Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Blog Has Moved

Hey everyone! My blog has moved to a new site, and most of the content from the archives on this blog have been moved over as well. You can continue to read my blog at:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Knowing When to Hold Your Tongue, or Your Keyboard

I always have something to say. There are few conversations, once started, that I do not feel like I have something I can add. This is true in actual social situations, and in virtual situations like those found on Facebook or Twitter. I am also someone who derives great pleasure from converting others to enjoy the things I do, or to see things like I do. If I see a great movie, I want you to see (and like!) the same movie. If I like a song, I want you to like the song. It's one of my quirks.

This past year, I have come to terms with the fact that my proclivities can be quite problematic. For one, I cannot convert everyone to my side of issues; and, in many cases other react quite harshly to my thoughts. Secondly, I became quite aware that others in my own socio-religious context are simply not prepared to be challenged with opposing views from those, like me, who were from the same context.

Around the Spring time of last year, God begin to deal with me about not "casting my pearls before swine." That is to say, I felt deeply convicted about trying to bring certain conversations to those who would have no appreciation for what I have to say. Moreover, I understood that there are certain arenas and certain groups that I am just not called to convert. It took me until the end of the year, but I finally withdrew myself from posting on forums I used to frequent often, and I set up Facebook parameters to protect myself against unwarranted attacks from my peers who just aren't serious about open dialogue.

Grief was part of the experience. It was hard for me to come to terms with the reality that the peers I had once been the most comfortable with in discussing matters of faith, practice, and politics were no longer there to listen. I was also faced with the stark reality that my base of influence would significantly shrink. Yet, I know that there is another base being formed around me, and that the call and voice that God has given me will again be used to influence those who are prepared to be challenged.

These realities became no more real to me than in the closing weeks of 2013 and the "Duckgate" scandal. Against the desires of every fiber of my being, I chose to keep quiet. I knew this was one of those instances where anything I said would have been so polarizing, I knew that it was best that I sat it out; much to the ire of both my detractors and fans. I'll avoid biblical exegesis at this point, but it is fair to say that Jesus understood timing as well (see John 7).

Closing out this piece of self-reflection I will return to the aforementioned subject I avowed to avoid as a matter of example for my final point. That point being, that besides knowing when not to say something, knowing how to say something is just as important. Take the outrage from some in the LGBTQ community in response to comments made by Phil Robertson a few days ago. Now, juxtapose that with Pope Francis, who has the exact same views as Phil Robertson on homosexuality, but was featured on the cover the "Advocate," the oldest gay rights magazine in the United States. Why? Because it's not always what you say, but how you say it. Pope Francis speaks from a platform of compassion, peace, and reconciliation. And, his words on the subject have been filled with grace and convinction. While Christians would largely agree with both men's view of Scriptural sexuality, one voice was heard while the other was detested.

Thus, I submit to you that I am in constant tension over knowing when to speak
and what to say. But when I know that I must speak, no matter what the reaction might be, may the Lord help me to know how to speak with the grace and compassion of Christ.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hey Single Guy, Proverbs 31 Is Not For You

Crystal and I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Rachel Held Evans speak about her new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood at First Baptist Church of Asheville last night. Of course, I didn't even own the book before last night, but now I own a signed copy. Even though I have not read the book, I want to comment about something in particular she shared that resonated with my wife and I.

She spoke briefly about how evangelicalism has adopted this new title for what the perfect woman is supposed to be: "A Proverbs 31 Woman." Young single men are encouraged to hold out for such a woman, and both single and married women are encouraged to strive to be like her.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this passage, you can read it here. Several evangelicals have the made the case that Proverbs 31 is the blueprint for biblical womanhood, and that the Bible has made it clear what a godly and biblical woman should be like.

But most women will tell you that they are completely overwhelmed by the description of the perfect biblical woman.  And most single men will tell you that they have yet to find a woman who measures up to the woman of Proverbs 31. You know: domestic goddess, early to rise late to bed, seamstress, financier, real estate agent, philanthropist, entrepreneur, prayer warrior, God fearing, praising her husband at the city gates kind of woman. And, that's one reason many of them are still single.

But Evans discovered, through dialog with an orthodox Jewish woman and careful study of Jewish tradition, that Proverbs 31 was never meant to be prescriptive. In fact, the scripture is not even intended for single men or ANY woman! Instead, the scripture is used by married men to praise their wives for all the little and big things they do for their homes and their families. In fact, Jewish men memorize this scripture and sing it to their wives every Sabbath meal. No woman is expected to ever memorize it or live up to it. In fact the only command given in Proverbs 31 is to the husband: "Honor
her for all that her hands have done and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

So I just have to say it: "Single guys, Proverbs 31 is not for you." 

I have seen so many single men and women play this eternal game of trying to find the perfect mate. They want someone chaste (which gets harder to find as you get older), who will be a perfect homemaker, who will serve God without fail. We tell single women with children or previous relationships that they are damaged goods, and we emphasize to our single men to avoid such characters. But that isn't fair! In fact, the Old Testament provided all kinds of ways for single women with children to be taken care of by good men. And there are lots of good men who could make great husbands for all kinds of women who might not meet the standards of Proverbs 31.

Crystal and I have been married for 12 years. I can only think of one occasion I have ever used the scripture of Proverbs 31. It was recently actually, and I sent her love letter via email. In it I told her that when I read this scripture it makes me think of her. Is she a financier? No. Is she a perfect Christian? No. Is she a domestic goddess? Not completely (but close, I'll admit). But she is the perfect woman for me. I have seen her rise early. I have seen her go to bed late. I have seen her grow in wisdom and godliness. And for me she is perfect. And I call her blessed. So guys, put Proverbs 31 away until your married. The world is full of good women looking for good husbands. If you're fortunate, one day you can sit at the dinner table across from your beautiful bride, and sing Proverbs 31 to her.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallow's Eve: The True Story of Halloween

The Sacred Met Secular
This was originally posted by Shane Claiborne on his Facebook page on October 31, 2012.

Before there was "Halloween", there was "All Hallows' Eve" -- and All Saints Day. For hundreds of years, before jack-o-lanterns and zombies and candy corn, Christians around the world have remembered the dead, the saints, the cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. Halloween comes from the same root word as "hallowed" or "halo", meaning holy. 

Rather than glorifying death, it is a time we can celebrate life, remembering the lives of our loved ones and the heroes of the faith. In fact, while we don't need more gore and blood, there is something sweet about being able to laugh at death... after all, we know the dead can rise again. Oh death, Thou art dead. Happy Halloween.

*Here's a great thought for All Saints Day: Frederick Buechner said saints have the scent of God, and they leave us the aroma of Christ. In God’s flirting with humanity, God occasionally drops a handkerchief -- these handerchiefs are called saints.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why I Won't Join John MacArthur or Those That Divide Us

Icon of the Pharisee and Publican
Lately, my social sphere was filled with conversations about John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" conference. In essence, this conference was put on to declare that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is blasphemous and unbiblical. About 3,000 people attended, and people watched online in 127 countries. This sparked a firestorm of responses in blogs, videos, and tweets; some of which I shared due to their thoughtfulness and eloquence. This blog, however, is not a reaction or response to Mr. MacArthur.

This whole conversation served to remind me of the lengths we will go to, to divide ourselves. We have a long history of being preoccupied with trying to discern who's in and who's out, who's right and who's wrong. In almost primitive nature, we crave the sense of power derived from excluding others [Tweet This]. And it's never enough to be part of the group that's "in," you have to always make it clear that God hates the ones who are not.

So, in true Pharisaical form, with great effort we form an image of God that is divisive and exclusive; an image of God that Jesus sought to reform. We not only manufacture an image of God that suits our cause. We will shape our own image. We need to appear as those that are "in," and, more importantly, that we are the ones on God's side. Social networking makes this so much more enticing, because we  don't actually have to dress the part, as long as our virtual self does. Who needs loud praying in the public square when you have 140 characters with which to establish your holiness and wit [Tweet This]. So while Jesus went out of his way to make outsiders insiders, we do whatever it takes to stay on the inside, to be the ones that are "right."

While I used to rather enjoy these "theology wars," I am no longer interested in them. They do not empower us, they do not liberate us, and they do not transform us. And, frankly, if you're theology is not transformative and liberating, I am just not interested. I am no longer entertained by antics that entice us to focus more on the things that divide us than on the things that unite us.

But there are those who sit in the stands and cheer as Christians fight to gain the higher intellectual and theological grounds on one another. Not unlike those who cheer for war in the Middle East because it suits their eschatology, there are those who fear a unified church because someone told them such a concept is antichrist. Yet we find Jesus himself praying: "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:11b NIV). So if your eschatology frames worldwide Christian unity as a bad thing, then again, I am not interested [Tweet this]. I feel a sacred obligation to put faith in Jesus' prayer for the church, that we will one day be one.

Let us find unity in love. We are followers of the great lover, the great unifier, and the great liberator. We can do this. We are better than this. While we fight each other on Facebook, our world is riddled with poverty, war, racism, sexism, oppression, addiction, and depression. We will not be remembered by our pithy arguments or self-declared intellect; nor, will history remember whose theology won the day. In the end, we will be remembered by one thing and one thing only: our love. I choose love.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).