Monday, May 28, 2012

Flannery for today

Reprinting a post from last year with a word or two added:

The terror of untethered "tenderness"

One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited his goodness, you are done with him. . . Ivan Karamazov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus' hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of the innocents. In this popular pity, we mark our gain in sensibility and our loss of vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber. -- Flannery O'ConnorMystery and Manners

Today, Miss O'Connor would be faced with a horde of trendy pomo emergent-progressive wannabe re-definers of what it means to be an Evangelical, even who the person of Christ is. A gaggle of honking geese who seem to think they know better just because they happen to be among the privileged few walking the earth today.

Funny thing is, I don't think she'd change a word.

The tragedy is, I don't think the trendies would realize she was criticizing them rather than agreeing with them.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

With thanks to Rod Dreher

“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” -- Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lord's Day Rest and Fast

**Yes, I do know that my inability to hold to this fast is a sure sign of my need for it. Shall we just admit I am a work in progress?* I'm still reading through the message highlighted in the previous post, but it's already spurred me on to make a commitment I've been too scared to make.  Not that I don't go whole days without electronic interaction - but that has depended upon my mood in the past, it's not been by deliberate design or intent.

Today, I'm starting a new practice of resting or fasting from electronic media - email, Twitter, Facebook, blog-reading, all of it - on Sundays.  Nothing but the quiet of good music and the restful joy of that strange old thing we called a book - ink printed on paper pages.

To whet your appetite, I am going to work on finishing two books so I can publish the long, long overdue book reviews later this week:

Front Cover

Girl Soldier is co-authored by my friend and hero, Faith McDonnell.  Grace Akallo is the girl soldier of the title and Faith's co-author.  You can purchase the book here

At the Heart of the Gospel

At The Heart of the Gospel is Christopher West's response to his time of reflection following the controversies surrounding his way of teaching the Theology of the Body.  You can purchase it here

I'll see you sometime later this week, right now I've got a couple of good books to curl up with.

Silence and Words

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.
  - Benedict XVI

read the rest of the Pope's message for World Communications Day here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Love is a Masquerade

I soak my dental guard in Hydrogen Peroxide to sterilize it a couple times a week (on the days I don't take a toothbrush to it).  Before I drop the bit of plastic in, covered with all my friendly little mouth germs, the cup could easily be mistaken for a cup filled with water.

What if I left it on the dining table by mistake and a guest in my home thought it was their glass of water?

Would it be loving to let them take a long drink from the cup, to drain it?  Say my guest is remarkably thirsty and doesn't like the taste of my filtered tap water?  Shall I let him drink because he sincerely believes it's water, a life giving fluid?  It looks like water, clear and remarkably wet.  Like water, it has no smell. But no matter how sincere my guest's mistake, the cup contains poison.

Letting my thirsty guest drink down a glass of poisonous liquid that merely looks like water is nor more loving than the supposedly loving approach to homosexual identity offered by Andrew Marin in, "Love is an Orientation" or than the approach to the end of sexual identity offered by Jenell Williams Paris in, "The End of Sexual Identity".

The two books have already been the subject of excellent reviews:

Truncated Love is Robert Gagnon's excellent and thorough treatment of Marin
Evangelical Author: Heterosexuality is an Abomination is Peter Jones' review of Paris

Because these and other responses are far more comprehensive and in-depth than anything I would write my purpose here is to add just a few notes.

The common flaw to both books is that they get the cart before the horse.  Both authors read Scripture and biblical theology through human experience, rather than the other way around.

Paris claims celibacy can be damaging (135) and that a sexual relationship outside of marriage can be a good thing (136).  Her approach has more to do with a Maslovian view of self-actualization than it does with  Christian morality, spiritual discipline and anything like taking up your cross daily or praying to God for the grace to deal with a thorn in the flesh as St. Paul did.  Paris also quotes queer theorist Judith Butler approvingly (33) and can't quite make up her mind whether or not homosexuality is, "a thing about which valid moral judgments can be made ..." (34).

Where Paris is an anthropologist and tends to take the findings of anthropology and sociologist as normative rather than descriptive, Marin takes a more openly narrative approach, saying we need to listen to stories to understand. Both authors, rather embarrassingly, quote "authorities" such as Kinsey (Paris) and Boswell (Marin), without being aware that both have been thoroughly and repeatedly discredited.

Because neither can quite manage to call sexual activity between persons of the same sex sin, both misunderstand holiness and utterly neglect to make any call to repentance.  In fact, Marin ups the ante and reduces God's moral law to an avuncular suggestion, designed for the individual:

"God meets them, speaks to them and hears them, personally and individually telling each of his beloved children what he feels is best for their life." (129) (emphasis mine)

That's not even avuncular - it's more like Joel Osteen on a saccharine high.

In the end, what is offered by both Paris and Marin is deadlier than that cup of Hydrogen Peroxide.  Because here, we are not simply talking about a poison that can kill the body.  We are talking about a life given over to soul-destroying sin.

I don't recommend you read either book.

Note:  As a result of an email exchange with an executive of IVP in which I was included, I asked for and received a review copy of Marin. Later, when I read about the book by Paris, I asked for and received a copy of it as well since it would make sense to review them together.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

On Marriage "Equality" and, Sigh, the Hate Accusation

Sigh. Ho hum. Same song 869th verse.  Why do you focus on hate so much?

I sometimes think that if the Catholic Church ever makes the inimitable GKC a saint, I will have no choice but to succumb to the prayers of my Catholic friends and sign up for RCIA at the earliest opportunity.  Perhaps I shouldn't joke about it, but this side of the Tiber just doesn't have anyone who can compare.  Not even close.  So, whenever I hear that tired old accusation that I hate, I am an angry person, yadda, yadda, yadda, I hear the words of the wise Mr. Chesterton ringing in my ears:

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” 

There.  I feel better now. On to topic #2 for today - the so-called battle for "marriage equality":

 Here's the deal, folks.  We all have the right to marriage under the same conditions.  Any person above a certain age may marry any other consenting person above a certain age so long as the two people are not too closely related and of opposite sexes. Love may come into it, but it needn't and throughout most of our history, it really didn't.  

If this deeply felt emotion we call love were justification for marriage, then I daresay an awful lot of us would be marrying dogs or cats or even a cannoli from Mike's Pastry in Boston.  We'd have given presents to that British guy that "married" Cindy the Dolphin instead of laughing about it.  Yeah, I did say a cannoli.  Because if we are going to go about deconstructing and reconstructing marriage, why limit it to two human beings?  Two?  Why limit it to two?  Polyamory, anyone?  You do know that cases are wending their way through our court systems already arguing for polygamy.  Right?

It all boils down to something a little bit deeper than lurv.

It all comes down to what marriage is. And for that, we have to go to the God who created marriage.  Marriage is the union of man and woman, a sexually exclusive union to last throughout this life.  It is so because God made it that way, and made it that way to show us something about his relationship to us - His relationship to Israel and Christ's relationship to the Church, his Bride.  The meaning and purpose of marriage are woven throughout the Holy Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.  It cannot be unpicked without destroying the whole. I know it's trite, but God did create Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve or Eve and Jennifer -- much less Ken and Lassie or, you get the picture.

Two men can no more create a marriage than two women, that crazy Brit and Cindy the Dolphin, Meat Loaf and a meatloaf, or Sam and his Pet Rock.  Such things are a metaphysical impossibility - kinda like round squares and married bachelors.  That's just not what marriage is.

But if we're going to create something new and call it marriage -- can I start calling myself Mrs. Prince Andrew?  I mean, if we all get to make things up, why should consent come into it?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A timely reminder for the battle-weary

About my so-called sisters . . .

I Corinthians 5:9-13

9I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

That's the end of that.  Barring repentance, not even much-anticipated books will be reviewed on this blog.  Through long, hard experience and the quidance of wise brothers and sisters, I have come to see that even associating at the level of blog reading and commenting is unwise for it gives the impression that the idolaters and revilers are not wicked brethren to be removed from our midst.  These are removed from our midst for both our benefit and theirs.  It removes the poison from among us, benefiting us.  And it gives notice to the wicked that they are indeed wicked and fall outside the fellowship.

Think about it, give serious consideration to removing this sort of internet "fellowship" from your search history, cookies and bookmarks.  Be done with it. And leave the wicked to their own devices This is for the benefit of both of you. To borrow popular phrasing, don't be co-dependent with a reviler.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Looking for hope in all the wrong places ....

Billed as sharing, "insights about turning oppression into opportunity for women across the globe.", Bill Hybels invited Nicholas Kristof to the stage (no pulpit in sight) of Willow Creek Church this past Sunday morning. The problem is, Pastor Hybels seems to be unaware that Kristof and his wife think Christianity is the problem.  Not the only problem, but judging from the tone and slant of their book, the problem of Christianity as an oppressor of women looms larger than that of Islam and China's brutal one-child policy.

Not only was Mr. Kristof granted a platform on Sunday morning, but now his wife Sheryl WuDunn, is listed on the "faculty" of Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit .

To see Kristof tell of some of the horrors women suffer around the world, obstetric fistulas in particular, it is obvious Kristof cares deeply about the plight of these women.  

"Helping people is harder than it looks."

"This is not a perfect outcome, there is no justice."

"There may well be prostitution a hundred years from now ..."

"But we can insure that there aren't 14-year-old girls who are being pimped out, and brutalized.  Whether in Cambodia or Chicago."

We can't expect Kristof to recognize the source of justice or the impossibility of eradicating these sorts of injustices in our present age. But Bill Hybels is a minister of the gospel, he should know better than to offer the world's solutions:

"Now, again, throughout this series we have been saying that girls and women are affected, or suffer, more than men do when extreme poverty is in place. But we have also been saying that if you make an investment in a young girl, you get a disproportionate response. It's actually better strategy to lift a whole village out of the cycle of poverty by making an investment in a young girl."

Kristof responds to Hybel's question about why that is by explaining that, if you educate a girl, she will have fewer children (read: babies are bad). The rest of Kristof's solution is not to educate men towards responsibility, but to educate girls and women to (in essence) not need men.

Hybels then prompts Kristof on raising women's voices and the two men collude in the fatal illusion that giving women a voice will equip them to respond to and avoid the consequences of irresponsible men by giving them the rush of achievement and the ability to look after, "her own children".

This prescription victimizes women all over again.  Sadly, in jest and only in passing, Kristof does recognize women's civilizing influence on men.  Hybels neither acknowledges this or at any time during the 41-minute video does he direct Kristof or the congregation to the one Book which provides the only true solution to the sin of both women and men. Sin?  What's that.  Not even whispered or hinted at.

In the last ten minutes, Hybels approaches the difficulty secular humanitarians have of working with religious humanitarians and how the "God gulf" really bothers Kristof. Kristof responds by talking about the polarization and distrust between the two groups in spite of "huge areas of common agreement" and "some" areas of disagreement. I'm not surprised that Kristof fails to recognize his own role in that polarization and the creation of distrust. I have previously noted his hostility to Christianity here, here, and here.  Hybels concurs in Kristof's assessment and his hope that the two sides can work on common ground, "Because there is so much at stake."

At the end, Hybels turns the "pulpit" over to Kristof for "3 minutes of preaching".

"You have the compassion of a Christian. You have the convictions of a Christian."  It's not Christian conviction, Pastor Hybels.  Kristof is moved to tears recounting some of the injustices he has observed and he has risked life and limb.  But he is not filled with Christian convictions.  He is influenced by common grace and a thoroughly secular view of justice and compassion.  One that has repeatedly dripped with sarcasm and  blamed thoroughly Christian convictions for much of the injustice he battles.

Recently a friend pondered whether Evangelicalism had become the new mainline.  Indeed it has.  With Willow Creek as the flagship of Evangelicalism's megachurch mentality, we are presented with the old Social Gospel in 21st century social justice clothing.

Watch the video here

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stuff and Nonsense

So, that post I was going to write about the Red Letter Christians interview with Mimi Haddad of CBE?  This is it.

I. Give. Up.

I have listened to the interview from start to finish. Twice.  I have transcribed most of it.  And I still can't make head or tail of it.  There is both entirely too much to say about it and nothing new to say at all.  Trying to have her cake and eat it too, she recounts boys not talking to her after she beat them at tennis, men who shunned her after she beat them at backgammon, a Lilly study showing men "are marrying women that are socially and culturally inferior to them." and a group of female residents at the Mayo Clinic who were moaning because their male classmates married nurses and therapists, not their classmates.  But she also claims, "I began to see that equality was valued in many places except the church."

So, which is it?  Are men constantly looking for women they can best at sport and games and feel smarter than -or- is equality valued in "many places" except the church?

I can't figure it out.

The interview goes downhill from there because they get into biblical interpretation and discussing certain passages.  Race differences are equated to the differences between the sexes are equated to differences in age.  Phillip's daughters are morphed into preachers, Paul found Christ on the road to Damascus . . .

Yes, she did say, "And you remember when he found Christ on the Damascus Road ..."

You heard it hear folks.  Paul found Christ.

Funny, I thought it was the other way around:

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” (Acts 9:3-6)

It was at that point in the interview that my jaw hit the floor for the last time.

I found myself wondering, if they can't even get the neutral passages right ... If they can't even be honest about the passages that have nothing to do with the gender agenda, why even bother dealing with their treatment of the so-called disputed proof texts?

And I'm not.  I'm done, finished, finito, terminar, fertig.

They're looking more and more like Cretans (Titus 1:12)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Absence and Presence

A month into the new job, I am feeling a bit less like I need a six-week rest cure when I head home at the end of 8 hours of training.  About a month to go and then I will resume, what for me, are normal work hours.  I am working full time (40 hours a week), something which I have done in many years - so I know you all won't feel too awfully sorry for me.  One of the long term blessings of this position is fewer weekends - one in four.  Yippee!

So, after some broken promises about coming content, I think I am back up in blogging shape.  This weekend there will be a post about CBE.  It will be the last time I mention them, on my own initiative, on this blog.  There may also be a note about Rachel Held Evans in the post - and that will be the last time I mention her until I publish my review of her book when it is out in the fall.

I am also aiming to have two book reviews posted of three books.  I hope that will happen this weekend.  If not, before the end of next week unless God (rather than my own inertia) has something else in mind.

Many thanks to the faithful friends who have been checking in vain hope of new content.  I think the long hard slog is over and I will be back to a semi-regular blogging schedule.  Any suggestions about regular features are welcome - either in the comments or privately by email.

You've been warned - I'm back!