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Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


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I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. ;)

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

——————————

As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.

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Lecrae, 116 Clique and John Piper – 100% Masculinity

“Let me take you back to the tree in Eden
If you read it you’ll see that Eve was deceived
But Adam’s the one who let her eat
Instead of leading
No we ain’t leading
We Bump That
Basically little boys with muscles and our mustache
To femininity we need a remedy
The God-Man 100% masculinity.”

The above quote is from a new song called, “Man Up Anthem” by 116 Clique featuring Lecrae from Lecrae’s record label, Reach Records. It is a sentiment found all too often in Christendom and one that is slowly being chipped away at by people like Lindsey Haskins and blogs like Jesus Creed. In today’s post on the Jesus Creed blog, Ms. Haskins shows how in spite of Pipers assertion that,”for the maximum flourishing of both men and women” the church should and must have a “masculine feel”, nothing could be further from the truth.

Piper says, “the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male.”
Man Up Anthem says, “Let me take you back to the tree in Eden, if you read it you’ll see that eve was deceived but Adam is the one who let it in.”

Here are some thoughts on women from well respected church fathers:

Chrysostom, speaking of Eve in the garden – “…the woman taught once for all and upset everything…for the female sex is weak and vain, and here this is said of the whole sex”

Tertullian – women  are the “ianua diabolic” or “the gate of the devil” (On Female Dress, 1.1).

St. Clement of Alexandria – “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman…the consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.

St Thomas Aquinas –  “Good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in men the discretion of reason predominates.”

I could go on and on.

Piper says, “Now, from all of that I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And being God, a God of love, He has done that for our maximum flourishing both male and female.”
Man Up Anthem says, “The femininity, we need a remedy, the God-Man, a 100 percent (strength) masculinity.”

Clearly when one looks at the history of women in the church it has NOT been “for the maximum flourishing of both men and women”. In fact, if a woman did manage to slip through the cracks and overcome societal efforts to deprive her of education, equality and opportunity, she was met with surprise and astonishment. They were so opposed to the notion that women as a gender were capable of such things that they would de-feminize her and assign manhood to her instead of her God given femaleness. They said things like:

Clement of Alexandria – “Women must seek wisdom, like men, even if men are superior and have first place in every field, at least if they are not effeminate”

Paulinus of Nola – “What a woman she is, if one can call so manly a Christian a woman!”

Palladius – she was “not a woman but a manly creature: a man in everything but body”

Melania the Younger – because of her great piety or “manly deeds” was claimed to be “like a man” by her male admirers since “she had surpassed the limits of her sex and taken on a mentality that was manly, or rather angelic”

Haskins also points out that this way of thinking whether from Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria or John Piper is damaging to God’s daughters. How could it not be? She asserts:

When holiness is equated to masculinity, it is rather difficult to side-step notions of femaleness—or “femininity”—as ontological inferiority.  If by nature weaker physically, emotionally and spiritually as compared to men, the logical—and lived—conclusion against all lip service to the contrary has been that women do not share equally with men in the imago dei.

The line from Haskins that reminded me of the Lecrae song was this, “The Son of God came into the world to be a man” [which] seems to infer—especially in light of the greater arc of Piper’s vision—that it was maleness which God redeemed, not humanity. The lyrics say, “The femininity, we need a remedy, the God-Man, a 100 percent (strength) masculinity”. I assert that it is not masculinity that saved us from femininity; rather, that love compelled Christ to come and save us from fear, hate and darkness; that love compelled Christ to sacrifice all to save us from ourselves, our sin and our selfishness. He came to restore our relationship with the one who made us BOTH, male and female, in his image. TOGETHER the two halves of humanity reflect his glory.

I agree with Haskins when she says:

What the church needs now is not by any means a “masculine feel.”  The church has had this broken and un-balanced “feel” for millennia and far from producing a “flourishing [for] both men and women” it has too often been complicit in a systematic de-humanization of half its constituency.  When masculinity becomes the virtue par execellence the value of what it means to be a woman or “feminine” is mortally undercut.  What the church desperately needs now is a prophetic voice reminding us to value both men and women as equally and wholly made in the imago dei.

Ms. Haskins, may I humbly suggest that you are one such prophet.

Dear John Piper, Would You Like a Ride on my Toboggan?


Dear John Piper,

I would like to thank you for your recent comments about the masculinity of the church, indeed of all creation. You have succeeded in drawing a bright line that everyone can see. It is the defining line of what complementarians actually believe. Thank you for being honest and just laying it all out there. Thank you for not mincing words or hiding behind things like “everyone is equal in God’s eyes, we just have different roles.” I really appreciate that too. Now people can see the true choice between your view and mine.

John, as a gesture of my gratitude I would like to offer you a ride on my toboggan. Rachel and Susan and my husband Kent, most of the people from my church, Wade Burleson & Jesus are already on board and I have seen lots of other folks here on the slippery slope. But don’t worry, there is still room for you. I think maybe you are scared of what will happen if you go over the edge. I promise you it will take your breath away and at moments you may wonder what is happening but once you have taken a ride down the slippery slope you will find that it isn’t as scary or as slippery as you might think. (Just curious, what exactly is the fear if we afford women true equality in church and life? Sometimes I think people are afraid that elders meetings will turn into slumber parties where we all do each others hair and nails if women are included).

Heck you might enjoy it. You might even decide to take a run at a couple other slippery slopes while you are at it. How about homosexual hill? What will happen if we allow homosexuals to get married and come to our gatherings and worship Jesus with us? Are we afraid that our own children might become (I don’t think it is something you become btw) gay? Some of them already are; they are just scared to say so because they have been taught that the love of Jesus isn’t for homosexuals. Jesus never said that. He loves with no “unless”.

How about evolution incline? What will happen if we as Christians embrace or even entertain the scientific evidence for evolution? Are we afraid that God won’t be God anymore or are we just afraid that we might be wrong about him and he isn’t just like us? If God is God he has nothing to fear of science; he created science. All truth is God’s truth.

Pull on your mittens John, I can promise you a wild ride. I will be waiting for you at the top of the next hill.

m

Lovlies,

The video at the beginning of this post is shocking, yes? It is one of the first things I thought of last night when I heard about of John Piper’s remarks. The church in large numbers has been on the wrong side of history on several occasions including women’s suffrage, slavery & segregation. I am afraid that Piper is on the wrong side of history this time.

After reading the article last night on The Christian Post, I wondered how exactly Piper defines the terms masculine and feminine. Luckily for me I found this video. In it Piper uses a graphic that states the definitions he uses:

The Meaning of masculinity
At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.

The meaning of Mature Femininity
At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing realtionships.

Don’t you see women, this is a doctrine of freedom for you? You (as he goes on to say in the video) have the freedom to choose the man who will lead you. Once again, I am thankful for the bright line he has drawn. It forces you to think about what you really believe on this issue. It is one of the big three facing the church today. What about women? What about homosexuals? and What about evolution? Alas, we are only here to address the one slippery slope today. Here is the thing, we are all to mutually submit to one another. We all, according to our gifting, lead, provide for and protect one another. We all have the responsibility to affirm, receive and nurture each other. This post by Sarah Bessey is a great picture of this type of marriage relationship. But it isn’t just in marriage that mutual submission should take place. It is everywhere; at home, in the church, with your friends or at work. Everywhere with everyone. Can you imagine a world where we actually lived like this?

Piper seems to ignore many verses in scripture in his misogynistic interpretation of the scriptures in the article. These are just a few.

Galatians 3:27-28
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Unless…oh wait, there is no unless.

Genesis 1:27-28
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (notice he created them in his own image, he gave dominion to them).

Wade Burleson had an excellent post today where he stated:

The male and the female were both designed to rule. Men and women are created by God in His image as co-regents of the world He created. Any system, any society, any organization that places one gender as an authority over the other, whether it be patriarchal or matriarchal in nature, is a direct violation of the command and design of the Creator God. Why can women rule in God’s creation? Why can women lead in God’s creation? Why can women be equal to men in God’s creation? Women are created in the image of God, just like men, and when the omnipotent, sovereign and invisible Creator God determined to create man in His image, He created a male and a female, reflecting the very nature of God Himself. This is why there is nothing wrong with considering God as both Father and Mother, as the invisible and all-powerful Ruler of the universe who reflects Himself in both males and females–God is Spirit and the perfections of each gender are seen in God.

AMEN! Thank you Wade. I love fellow toboggan riders.

Isaiah 46:3
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb;
John Calvin wrote (btw, John Piper is a self proclaimed 7 point Calvinist),

God has manifested himself to be both Father and Mother so that we might be more aware of God’s constant presence and willingness to assist us.

Isaiah 49:15
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Calvin’s commentary on this verse states:

God did not satisfy himself with proposing the example of a father, but in order to express his very strong affection, he chose to liken himself to a mother, and calls His people not merely children, but the fruit of the womb, towards which there is usually a warmer affection.

Matthew 20:25-28
25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I will leave it to you. But remember the words of the great abolitionist, Sir William Wilberforce, when you are ready to throw in the towel and think that we cannot succeed in changing the status quo,

Accustom yourself to look first to the dreadful consequences of failure; then fix your eye on the glorious prize which is before you; and when your strength begins to fail, and your spirits are well nigh exhausted, let the animating view rekindle your resolution, and call forth in renewed vigour the fainting energies of your soul.

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