Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Letter to Glenn and Sarah

Dear Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin:

This isn't about politics. This isn't about Mormonism. My issue with both of you is the Gospel you are preaching.
At your rally on Saturday, you called the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Temple of Freedom. You have called for a return back to (G)god then tell us to use part of the Constitution as our guide.
I understand to a point. You are calling people of many faiths to get back to God. These faiths do not have one holy book in common. So you have brought our attention to something common.
The problem I have? This is syncretism--the blending of religions. "Temple of Freedom"--what does one do at a temple? Worship, religious rituals.
In the Old Testament, after Solomon, the country of Israel is divided in two. The king of the northern territory creates places of worship for his people since Jerusalem and the Temple are in the southern kingdom. He builds these places of worship and he uses statues of calves, which are the symbol of the gods of Canaan. He then uses the religious language of Israel--"behold your God who has brought you out of Egypt." (I Kings 12:25-29). It is the sin of Jeroboam which brings the Northern kingdom's downfall.
Oh, your words are subtle. You use faith, hope and charity as values but you describe them in American terms. The faith, hope and charity Christ lived out and offers are so much bigger than what America has experienced. Just look at other American values versus the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Christ. In America, the American dream is a large house with a two car garage, flat screen HD or 3D television, iPhones and iPads. Jesus says blessed are the poor, the meek. In America when we are attacked, we call for bombs and military action to show our power. Jesus says love your enemies, bless those who persecute you. You talk about getting back to God but this god you are presenting looks American, sounds Republican. The Kingdom of God is bigger and greater.
Its not about politics. It is about the gospel you are preaching.

Friday, August 13, 2010

abusive relationships

In an earlier blog this morning, I apologized to someone whom I am having difficulty simply conversing with let along entering into a friendship or relationship. She has been diagnosed with bi-polar. I am not sure she believes this diagnosis to be true. I am not sure she is regularly taking medication for it let alone on the journey to regulate the medication she is taking.
The issue is in a mere conversation this past week, we didn't see eye to eye on an issue so she attacked me verbally. I know who I am and am called to be, so I don't need to answer these attacks. But I did. And then there was some lucid discussion which spiraled again into attacks. I finally let her have the last word and I blocked her on face book.
How do you stay in relationship with someone like this? Someone who attacks anyone she cannot control or would have a different view point than she has. Someone who doesn't admit to her disease or the fact her disease effects how she perceives people. How do you stay in relationship with them, when every word you say is taken as a weapon? She reads her own paranoia into all conversations. How do you stay in conversation and relationship while not allowing her to abuse and use you?

to a former friend, sister?

I am not sure how to address you. Our interactions were so tumultuous. Did we ever really have a relationship?
But I am sorry.
I am sorry somewhere in your past you were so hurt, so abused, so demeaned as a human being, it cut you to the very core of who you were, who you are, leaving you a wounded, broken person in a corner. Like a wounded animal, anyone who approaches you, you consider them first an enemy, someone who will wound you again. And so the claws and teeth come out. I am sorry every word anyone speaks, every word I have spoken, were perceived as weapons instead of companions for the journey of life. You read into every word, every sentence spoken to you-- pain and judgment. I am so sorry you have not found your way out of that corner. I am so sorry you have not found healing. I am so sorry you know only the pain of words not the healing power of words.
I am sorry you feel such a need to protect yourself. You try to control the world and people around you. When someone comes into your life who does not allow you to control them, you have no room for them. You lash out and attack them. When there is a view or someone's experience which doesn't match yours, that view, that experience is dismissed, wrong--often in the name of God.
You once told me you always get what you want and that you want to give your daughters everything they want. I am sorry. There is a humility that comes with knowing when I get what I want, often times that means someone has gone without getting what they want or need. There is a freedom in knowing that when I don't get what I want, someone else can be blessed with what they want.
I am sorry you long for relationship and have not found it. I am sorry no one has been able to endure the barbs and attacks in order to love you. I am sorry I am not strong enough to endure them. I am sorry I don't know how to love you like you need me to.
I am sorry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Where has civilized dialogue gone?

I debated whether to call this Christian dialogue or civilized dialogue....I think conversations today have deteriorated so, I would almost settle for simply civilized...

Last week at Kingdom Bound, a friend led discussion on the Church and Homosexuality. His stand was not really against or for homosexuality but response of love and relationship with homosexuals rather than beating them over the head with Scripture. Of course there were those who became defensive from the faith viewpoint. They were not even hearing my friend's plea or meeting the discussion where it was at.

This week, I have been attacked in a conversation over Scripture and my view. This person questioned my pastoral calling and told me I need help. Not once did this person discuss the Scriptures they raised. They just threw them at me as if I had no voice or reason.

Today, my friend from Kingdom Bound posted a video which discussed the Constitution and Gay marriage. Instead of meeting the argument presented about the Constitution and marriage, one person stated something to the fact gay marriage is an abomination.

Why can't we respond out of love instead of react out of fear? We hear something we disagree with and have to shut down the conversation. We have to build up a wall and then throw stones (name calling, Scripture) at each other. The pharisees did that a lot. They used the law as a wall between them and the world. They used the law as a weapon against those outside. Jesus ate with the sinners and taught them graciously.

Where has civilized and/or Christian dialogue gone?

Monday, August 9, 2010

How to close conversation and relationship

At seminary, I was always amazed at the people who would quote chapter and verse at the professor to make their point which opposed what was being taught. I remember specifically one session in my philosophy course. The professor was Dr. Jerry Walls, one of the well known proponents of Wesley-Arminianism. He co-wrote the book, Why I am not a Calvinist, with Dr. Joseph Dongell. We were discussing the Calvinist/Wesley-Arminian debate. One student who obviously disagreed with Dr. Walls asked, "Are you familiar with Romans 9?" The rest of the class gasped. How arrogant can you be?! To question whether a seminary professor is familiar with a Scripture passage goes beyond arrogant.
I in no way am at the level of Jerry Walls or Joe Dongell when it comes to theology or philosophy. Yet I have experienced people whipping out Scripture verses to show me how wrong I am as if I have never read the Bible. I have been assaulted with Scripture.

Add Biblical arrogance to any discussion and watch the conversation spiral into a mean spirited, shouting match as everyone takes their corner.

But we do this all the time. We whip out chapter and verse, bludgeoning the homosexuals over the head with Scripture or battering women over the issue of roles in church. We quote the scripture as if it is the ending argument. There. Its final. You have no place to go. And we leave the person on the other end of the conversation bleeding. I am not questioning the authority of Scripture. I believe Scripture gives us the beginning place for our experience of God and also is the filter for our experiences of God. Can we wrestle together with the text instead of wrestling with each other using the text as a weapon?

What if we asked the question, "so how does your view work with these Scriptures?" "How do these Scriptures affect your experience of God?" How does your experience of God make sense of these Scriptures?" What if we allowed Scripture not to be the end, but the beginning of dialogue?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Relevance and the Church

It is the buzz word for the past 30 or so years in the American Church--Relevant. We want relevant worship, relevant preaching. What does relevance mean? Should the Church be relevant or make the Gospel relevant?
In one definition I found, relevant means: bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent: a relevant remark.
If relevance is simply connecting the Gospel to the World, making it easier to understand and applicable to every day life, then obviously we should strive to be relevant.
Yet the Gospel is in many ways a message from another world. Think about it. In our society, the first is the one who camps out overnight outside the store or ticket booth. In the Gospel, the first is the one who is last. In our society, we have rights and must fight to keep them. In the Gospel we are called to lay aside our rights and serve others. In our world, if you hit me, I have every right to hit you back or at least call the cops and have you arrested. In the Gospel, peacemaking and turning the other cheek is the call. It is a message outside myself, outside my nature. The Gospel is the message of a different life, we were created to live. But we have been living in a foreign land for so long we don't remember who we truly are. The Gospel awakens us to who we were created to be. So what does this do to relevance?
We want to connect the Gospel to the matter at hand. Yet is it a call to make it palatable to the world? Do we run the risk making the message relevant of watering down the message or of syncrenizing messages (the blending of the Gospel with the culture)?
How do we hold the message with integrity and make it relevant?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kingdom Bound '10

When different parts of your world collide in one space, you may be apprehensive, nervous or excited. Kingdom Bound presents a place for my worlds to collide. Now I hate to label because the labels carry so much baggage and also they do not encompass everything. For instance, I could label my past "conservative" because I attended churches which did not and still do not support women in ministry and who were conservative in theology and doctrine. Yet that implies I am not conservative today because I am a woman in ministry. But to many "liberals", my theology is very conservative. I still believe God has intervened throughout the history of humanity in actual events at actual times. I believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. So to label my past as conservative is a misnomer in many ways. But to label my present conservative, in the eyes of conservatives is a misnomer because I am socially more liberal and believe a literal reading of Scripture requires context. So I am a nomad. I have no home in one theological circle.
Back to Kingdom Bound--this bastion of Christian music and culture. This Christian sub-culture which I no longer truly belong to is the place where many of my older friends dwell. Yet I enjoy visiting this sub culture and listening to the music as cheesy as it can get. So I go down nostalgia lane and visit with the people who do not agree with me and the direction I am going. There is an awkwardness when I see them. I can tell they too are a bit awkward. They do not know what to do with me. I stand against how they interpret Scripture but I still believe in many ways like they do. We say 'hi'. Then the question, (dramatic music here) "what is happening in your life?" Should pastoring come up in the answer? If I do bring up being a pastor, I can almost hear the pages of Scripture turn in their head. I brace for the barrage of "women be silent," "women are not to teach men." But it doesn't come. The talk doesn't go very deep. We keep it nice and shallow. And I am sad. Is it because I am use to having people beat me up with Scripture? Is it because it would be refreshing to have all of our differences out in the open and find we can still be friends? I don't know.
I enjoyed Kingdom Bound, even with the awkwardness. Part of me longed for a deeper experience of Christ and people, I came up lacking. Yet I did experience God in redeeming my past, strengthening who I am, and walking with me in the midst of the awkwardness.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Women in ministry

I have just come back from Kingdom Bound Camp at Camp Asbury. Going to KB again, I ran into many friends from my past. Many of them do not agree with women in ministry so "running into" them as a pastor now is not always the friendly reunion one might expect. You can see behind their eyes the Scripture verses rattling off about women in ministry.
While I was gone, Matthew Turner on his blog posted about women in ministry which has gone off the wall with comments. So in light of the conversations on his blog and in light of my experience I thought I would discuss my questions and views.

1. I have observed the practice of using Scripture in a proverbial manner among many questions. We quote Scripture and verse like we have plucked the scripture of the day out of the little daily bread basket (when I was a kid, my parents had a box which looked like a loaf of bread which held Scripture verses. Each day you pluck one out and that was the verse for the day.) The problem with this approach is the verse's context is lost as well as we do not have a complete view of what Scripture states on the subject. For example, we can go through Scripture and pick out the verses on love. Yet I John states God is love. Colossians states Jesus is the fullness of God so when talking about love--the fullest picture is found in every action and every word of Jesus, quoting Scriptures which mention love leave out a good deal of Jesus, since every sentence he spoke did not include the word love.
The same thing applies to women in the Bible. Verses which speak about women in ministry do not give the complete view of the Bible.
Another problem with the popcorn or proverbial use of Scripture is we do not treat all Scripture the same. In the Old Testament we are told to stone our children if they disobey their parents. Thankfully, we do not take this part literally. While we will contextually use this verse, we bludgeon women over the head with Scriptures about women in ministry. I have heard some say the Bible is clear on what it says about women in ministry. Well, the part about stoning your children is quite clear too. We use context in one section and in the other we claim those who look at context are looking for a way out. I think we can do better in our handling of Scripture.

2. The Scriptures on women in ministry: so what do we do with Paul? I believe we read his epistles in light of Jesus Christ. I believe we read his epistles realizing we do not have the entire conversation. These are one side of a conversation. While we can construct in part what is happening in the churches he is writing to, we cannot say we have the complete picture. Were the churches he wrote to about women in the ministry having some kind of problem which required intervention like this?
Think about it as a parent. You have 3 children. One child is excelling at school and doing fairly well in sports after school. Another child is doing satisfactory in both school and sports. The 3rd child excels at sports but is struggling with school. You may make the rule "there are no after school activities" for the 3rd child but not for the other two. The exception is the one who does not have the freedom. Why do we view women in ministry in the Bible as the exception? Why is the restriction on women in ministry in the Bible the exception?

3. How do the Scriptures about women in ministry fit into the over arching story of God and humanity? In the beginning, humanity lived in the place God created for them and God's Presence dwelt with them. There was complete shalom between God and creation, and between human beings. God throughout Scripture works toward dwelling with his creation once again--the tabernacle and Temple and finally Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Salvation restores the relationship between creation and God as well as human beings with each other. We find through the story--the people of God goes from being all of humanity (Adam and Eve) to one person (Abraham) to Abraham's family to the nation of Israel and in Jesus Christ to all of humanity. God does not leave Creation broken and in sin. God brings home the exiled of Eden and restores relationship. How do the Pauline verses fit into the over arching story of restoration and forgiveness?

4. The last question I want to pose, is what does our belief on women in ministry say about our theology of God? We believe in Christ we are free from the power of sin and death, Christ is our strength in our weakness. Yet I have heard people say women cannot be pastors because they are the weaker sex, they are easily deceived since Eve sinned first. So in essence we are saying, God's grace is great enough to free men from their sin and their weaknesses but not women. God's grace only gets women to heaven. What are we saying about God with our belief on women in ministry? Does what we are saying about God with our belief in ministry match what we believe about God elsewhere?

Just some of my thoughts.