Blown away by love.

ImageThe events of the week are enough to make your heart burst. I don’t have to tell you again what they are do I? No my lovelies. I will not do that here. Your heart knows. My heart knows.   It knows that there is just too damn little precious, swiftly passing time. If tragedy serves any purpose at all for the living it must be (in my estimation) the cruelest reminder to love. Love now. Love big. Love deep. Love radical. Extend grace where it is not deserved. Hug a stranger just because they look like they need one (ask first). Give to someone and expect nothing. Forgive. Forgive. And Forgive. Again. Even the one who has hurt you in the worst way. Extinguish your hatred. Hatred of the other, the different, the them. Who are “they anyway”? Aren’t they us? What is it that is keeping you from loving? If you are going to let those fucking bombs, that damn fire destroy something why not let it blow down the walls we have constructed to divide ourselves from each other? Why not love in the most radical way possible?

Me? I am a follower of Jesus. In my estimation the most radical lover, the most radical forgiver, the most genuine, least judgmental person who ever walked this earth.

Sidenote: People always say you should fear his judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness. BOOM!

If there is anything we must do in the face of inexplicable tragedy, inexplicable betrayal and inexplicable hate in order to be like God it is to absorb all the flying sharp pieces of ugliness and hate and judgement and to fire back love, explode forgiveness and blow people away with inexplicable grace and mercy. It is his way. It is the way of life. Let me tell you, this life is too damn short for me to hold on to the shit. Today I defiantly choose love. Won’t you join me?

Choice
Pieces of you
Free Hugs

 

The Bible trumps the law of the United States?

HI heard a conservative radio personality say this yesterday when I turned the dial to am to hear the traffic report. Wait? Whaaaaat???

Now if you are a Christian and I know many of you are, this may sound like a no brainer to you. “Of course the Bible supersedes the law of the United States! Or any country. And it should!”, you say. Well, I respectfully say, it absolutely should not. Before you go spray painting a big ol’ H for heretic on my chest, hear me out…

I do not worship the Bible. I worship the living God. The Bible is here to make known Jesus, and Jesus makes known the Father. The Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and righteousness and teaches me (among many other things). When you tell me that the Bible supersedes the law of the United States, and that we should strive and work to make “what the Bible says” law. I start breaking out in hives. I mean, as my husband so eloquently asked this morning, “My question to you is, whose interpretation of “the bible and the Word of God” should “trump the laws of this country”? David Koresh’s? Pat Robertson’s? Mine? Yours? And how would this actually work? Congress passes a law, and then we appeal to the Supreme Court because we feel it conflicts with the “bible and the Word of God”? Please explain how you feel this is workable.” Or maybe would we need to set up some sort of Christian Sanhedrin or Sharia Court to hear such matters?

Are your sirens going off yet?

Believe me this isn’t just about gay marriage. It is about some citizens wanting other citizens to be forced to comply to something they feel is “biblical”. I have several problems with this.

  1. Since when do even all Christians agree on what is and is not “biblical” (see Rachel Held Evans take here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/17/my-take-the-danger-of-calling-behavior-biblical/ )
  2. When did Jesus ever say, “Hey guys, let’s force the Romans to do this stuff too! Let’s overthrow this government and put my face on the money!!” ???? Oh wait, he didn’t.
  3. When did Jesus ever force anyone to do his will? or even obey his commandments?
  4. In fact weren’t his harshest words reserved for religious leaders who shut the door in other people’s faces, practiced institutionalized hypocrisy and forced people to carry burdens they would never lift themselves?
  5. Wasn’t our country founded by people who didn’t want to be told what they had to believe or to be forced to worship in a certain way? Weren’t they fleeing places with nationalized religions?
  6. Theocracies are dangerous. My belief is that there will only be one perfect theocracy and Jesus will sit on that throne. No human is fit to rule in his place.
  7. In America we embrace the principles of liberty and justice FOR ALL regardless of religion or race or gender. I am fond of saying it is either liberty and justice for all or it is liberty and justice for none.
  8. There is no unless in the above statements, it doesn’t say…God loves you unless you are not a Christian or God loves you, unless you are gay. Additionally, our pledge of allegiance does not say liberty and justice for all (except gays or except blacks or accept women). It says, with liberty and justice FOR ALL.

After all my lovelies, people have used the Bible to justify all kinds of things I (and I am guessing most of you) find unacceptable today (Slavery, women as property and all manner of other abuses come to mind). The cause du jour for our time happens to be marriage equality. People are fond of saying, “I just believe what the Bible says. It is crystal clear” or they use phrases like “traditional marriage” . Let’s explore those statements through the following graphics:

tumblr_m80awqPk0Y1qkdvl3o1_1280

traditional-marriage

Many of my Christian friends think that “redefining marriage” will somehow tarnish marriage and make God angry. Listen, my marriage is holy because Kent and I choose to have God in the center of it. It is not made unholy by some other heterosexual couple being married who do not choose to have God at the center of theirs nor by any homosexual couple who do not. (or by others divorce or  infidelity or abuse etc. etc.) Incidentally, I neglected to mention a second ago, the Christian LGBT couples who choose to have God at the center of their relationships. A dizzying prospect? Here, sit down my lovelies, I will get you a cold glass of water.

A homosexual couple (or other “sinful” couple) marrying only affects one marriage, their own. This is the United States. We allow all types of people to get married for all types of reasons who commit all types of sins (I do not believe homosexuality is a sin incidentally), we recognize the marriages of all faith traditions, including non-christians! Gasp!! I just don’t see how or why free people do not understand this concept.

In Galations 5 it says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Why, in God’s name, do people want to keep themselves or others under or put themselves or others back under a yoke of slavery when they have been set free? In the U.S we embrace the idea that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“. Neither God (he gives us all free will) nor the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to deny these pursuits to your neighbor. You don’t have to agree with someone in the United States to afford them equal rights. Heck our country was built on that premise and that is why eventually this will prevail IMHO. As my Friend Matthew Paul Turner’s Facebook status read yesterday (and I like to think he is right), “Marriage equality will happen. It’s only a matter of time. This country has proven over and over again that it is indeed capable of changing courses, righting wrongs, reversing bad decisions, and siding with freedom, equality and democracy. We’re sometimes slow to get started. We’re sometimes blinded by our ignorance and fear. But we always eventually see the light. And once that light starts to crack through, you can’t keep it from shining. You can try. But you won’t prevail. Because in America, freedom always wins out in the end. It might take us a little longer to get to the finish line. But we will get there. And we will get there together.”

As far as “making God angry” I don’t believe that anymore but you can read all about that in my earlier post Why was God mad in 1927 or Was Jesus enough?

Good Stuff for Spring Break

beach-readsI know. I know. I have been M.I.A. for waaaay to long. I sadly have not had time for writing but I have had time for reading. Here are some I think are worth reading from the last few weeks to see you through the Spring Break holiday.

Enjoy my lovelies. I’ll see you on the other side.

Will Evangelicalism Last

For one thing “Truth” is not rational abstraction — a concept, doctrine, or idea you can write down — especially not one which you conveniently have right and everyone else conveniently has wrong. Truth-as-a-rational-abstraction constitutes a denial of the incarnation (and big chunks of the New Testament). Doctrines and theologies can point to the truth but they are not themselves the Truth. The Truth has been revealed to us in and through Jesus Christ. Truth is a person. Jesus is the Truth.

How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality

Several things clicked at once: These guys had burdens placed upon them by others(people like me) that had nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus said his interpretation of religious Law, his yoke, was easy and his burden light (11:38). His opponents, the religious leaders, accused him of abolishing the Law (5:17) and ignoring their pet scriptures about holiness and who was “in” and who was “out.” The fundamentalists of Jesus’ day were threatened by his message of an easy yoke, and they made his followers out to be “abolishers of the law.” In response, Jesus  commanded his followers to out-love, out-pray, and out-give his detractors (5:21-7:27).

Is Abolition Biblical?

I wanted to share these initial thoughts because I think it’s important to remind ourselves now and then that we’ve been wrong before, and that sometimes it’s not about the number of proof texts we can line up or about the most simplistic reading of the text, but rather some deep, intrinsic sense of right and wrong, some movement of the Spirit, that points us toward truth and to a better understanding of what Scripture really says. 

But That’s What the Bible Says

And this is the sad thing.  That we’d rather live with cognitive dissonance, believing that women are somehow equal but yet somehow lesser– or that they are to be restricted for no reason, but that God is still just– than to believe it’s possible we’re misreading our Bibles.

We’d rather restrict women and have the Bible be “clear” than admit that we just might be wrong.

How Sesame Street is Undermining Biblical Values

I know, you might think I’m overreacting, but the Bible is very clear on the role of bears in human relationships. They are meant to be voracious killing machines. I mean, the ONE COMMAND God gives specifically to bears is to “Arise and devour much flesh.” This attempt to anthropomorphize and humanize bears strikes at the heart of everything the gospel teaches about bears.

Feminism and Me: When I cannot cook but I am still a person

The first time I began to wonder if perhaps the evangelical narrative of gender roles I’d absorbed needed a little tweaking, I was 19 years old and finishing my first year of bible college, and I was in love with him. I sometimes like to think that he was in love with me too (a story for another day), but only to the extent that a heart as superficial as his could possibly be. One morning after a particularly intense cup of coffee the night before, I woke up to a novel in my inbox which basically boiled down to “I like you but you are unsuitable because you are initiatory in your relationships with men and also you cannot clean or cook.”

Jesus is my favorite feminist.

Not only in the message,
but in the messenger.

He chose her.

He commissioned her.

He gave her the privilege of delivering the very first Resurrection sermon.

To a room full of men.

CHASE AND THE ONION MAN

You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love.

The Bible Isn’t The History You Think It Is

The situation not unlike a modern newspaper, which combines news with opinion, puzzles, comics, etc. The news can be accurate even if the comics are not. The same is true for the different parts of the Bible.

I stopped guarding my heart ten years ago.

All relationships invite our hearts to walk through disappointment and joy, the more intimate the relationship, the greater the capacity for both those things.

The Irony of Christian Celebrity

What if a desire to “make an impact” is just a form of grasping for immortality?

What if a quest for influence is actually another way of chasing fame?

What if efforts to “expand the Kingdom” are really monuments to our entrepreneurial skills?

What if, in the name of building platforms to proclaim the Gospel, we have elevated people into Christian celebrities?

What if we’ve added God to an already crowded house of idols—the idols of fame and success?

 

Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


image

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.

If someone comes out to you today…

There are a lot of things coming out means. Here are a few things it should not mean.

That you will be told God hates you.

That you will be bullied at school.

That you will be called ugly names.

That you must live in fear of violence.

That you forfeit your rights as a human being.

That you are less equal.

That you are less loved.

That if you are a teenager you will be thrown out and become homeless. (This happens to 26% of LGBT teens who come out to their parents)

Today I call on everyone to let love rule the day.

If someone comes out to you today, instead of reacting with judgement or disappointment or anger why not try this…

Ask them about their journey. Listen. Try to understand.

Love them. Right. Where. They. Are.

That is what Jesus would do.

More resources:

Human Rights Campaign: Growing up LGBT

Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Pray Away the Gay

Who Can Withhold the Water?

The True Magic Kingdom

Homosexuality and God: Conclusion

Unworthy of the Title Eagle Scout?

Well this may not make me any friends…

When we say to people, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one,” we cannot turn around and say the Boy Scouts MUST award Ryan Andresen his Eagle Scout Medal. The common phrase could actually be tuned around to say, “If you don’t like the policies of the Boy Scouts, don’t become one.” [If you are already upset, please keep reading.]

I personally won’t join a club that excludes black people, women or homosexuals, but the law gives private organizations the right to exclude people based on these and plenty of other criteria. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the Boy Scouts overturn their policy, but if we truly believe in liberty and justice for all then we have to allow groups like this to exist no matter how much we disagree. Why, you ask? Why don’t we just make a law that mandates that everyone love accept each other?  Sadly, my lovelies, that may sound great but it really isn’t. #1. Outward rules don’t change hearts. Love does. The Holy Spirit does. And #2. If we start denying rights to private groups your group may be next and whoever is in power can make you do that which is against your conscience.

Does that mean people shouldn’t speak up if they disagree? Of course not. In fact, the site Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges (thanks Alise Wright) features the letters of men who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout who have returned their badges and medals in protest of the policy in question. These letters are amazing and you owe it to yourself to check them out. In the mean time here is a small excerpt from a letter by Kyle Tiemeier:

I cannot bear to support an organization that endorses such profound intolerance and discrimination. The very values the Boy Scouts of America helped me develop—integrity, service and commitment to my fellow man—are what lead me to be ashamed of my affiliation now. You will find my Eagle Badge enclosed in this letter.

I sincerely hope the Boy Scouts of America will reconsider its policy toward homosexual members. I look forward to the day when I can once again be proud to be an Eagle Scout. When I have my own boys, I hope they will have an opportunity to be part of the inclusive, tolerant organization that I know the Boy Scouts of America can become.

I was also moved by this one by Dr. Erik Melchiorre

The Boy Scouts of America still discriminates against atheists, women, and gay men and boys. Even the US Army has moved beyond this level of discrimination for each of these groups. These are not the scouting values I grew up with, and I don’t want to be associated with bigots.

Returning my Eagle Medal and writing this letter was not any easy thing. I have agonized over this decision with my wife and daughters for several months now. The problem is that when I was a scout in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a troop of scouts of European, African, Sikh, Japanese, and Chinese ancestry; with fellow scouts whom we knew were gay and others who were atheists; with women helping in leadership roles; this was the “big tent” of scouting as I knew it. Originally, I felt that returning my Eagle would dishonor the memory of this unique experience that made all of us such good men. But now, I realize that it is the Boy Scouts of America who dishonor this memory.

I admire these men for taking a stand on this issue coming from inside the ranks. As Alanis Morissette asked, “Isn’t ironic, doncha think?”  These men are standing up to their own organization based on the values taught to them by the very same organization.

I will say this, Ryan Andreson’s Eagle Scout project was worth doing even if his award from the Boy Scouts never comes. It is a “tolerance wall” which he built to deter bullying in school. The wall features tiles painted by elementary school students. You can see a picture of it here.

I do understand and support the legal right of the Boy Scouts of America to deny this young man the rank of Eagle Scout; however I pray that they will be motivated to extend the love of God (whom they wish to honor)  to all and not to exclude others based on their perceived unworthiness. God says that humanity is worth everything, not just all of us, but EACH OF US.

Lists, Ambition and One Last Thing

Much has been made in the last week while I was away about a list of the Top 200 Church Bloggers posted by Kent Shaffer. There is also a cover story done by Christianity Today about 50 Women to Watch coming to news stands near you.

And while I do care that Mr Shaffer’s list was 93% white males, I do not care that word of a woman was no where to be found. I honestly don’t care about ever making his list. I also don’t care if Christianity today decides I belong on their list of women to watch even if I do love me some Rachel Held Evans. I appreciate them attempting to celebrate female followers of Jesus who they feel are making an impact, but I personally don’t care if I ever meet the criteria to make their list. For me having a women’s list that is separate from the men’s list is just more of the “our church lets women lead” mentality that Kathy Escobar wrote about recently. This may lead you to ask what I would do if I were ever to make a list such as this one. One way to react is the way Rachel Held Evans did this week in her post Is Ambition a Sin? She explained:

I weighed in a few times myself, thinking that, as one of just three women who made it to the Top 100, no one could accuse me of sour grapes. I even offered some tips regarding search engine optimization, design, posting schedule, and so on, hoping they might help some women whose content is great, but whose blogs might be blipping just under the radar. If we don’t like the list, I reasoned, let’s work to change it!

I agree on the one hand, working to change it is all well and good but in the end there is no doubt this is Mr. Shaffer’s list and he is free to choose whomever he wishes to be on it and it is no skin off my nose if he only decided to include baptists or pastors or  Chevy owners. I also understand, as he does, that his selection “approach is subjective and consequently flawed.”

So the question remains my lovelies, why don’t I care about making a “top Christian _______” list? The reason I don’t care has nothing to do with lack of ambition or feeling that it is unladylike to self-promote. On the contrary, I want to be an influential blogger period: Christian or not. I want to be the Mumford and Sons of blogging. I want my blog to be recognized because it is making the world a better and more beautiful place. I want it to be widely read because it connects on a deep level and maybe just maybe it reflects a spark of the divine and makes people long for more of that which calls us all to be better. This has never been about being influential with church people for me. This is about being influential with people. I believe with all my heart that God has given me words to speak that are worth hearing or I wouldn’t be here. This blog is and has always been about love; loving God and loving my neighbor; speaking out for freedom for the oppressed, and asking how we can see God’s kingdom come here and now in every corner of life. I want that message to go out to as many as humanly possible. And so…I write, because I have to, because I must, because I believe He wants me to or He wouldn’t have given me this heart, these words or this fracking awesome technology that allows us all to be more connected than ever.

Rachel Held Evans asked her readership how they felt about ambition yesterday and I am glad she asked. In Philippians 2 it says that we should “do nothing out of rivalry (some versions say selfish ambition) or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It does not say, “Do nothing out of ambition,” but rather selfish ambition. That phrase implies that there is also unselfish ambition. Google defines ambition as:

am·bi·tion/amˈbiSHən/

Noun:
  1. A strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
  2. Desire and determination to achieve success.

I don’t know about you my lovelies, but that sounds like a good thing to me. As far as I can tell, I am supposed to love and reconcile as many as I can; I am attempting to achieve that through my writing (among many other avenues); Therefore, I continue to be determined and work hard to do what it takes to succeed, including promotion and branding to ensure that my blog is seen by as many people as possible. Make no mistake, no list can determine the value of what I do here on the blogosphere any more than being named employee of the month or father of the year makes it so. The value of Word of a Woman can only be determined by whether it stirs in you, my lovelies the desire to love God, to love your neighbor, to use your life, your talent and all you are to see the world made a better place.

One last thing…

Mr. Shaffer did publish a response to the female bloggers who objected about not being included called, Open Letter to Christian Women Blogs in which he attempted to explain the list at least in regards to the exclusion of more women’s blogs. Unfortunately, in my opinion he missed the point in his response post. I could go into all the details but that would be missing the point of my own post. 😉 I will just let you read it for yourselves and make your own decisions. I will however make one point. In her response post on the Her.meneutics site, Laura Ortberg Turner relays this discussion:

In an e-mail exchange with Shaffer, a Christianity Today editor inquired as to why Her.meneutics was not on the list. He responded in a way that is indicative of a false dichotomy between “church” and “ministry” within our larger church culture:

“It hasn’t been included because we’ve subjectively decided it doesn’t focus on ministry topics frequently enough. The value in our list (although flawed) is its relatively narrow scope of topical focus. You write good posts, but they tend to be focused more on sex, relationships, adoption, politics, etc. than they are on topics rooted in ministry.”

Mr. Shaffer, this is where you completely lose me. You said that Her.meneutics was not included because their posts “tend to be focused more on sex, relationships, adoption, politics, etc. rather “than they are on topics rooted in ministry.” Really? How are these not topics rooted in ministry? I know no human, male or female, who is not personally invested in relationships, sex, adoption and/or politics. I personally reject the notion that there are ministry and non ministry topics; that posts (or anything else) can be pigeonholed into exclusively secular or uniquely sacred. I would even go so far as to say that you cannot have a blog as a follower of Christ that isn’t about a ministry topic.

In the end however you view the lists, they are subject to the list makers and the criteria they set. So why worry about whether or not I am deemed worthy by Mr. Shaffer or Christianity Today or any other person or group of making their list? Seeing my blog on a list is not my ambition. Love and Liberty and Reconciliation…now those, those are my ambitions. If I happen to end up on some “top whatever list” some day, I will most likely file it away with my Miss Congeniality award from high school, my ADDY award and all my other atta’ girls. They’re nice and all, but in the end, they don’t mean much. What survives in the end isn’t the lists or the accolades but the love and I want to be known for as much of that as possible.

Render unto God that Which is Caesar’s?

So there is this story Jesus tells in the Gospels

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.        (Luke 20:19-26 ESV)

I have been thinking a lot about this story since a couple weeks ago when I read God and Our Political Platforms by Rachel Held Evans. In it she said,

When Jesus was asked about taxes, he didn’t hold up a coin, point to it dramatically, and shout to the crowd, “WHY ISN’T MY NAME ON THIS?! I NEED YOU GUYS TO GET MY NAME AND PICTURE ON THIS THING—STAT!” (…or whatever the Aramaic equivalent of “STAT” would have been).

No, Jesus, when pressed to use his authority to make a political point said simply,  “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

I had never thought about this passage in that way before. It was a revelation. Jesus didn’t care that his name wasn’t on the money.

HE DIDN’T CARE.

I think all too often, American Christians spend too much time and effort on rendering to God that which is Caesars and to Caesar that which is God’s. It is a funny thing, I think Jesus understood the seperation of Church and State better than many Christians do. Case in point, this week Governor Rick Perry of our great state of Texas had a conference call in which he attributed the concept of separation of Church and State to Satan. His exact words were,

This separation of church and state, which has been driven by the secularists to remove those people of faith from the public arena, there is nothing farther from the truth…Satan runs across the world with his doubt and with his untruths and what have you and one of the untruths out there is driven — is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.

Rick is convinced that the separation of Church and State is a grand conspiracy to keep people of faith out of the public arena. I would suggest (to use his words) that “there is nothing farther from the truth”.  As , The Friendly Atheist said, “people of faith have always been welcome to participate in the public arena. What they can’t do is legislate their religious beliefs; when the Constitution and the Bible are in conflict, the Constitution must win. If you can’t handle that, then you belong in a church and not public office.” I agree. Gov. Perry wants to render to God that which is Caesar’s and to Caesar that which is God’s.  He in effect wants the United States to be a theocracy. He would like to effectively take away the religious freedom our founders fought for from people whose beliefs differ from his. The problem with people of faith making laws based on what they believe to be sinful or permissible is three fold: First you must decide whose religious tenets you are going to make law (i.e. Will we allow drinking? What about dancing? Will all women have to wear skirts and long hair?); Second, you must go against God’s design by denying people the liberty and freedom of will to choose how best to follow God. God gives humans free will, forcing people by law not to “sin” as you define it does not change hearts. Paul actually discusses this in Colossians.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.        (Colossians 2:16-23 ESV)

Lastly, when you enact laws based on preferences or even deeply held religious beliefs rather than on “liberty and justice for all” (even when the majority of the people happen to agree with you) you run the risk of someday having laws enacted based on someone else’s religious beliefs. They are fine with someone else’s beliefs being trampled but don’t realize their own could be next. Jesus expects more of us than that. He says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” with no qualifier. That includes your Muslim neighbor, your gay neighbor, your Democrat neighbor, your Jewish neighbor and your Palestinian neighbor. You MUST love them as yourself in order to follow Jesus.

People in Jesus’ time looked for him to be a political or military savior. He was neither. When asked point blank he said give to Caesar that which is his and God that which is his. Jesus was not concerned that his name be on the money or that the Jewish people were being required to pay taxes to Caesar (who the Roman’s regarded as divine). Once again, HE DIDN’T CARE. I think we often spend our time as American Christians fighting battles Jesus would be unconcerned about such as prayer in school, gay marriage and having his name on the money when we should be loving our neighbors, caring for the “least of these” and reconciling people to the lover of their souls. Everything already belongs to God (“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” Psalm 24:1). Giving tribute to Caesar or taxes to the US government that they in turn spend on things you may or may not agree with cannot change that.

God will not be erased from existence because we don’t have specific time set aside for praying in the school day, his purpose will not be thwarted nor his cause advanced depending on whether his name is on our currency. His love cannot be stopped because of who we elect as President of the United States or even whether or not the government recognizes same sex marriages. God is not American nor is he partisan. God belongs to all nations and peoples and is at work everywhere in every culture. He is much MUCH bigger than our politics or even our religious beliefs (none of us has everything right, just ask a Pharisee).
Jesus, It seems, is much more concerned with whether his name is written on our heart than on our money.

Absolute Convergence?

her·e·tic (her-i-tik; adj. her-i-tik, huh-ret-ik) n.
1. a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.
2. Roman Catholic Church . a baptized Roman Catholic who willfully and persistently rejects any article of faith.
3. anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.

or·tho·dox  (ôrth-dks)adj.

1. Adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion.
2. Adhering to the Christian faith as expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds.

Continuing my theme of dialogue from yesterday…

I read a blog post this morning from Gladys Ganiel called Kester Brewin, Peter Rollins & the ‘Year of Opposition’ in the Emerging Church which contained a quote from her post the day before, International Museum of the reformation, Geneva: Dinner with John Calvin.

The quote has stuck with me all morning and I just felt like I wanted to share my thoughts with you my lovelies. Here it the quote…

…the room where you can share dinner conversation with Calvin and Co. conveyed a sense of historical and even contemporary disagreement. This reminded me that the Christian story has rarely been one of absolute convergence around all Christian practices and beliefs.

I am often asked when someone disagrees with me how I can so easily question thousands of years of Christian doctrine and practice. My friends it is not that simple. In the history of our Christian faith there have been many disagreements over the finer points of what it means to follow Christ. There are many areas where most Christians agree and there are many, many where they do not. As I said in yesterday’s post,

Do we disagree on this issue? Yes. Does that mean either of us are heretics? I don’t think so. Do I stand in the corner of the rejected and shunned? You better believe it. I am not perfect at it but I would rather answer to God for trying to reconcile my LGBT friends with the God who is the lover of their soul (practicing or not) than to try to explain to Him why I pushed them further away. Once again, could I be wrong? Of course. But you know what we are all going to have things we are surprised by on that day and I would rather err on the side of love.

Consider if you will the following areas where we have and continue to debate and disagree on how best to follow Jesus…

Calvinism/Arminianism
Evolution/Creationism
The heliocentric universe
Women in leadership
Complementarianism/Egalitarianism
Gifts of the Spirit
Drinking
Once saved always saved
Martin Luther and his Theses
Literal Heaven/Hell, when do we go there? Purgatory?
Soul sleep
The priesthood of all believers
Demon possession and what to do about it
Is Christianity masculine? Is God masculine?
The nature of God… Trinitarianism/Dualism/Unitarianism/Deism/Monotheism
At one time even translating the bible into vernacular languages, or helping with the printing of such a bible was considered heresy according to the Roman Church.

For crying out loud we have even fought over whether women were equal to men, whether the races were equal, whether interracial couples should marry, whether slavery should be illegal, and if wives were property or autonomous persons.

And this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Do the answers to these things matter? You better believe it and without the brave men and women who dared to question the status quo and risk being called heretics; Women and slaves would still be property and be denied the right to vote and own property, and millions would not be able to read the Bible in their native language. Can perceived heresies be dangerous? Of course. Is the Holy Spirit able to sort things out and do His work? You know it.

I ran across some other quotes while reading up on this topic. Here are some you may find interesting:

Gerald Brenan: “Religions are kept alive by heresies, which are really sudden explosions of faith. Dead religions do not produce them.” (Thoughts in a Dry Season, 1978)

I love this one. “Dead religions do not produce heresies”.  Many (added by me) “heresies are really sudden explosions of faith.” Again, think of Martin Luther or William Tyndale.
The questions and discussion “heretics” raise (proved right or wrong) help to keep faith alive. They are often a catalyst by which the Holy Spirit leads us. The fact that we are still discussing and questioning and trying to discern the best ways to follow Jesus’ commands to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves shows us that the Holy Spirit is still alive and well and working in and through humanity to help us become all that we are meant to be.

Helen Keller: “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” (Optimism, 1903)

While this isn’t always true, it is certainly has been true in many cases.

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Whoever has overthrown an existing law of custom has hitherto always first been accounted a bad man: but when, as did happen, the law could not afterwards be reinstated and this fact was accepted, the predicate gradually changed; – history treats almost exclusively of these bad men who subsequently became good men!” (Daybreak, § 20)[23]

One generation’s heretics sometimes become the next generation’s heroes of the faith and culture: Galileo, Martin Luther, Copernicus, William Tyndale, Sir William Wilberforce, Anne Askew, Martin Luther King Jr., Joan of Arc and JESUS – Just to name a few. Did she just say Jesus? Yes I did. Many of the religious leaders of the day accused Jesus of blasphemy, came after him for not keeping parts of the law, and even being possessed by the devil himself.

Heresy is often a word that is hurled at a person in order to end conversation. It is a word we use when we are afraid of what the other person is saying or we are unsure of our ability to defend our position over theirs. I humbly submit that we STOP IT.   More discussion is what is needed, not less. When we brand someone a heretic and end the discussion we silence the Holy Spirit’s ability to use us to help the other or to use the other to change us. It is my experience that one can be called a heretic by some while completely embracing orthodoxy. As I said to my friend Justin, we both agree fully with the Nicene Creed even if I disagree with my him on other points not covered there. We need to STOP branding people with that word errantly and thus blowing up a bridge the Holy Spirit wants to use.

Am I saying there are not dangerous doctrines out there? Of course not. Am I saying we should not fight against them? Of course not. Am I saying we should accept every new thing that comes along? Of course not. The irony is that the people on both sides of the above debates often think the people on the other side are espousing the dangerous doctrine. And lest you think that simply going with the majority is the way to be safe, the majority has often been found to be on the wrong side of history when the Holy Spirit finally gets its way.

In conclusion, I believe we need to read, a lot; not be afraid to be in the minority when we feel like the Holy Spirit is moving; and also, let’s not be so quick to expel a fellow member of Christ’s body, discount their doctrinal differences out of hand and brand them a heretic. Let’s keep the bridges open and allow the Holy Spirit to work.  And mostly, let’s heed the words of the Apostle John, “little children, let us love one another for love comes from God.”

Who knows? We just might learn something.

Private Messages

The following is an actual Facebook private message exchange from the past week. I asked my friend’s permission to share it here and he agreed. I have changed his name here to protect his privacy. In the past this type of communication would have really rattled me especially coming from a fellow pastor (as my friend is).  Through these types of exchanges I feel like I learn a lot about who I am and who Jesus is. I hope it will do the same for you. I would like to say a special thanks to my friend who had enough respect for me to talk to me directly and not go to my husband or gossip about the situation to mutual friends.

Justin
I’m really confused. Any time there’s some sort of controversy, you seem to be quick to take the side of the non-traditional, non-orthodox. Whether it’s Rob Bell saying everybody goes to Heaven, there is no eternal hell, support of Mormons as Christians because they’re nice people, or the homosexual lifestyle. Every time, it appears that you stand against orthodox interpretation of the Word of God and join with those who (in my interpretation) twist, distort & pervert Biblical theology.
I know this sounds like I’m attacking you. I wish I could be honest and not make this personal. I’m hoping you don’t take this personal (I must say, you do seem to be pretty thick-skinned) because I have enjoyed many of our discussions (and debates).
At the same time, if you hung out with me for a week or two you’d know that there are theological, stereological, and ecclesiological issues that put me on the evangelical fringe.
But, in my opinion, when we’re talking about issues like hell, false religions, perversion of scripture & the Biblical family … frankly, I’m concerned.
And that’s why I didn’t post this publicly.
BTW… I’m not looking for a debate. Just felt like I needed to share this. Not sure if for your sake, or mine.
One more thing…. I’m sure… no, I know!… that I post stuff that drives you crazy as well. lol

Michelle Morr KrabillJust saw this. Will have to take some time this weekend to respond. It is too late tonight. M

Justin
…. I was afraid you’d unfriended me by now! lol

Michelle Morr Krabill

Justin,
Here is the thing, I am thick skinned when it comes to these discussions however when you make the kind of statements you made about me I am not sure there is any other way to take it but personally. After all you have made some strong accusations about me (my person) here.

#1 You say “ANYTIME there is a controversy” I seem to be “quick to take the side of the nontraditional or nonorthodox” and also “EVERY TIME, it appears” that I “stand against orthodox interpretation of the Word of God and join with those who twist, distort & pervert Biblical theology.”
ANYTIME and EVERY TIME? Really Justin?
#2 I stand against orthodox interpretation of the Word of God and join (become one of) those who twist, distort & pervert BIBLICAL theology? This is the definition of a heretic. Do you think I am a heretic? This is a very strong accusation.
I stand squarely with the writers of the Apostles creed. I do not understand how anything I have ever said goes against this creed which I am sure you agree with.
#3 Rob Bell never says nor do I that everyone get’s into heaven. Rob Bell is okay with asking what if, and so am I. I am sorry, I will go to my grave hoping (like God btw) that all will be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Yes, even the people who do completely evil things. Because how great would it be for them to repent and become the people they always should have been instead of the monsters that they were?
#4 I never said Mormons were Christians because they were “nice people”. I seriously think you know better than that. I just think evangelicals in particular are quick to say being Mormon and being Christian are mutually exclusive. God is the only one who sees hearts. I do not. To say there will be no Mormons in heaven is arrogant and preposterous. Do I believe they get some pretty important things wrong? Yes. Do I have everything about God and salvation and life right? No. Is what Jesus did enough to cover it. You know it.
#5 The homosexual life style. You may find this blog apropos…http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/post/27909731175/no-im-not-in-the-gay-lifestyle-neither-is-anyone

Do we disagree on this issue? Yes. Does that mean either of us are heretics? I don’t think so. Do I stand in the corner of the rejected and shunned? You better believe it. I am not perfect at it but I would rather answer to God for trying to reconcile LGBT with the God who is the lover of their soul (practicing or not) than to try to explain to him why I pushed them further away. Once again, could I be wrong? Of course. But you know what we are all going to have things we are surprised by on that day and I would rather err on the side of love.
#6 I have no plans to defriend you any time soon.

m

Michelle Morr KrabillI would also like to say thank you for coming to me directly instead of going to kent or my parents.

Michelle Morr Krabill
last thing, Rachel Held Evans does a great job of explaining my issue with the term “Biblical theology”…

A veryrachelheldevans.com
“Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white”- William Blake In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into some excellent books about how to read the Bible—N.T. Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God, Peter Enns’
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Justin
I appreciate your candid response. First of all, I sincerely apologize for my “Any” and “Every” statements. I HATE when people do that. And I did it. (I could blame it on the late hour, but that’s a pretty lame excuse for my insensitivity.) … I understand how you could take some of my comments personally. I just didn’t know any other way to communicate them. Again, I’m sorry. I believe I stated that I don’t want to get in to a debate, so I’ll refrain from justifying my positions or attacking yours. I will read the article you referenced (any time I see the name N.T. Wright, I’m interested.) N.T. does not agree w/ the traditional, evangelical idea of eternity (Heaven vs. New Earth). I agree with Wright. I’m also not a believer in traditional, evangelical soteriology (walk an aisle, pray the sinner’s prayer, now you’re in.) Oh, and I drink beer & occasionally play music in bars. So I’m really not your textbook pastor.

I do appreciate that you communicate your beliefs in an intelligent, calm manner (usually, lol). I’m also not a fan of hyperbolic, over-zealous, uninformed, unintelligent, hyper-emotional Christians trying to force agreement on their issues.
So, I’m glad we’re still friends. Still disagree. But I do not ignore your posts. And if I have issue, I will always come directly to you. In private. Seems like the Jesus thing to do.

Michelle Morr Krabill

Forgiven. Glad we can disagree and still be friends. I love NT esp on the new heavens and earth stuff.

In the end Justin and I did what we must do in order to truly love one another as Jesus asked us to. There was forgiveness and humility. Was there agreement? No. But this type of disagreement allows us to continue to learn from each other and still have a means to allow the Holy Spirit to do his job of convicting of sin and righteousness instead of trying to do it for him. It is our job to love and God’s job to change hearts.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:14-21 ESV)

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
(John 16:8-11 ESV)

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35 ESV)