Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Cultural Tsunami disperses

It is now a week after the final broadcast of the Oprah show.  In the last twenty five years, Miss Winfrey has become a cultural Tsunami, a socially acceptable mammy figure who named a magazine (and puts herself on every single cover!) and a television network after herself, gives away her favorite books, baubles and even once gave away a whole studio audience worth of cars.  I was never Oprah's biggest fan and couldn't even tell you if I have watched a single episode from start to finish.  But one thing I did notice in my occasional forays into O-land was that, at one point or other, every single episode seemed to turn into a personal therapy session.  In front of a studio audience and recorded for later broadcast, but still a personal therapy session.  Nothing was out of bounds and nothing was ever, ever criticized unless it was "mean".

Perhaps if I had understood what Oprah was tapping into, I might have been a bigger fan.  But in the last several years, she seemed increasingly removed from the life of her average audience member and certainly didn't understand the women who chose freely to live a life different from the lifestyles she found acceptable.  One needs only recall her astonishment at the fresh-faced and positively glowing with joy Dominican sisters who had to explain, more than once, that no, they don't ever have sex and yes, that is just fine.  In fact, it is good and right.  Yes, one needs only recall that program to know Oprah's philosophical commitments had no connection whatsoever to Christianity even though she proclaims herself a Christian. Oprah may be the high priestess of the American woman's shared religion, but she is remarkably sheltered in ways that surprise.

In what was likely the last episode I may have watched all the way through was the October 2007 Lisa Ling investigation into India's womb rental business.  To counter questions of exploitation, Ling said the experience is actually "transformative" despite the stigma that is attached to surrogacy in India.  And the money these mothers receive often does provide for a material transformation of their lives -- it is usually enough to buy a house for their family.  In a spectacular lack of awareness, however, Oprah offered not a word of criticism for a practice in which wealthy white westerners pay poor women of color for the use of their bodies.  How she could see this as anything but the exploitation of women of color is beyond comprehension.

This is not terribly surprising, though, since Oprah's gospel is one of mutual consent, makes no negative judgments and is an echo of the Wiccan Rede:  Do what thou wilt an it harm none.  Despite her babbling about a god-shaped-hole-in-the-soul and her openness to something called "spirituality" -- not despite, actually, because of this, she despises Christian dogma.  She would laugh at Dorothy L. Sayers' truism that, "the dogma is  the drama".  Rather, in the religion of Oprah, the will is the only dogma and the only drama is the therapy worked out in public view.

What is disappointing about the aftermath of the Oprah tsunami, as her influence continues to spread out into the culture via her magazine, website and cable television network, is the reaction of Christian women bloggers.  One Evangelical blogger called her post, "Filling the Oprah Void" as if candy floss spirituality can leave a void needing to be filled. "Oprah  understood the power of speaking truth as a method of healing".  Really?  Shades of Anita Hill's lie-filled campaign to "speak truth to power" rise.  I can't recall Oprah speaking a single truth on anything other than mundane matters such as how diet can relate to physical health and which pajamas are the most comfortable.  But on matters that involved healing?  There isn't a snowball's chance in that very warm place that she brought anyone to healing by speaking truth.  Oprah doesn't know the truth on eternal matters.

Another Evangelical blogger quoted singer Beyonce`, "Because of you, women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we are, of who we are . . ."  The blogger then goes on to warn us against sitting on the sidelines and criticizing Oprah for her flawed theology because, you see, Oprah is moving forward where the church still lags behind the world - in telling girls they matter, no one should change their beliefs and that they can run the world!

Apparently the church IS lagging behind in something - in catechism, in discipleship, in mentoring and teaching and passing on the faith to the next generation.  How else to explain Evangelical Christian bloggers lamenting the Oprah-shaped hole in their lives?  How else to explain the celebration of Oprah's ability to raise difficult topics, despite the fact that she never offered the right cure, the cure leading to repentance and belief.  The world's gurus have often been able to tap into the emotional needs of the world.  From Leo Buscaglia to John Bradshaw the world's gurus have been very good at tapping into the culture's felt, emotional needs.  But,  like Oprah, because they operated with faulty anthropology as well as false theology they only succeeded in diagnosing the symptoms, never the underlying disease -- and never offered a true cure.

For those of us who know the source of all healing, there will be no Oprah-shaped void, no lamentations about her absence and no bookshelves filled with the works of her recommended "therapists".  Life will go on.  And even though her influence has dispersed into the culture (note: that is not a good thing), there will be less frank irritation with, "Did you see Oprah yesterday?".  There will also be much more work for us to do.  Oprah may have been the wealthiest and most famous high priestess of the American woman's religion, but she was only one. Perhaps I should not have joked about Oprah as the Second Beast, the False Prophet in a previous blog post.  The humour might have been closer to the truth than we would like to admit.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Battered Woman Syndrome - on an eternal scale?

A strange idea has been rattling around in my head and I thought I'd put it out here for your reaction.

Lo, very many centuries ago a church father named Cyprian had this to say, "He cannot have God for his father who will not have the Church for his mother.'  And folks have been repeating it ever since, even down to Reformers such as John Calvin.  It's been a recurring motif throughout church history.

A newer and a somewhat discredited idea is "Battered Woman Syndrome" (BWS).  The way it is popularly described, BWS results from an escalating pattern of abuse where matters of vanishing importance (less and less important as the cycle goes on) trigger responses of escalating abuse (psychological and physical).  Appeasement never satisfies the batterer and in some cases serves only to confirm him in his beliefs.  The longer the woman stays in this relationship, the less able she feels to leave it.

Now, this is a leap and please stay with me for a bit here, just sit back and think about this.  What if something like BWS is occurring in the Church?  We are well into the second generation of religious feminism since the advent of that creature and the Church is further than ever from expelling the schismatic, heretical, apostate (pick your label) system from its doors.  In fact, the Church seems to have arrived at a point at which it feels utterly incapable of removing the abuser.  It pursues a continued course of appeasement which will only bring on further abuse.

Much like the battered woman who has convinced herself the abuse will (eventually) stop, the Church continues to pursue a policy of appeasement:  Let's put together a list of what women can do in the church!  We are an educational institution, not an ordaining body, why shouldn't we train women?  We must put our heads together and see how we can release women to use their gifts?  Oh no, it's just a Bible study, no problem with a woman leading that!  Yes, we have a woman directing the choir, but no woman exercises pastoral authority in our church. Really?  You think it inappropriate for a woman to serve communion?  Oh, no, that's not a sermon.  She's just sharing her testimony.  Certainly I'm a Complementarian.  I think women can and should perform every function in the church except that of senior pastor.

It's time the Church stopped imitating Neville Chamberlin kidding herself into believing that she can purchase peace for our time.  It's time to start cleaning house.  You there, you have a new broom.  You can help sweep the place clean.  You?  Is that a dusting rag I see in your hands?  And you behind there?  I know you can polish a floor until you can see your face shine in it.  Ah yes, I see someone has gone to make a pot of coffee.  We are sure to need it.  This church cleaning day is going to last a bit longer than a couple of hours.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Babies abducted and held for "ransom" in China

Beijing's enforcers of the brutal one-child policy are abducting "illegal" babies and holding them for "ransom".  China, designated by the United Nations Population Fund as a "Model Birth Control Country" now levels fines up to the equivalent of nine years' annual salary for "illegally reproducing".

Read the whole story here.  And then ask yourself why a professing Christian would evoke a Maoism in the title of her newest book?  So far, she has refused to answer the question.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

They simply can't keep up!

Por-Life forces are overwhelming the NARAL-ProChoice America Flickr photostream.  NARAL can't delete them fast enough.

Flick Photostream

Do your part!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The hero fails the quiz

Nicholas Kristof has been playing games with the Bible.  In his weekend column, Kristof revealed not only his lack of basic reading comprehension but an inexcusable ignorance of concepts like paradox and progressive revelation or the difference between something that is an implicit conclusion to be drawn from a text and an explicit teaching of the text.  

But, of course, Kristof really has no deficit in reading comprehension.  His real problem is with Christianity and its sacred text, the Holy Scriptures.  Kristof is a hero to many who work against anti-trafficking and oppression of women around the world.  But here, as well as in the book Half the Sky, he reveals an agenda that isn't really about liberating women from oppression.  It's about liberating women to certain kinds of waged work in consequence of their liberation from childbearing and homemaking.

Kristof used to have the reputation of being a good journalist, doing stellar work and one able to keep his own beliefs reigned in.  That is no longer the case.  Someone on this blog recently warned me, "you become what you hate".  That certainly seems to be the case with Kristof.  He has become the sort of unthinking, unreflective, uncomprehending reactionary he seems to think orthodox Christians are.

ht: Brian St. Paul

Monday, May 23, 2011

N.T. Wright's painful irony problem

"I am very grateful to the organisers for inviting me to address this important conference, and only sorry that because of other duties I have been unable to take any other part in your gathering. . . . .I do worry a bit about the word ‘equality’ and the language of ‘egalitarian’ and so on. I recognise what is being said of course, and if I didn’t endorse that point I probably wouldn’t be speaking here now"  (paper presented to "Men, Women and the Church", CBE conference in Durham, England, 9/04)

"The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion. . . .  They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”." (TimesOnline 7/09)

ECUSA, PCUSA, ELCA have all followed the path outlined by openly homosexual ECUSA clergyman, [Vickie] Gene Robinson:

"I had said to them, 'It's too dangerous for you to come out as gay to your superiors, but I believe that if you work for the ordination of women in your church, you will go a long way toward opening the door for the acceptance of gay priests," 

Lenin's term comes to mind here, does it not?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

N.T. Wright: Scripture is both airbrushed and the basis for women in ordained ministry

Here is a partial transcript:

"There's a lot of serious, hard-working Christian women in Chapter 16, and I don't think they were just making tea after the church worship service, either. These are people who have worked hard in the Lord and they are in apparently leadership positions."

"It seems to me that, in the Resurrection, there is a radical re-evaluation of the role of women. And it's the more interesting because in the official public tradition in I Corinthians 15, the women have been air-brushed out of the account . . ."

"In the official tradition of the church, already by the mid-50s, people are worried about them. But with the early stories which then get celebrated in the writing of the Gospels, the women are front and center. Apostolic ministry grows out of the testimony that Jesus is alive. That to me, in the New Testament, is the basis of apostolic ministry and I cannot understand why that should be problematic if you are a biblical Christian . . . So I then insist on reading I Timothy 2 in the light of that."

Thanks to Carolyn Custis James for highlighting this video from Wright in her own latest blog post.  I continue to note that, although Mrs. James declines to embrace the Feminist/Egalitarian label,  she continues to highlight the work of feminists, both secular and religious.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Slippery Slope exhibit #472

Once a burlesque prop, the nearly light as air feather boa is an appropriate part of the priestess costume.  The only surprise is that it isn't hot pimk.  Be sure to check the comments at the Bad Vestments link below, but put swallow the coffee and put the bagel down first.

ht: Joe Long, Thinking Housewife and Bad Vestments.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Clear as Mud

Jackie Gingrich Cushman, (the daughter of former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich) has written an article setting the record straight on that mid-parental-divorce hospital visit which is now the stuff of political legend.  It is good to clear the air and set the record straight on these matters, though Mrs. Cushman is right that it was and is a private family matter.

What is not merely a private family matter, however, is her father's character.  He put questions of his character on the table when he chose to run for the Republican nomination for president.  What Mrs. Cushman did not dispute is that her father had an affair with the woman who became his second wife while still married to her mother.  What is also not being disputed is that the former Speaker also began an affair with the woman who became his third wife while still married to his second wife.

Do we see a pattern developing here?

While Mrs. Cushman has brought clarity to some of the circumstances surrounding her parents divorce, she has not and can not bring clarity to her father's character.  His public record speaks for itself on that matter.  In another age, it would automatically disqualify him from any consideration for high office (repentant or not).  And, as Bill Clinton's chief impeacher, he should hang his head in shame and quietly retire from public life.  While his public actions in that matter were correct, his private actions (now made public) show him to be the chief hypocrite in that national drama.

In the words of a FB friend, Newt Gingrich:  revealed to be only about 75% the swine you thought he was.

An Apology to Carolyn Custis James

Carolyn, I am sorry for bearing false witness against you.

The Background:

They sometimes call it eating crow.  And I suppose I would say that I find crow a rather tasty dish.  Not that I look forward to it - -but that I welcome correction.  Who wants to go through life being wrong, being shown you are wrong, and never admitting it?  Think of the trouble it would cause to refuse to admit driving in Chicago is a different matter than is driving in Torquay!  What if you grabbed the salt instead of the sugar for your coffee and refused to admit it now tasted vile?  To be more serious, how would your friends view you if you accused one of them of having an affair with your husband when what you overheard was an innocent phone call planning a surprise birthday party for you?

We should be thankful for the chance to correct our wrongs.  To repent to God for our sins, and to apologize to our neighbor for bearing false witness against him.

Carolyn Custis James spoke at CBEs 2003 conference in Orland, Florida.  CBEs policy, in previous years, had been to require all conference speakers to be members of the organization.  I know that as late as 1999 this requirement was definitely in place because a friend of mine was required to join before she could act as a replacement speaker for a mutual friend of ours. I had no information indicating that they had ever changed that requirement.  This morning, I placed a telephone call to their offices to ask if the policy was still in place and was told by their conference coordinator that now all they required was for someone to sign a statement of faith.  She did not know when that policy had been changed.

I placed that phone call in response to this exchange.  As readers of this blog know, I have significant disagreements with what Mrs. James writes in her books and on her blog.  So significant that, even if the charge of CBE membership were true, it wouldn't add much to the disagreement.

Addendum: Please also note that CBEs book service carries all four of the books authored by Mrs. James.  their selection criteria are here:  CBE Full Review Evaluation Form

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gnosticism speaks

Having grown up in the church and knowing everything that I was supposed to be doing . . . how do you fit it all in?  And I can remember crying out to the Lord.  I mean I was literally crying to the Lord saying, "God, I just can't do it all."  In addition to that, I was feeling like there were things I wanted to do in the church but I couldn't do them because I was in a female body.  And I went, "what's up with that?  Why did you give me these desires if I can't do them because I am in a female body?"

And I think this Lenten Season in particular is just a beautiful time to just take our inadequacies, all of those things we feel are just not enough, and just lay them at the foot of the cross and say, "God, now I understand what you paid the price for.  You paid it for all of these things, and so I am going to lay them here.  And I am going to take you up on your offer of grace and love and acceptance and forgiveness and a sense of wholeness.  I am going to take you up on that.  Right now.  Because you had promised to walk alongside me.  And in that, we realize, we are enough.

The preceding quotes come from a recent "talk" given to an evening church gathering by a religious feminist.

Letting the cat out of the bag

The following quotes are pulled from a religious feminist blog post discussing modesty.  They are offered without further comment except to note that they rather let the cat of the bag, don't they?  Oops!

And I think that is where we have the problem. Historically, men have taken on the roles that involve sweat and toil. It is hard to maintain the metrosexual look while working in the fields.

I think it is noteworthy to point out that, when men fill roles that are more stationary and allow for more time, that many societies have “metrosexuals” – or men who do worry about fashion and such adornment.

And they say it ain't so!

Two propositions:

1) Religious feminism is not a core Gospel issue

2) Religious feminism is heretical

Those on the religious feminism side of things often claim what they are promoting is not a core Gospel issue, even though it is vital to be on their side if we are going to reach our culture for Christ.  Because they do not always see it as a core Gospel issue, they don't believe they should be shunned for holding it or that there should be any talk of division.  They, of course, also deny it is heresy.

Complementarians also deny it is heresy.  They also do not believe it is an issue to divide over, at least it is not so divisive they cannot treat feminists as colleagues with whom they may disagree.  And since it does not rise to that level, it is not appropriate to call it heresy or divide over it.  In fact, both sides of the divide are welcomed on seminary campuses.

But then some feminists now disagree with the first proposition. In fact, promoted on CBEs event's calendar is the meeting this fall of the Atlantic Society for "Biblical" Equality, Side by Side: Men and Women for Biblical Equality.  At this conference, the president of CBE will give a plenary session titled, "Why Women's Leadership in the Church is a Primary Issue" and "Equal in Being, Equal in Service: How Christian Faith Challenges the Cultural Devaluation of Women".

So, since religious feminism's leadership is tossing out proposition #1, will Complementarians now have the courage to embrace proposition #2?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Denver Seminary, wrap-up (updated)

I find that there is really not much more to say at this point - I just want to let those of you following things know what has happened.

I had a meeting with the seminary's Vice President for Advancement (at his request) this week to air my concerns.  He told me that one of the things they are doing is auditing/reviewing all of their communications, including the website.  And while he may have had some concerns about the Vaun Swanson video, they weren't going to pull it (if at all) until the process was completed.  Since the video was posted on the seminary's website before he joined the administration, he could not tell me what (or indeed, if any) vetting had been done before posting it.

At his invitation, I attended the alumni reception this morning as well as the luncheon (I had already signed up for the latter).  Though I had the chance to speak with Mark Young, the seminary's president, for a few moments, I did not bring up my concerns -- it simply wasn't a good setting for it.  However, in God's providence, I was able to convey my concerns to someone at the seminary who was disturbed by what I had to tell him about the content of the video as well as some of the practices sponsored by Pomegranate Place.  I believe he will look into matters himself and will then act on what he finds.

I am thankful for all your prayers and that my role in this matter seems to be at an end.

Update:  As it turns out, there seems to be more to say than I had thought.  First, I have turned the comment feature back on for this post (at least for the time being). 

In tracking down some unusual blog traffic, I ran across this from Vaun Swanson on the Jesus Creed blog:

As part of a doctoral thesis project, I surveyed women who had graduated from a major evangelical seminary between 1996 and 2006. The percentage of female graduates finding appropriate ministry positions following graduation was shockingly low. In all, only thirteen percent of the women responding to the survey said they were working full-time in a ministry position, either within a church or a Christian organization in which they used their gifts and training and could unqualifiedly support themselves financially. (emphasis in the original)
Note:  The seminary in question was Denver Seminary and as a graduate in those years, I received the survey which I completed and returned.

Which is a frankly false characterization of the situation in that it assumes 100% of female graduates intended to seek "appropriate ministry positions" in which they "could unqualifiedly support themselves financially".  I know yours truly had no intention of doing so because I was already in a profession which both paid well (at full time, I would have been earning twice as much as an average local full time associate pastor), and afforded me the sort of flexibility I desired.  As to working full time in ministry - well, there we see the narrowness of the feminist vision.  Whether you would consider it full time or not, I have more ministry on my plate right now than I ever dreamed I would.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I have no fear . . .

If I can handle this, I can handle the religious feminists: