassing not only because it’s so silly, coming from a Christian who insists he’s a scientist who ought to be taken seriously, but also because it violates the purpose of the Bible he pretends to revere.

The Bible is the declaration of God’s relationship with humankind, culminating in the Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Every verse has the announcement of Jesus Christ as its intent; every chapter carries with it the joy of God’s redemption of God’s people.  The creation accounts in Genesis are given us to introduce us to the God whose method of creation is no less holy, no less powerful, for taking place over billions of years via evolution.

That statement only violates Scripture if we read it with the expectation that its pages were intended to offer a Divinely-inspired guide to science, diet, sex, courting, dating, marriage, military history, architecture, cancer cures, finance, Church polity, and childbirth.  But that’s not what we’re to glean from the Bible, and when we try to insert into it (eisegesis) what we think we need, then our taking from it (exegesis) will be incomplete and misdirected.  Genesis was written to a pre-scientific people about events in a pre-populated time as well as during the time of a pre-literate population, with the intent of announcing that GOD CREATED — not HOW God created.  The Genesis 1 account lays out the rough stages of what we now know to be the processes of evolution — and we rejoice.  We don’t rejoice because God did it in six, 24-hour days, or over millions of years without evolution, or even through Darwinian evolution.

We rejoice because GOD DID IT.  The joy of science seemingly met with the frivolity Ham evinced in the debate tells us how.  Scientific discovery, by Christians and not-Christians, incidentally, tells us that the universe is billions of years old.  Geology demonstrates an Earth-age in the millions.  Archaeologists reveal people-groups existing longer than 6,000 years ago.

Do we believe that our God gave us deliberately false information in the Divine “book” of Nature, if we were to receive Genesis as literal scientific information?  More to the point, are we honoring God by simply declaring that all of those scientists are not only wrong, but motivated by an anti-God world view?

A more crucial question:  Are we interested in honoring God or in protecting false understandings of the nature, message, and intention of Scripture?  Based on what I saw last night, Ham, who made a huge deal about the “kinds” in Genesis 1, is in the grip of a tremendous confusion of categories himself.  He does his God and his Church no favors in reveling in it.

Well, Finally! Thank you, Internet . . .

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Wow.  That was a bumpy ride . . .

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten Internal Server Error messages every time I opened up this blog.  And while Internal Server Error is a great band name, it isn’t what I chose to call the blog.  But some tinkering around has worked, and so here we are . . .

. . . and tomorrow, we’ll discuss last night’s livestreamed debate between young Earth creationist Ken Ham, whose creationist museum features lots of earnest claims that the Biblical book of Genesis is an appropriate manual for science, and evolutionist Bill Nye, a real science guy whose exasperation with Ham was palpable but whose understanding of his audience was nil.  I watched it with about 200 folks at the NuArt Theatre.  I might have been the only Trinitarian Christian evolutionist in the room — well, with Jeff and our friend — but I certainly wasn’t the only person frustrated with the debate.

Stay tuned, then, and we’ll cut into a somewhat drab Ham on Nye.

Thanks for hanging in with me.