Fear Not the Weirdful

Thanks to April Fiet, a new word has entered my lexicon and I couldn’t wait to use it in a sentence, like this:

weirdfulSolidarity, fellow weirdful ones, solidarity.

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Why I Think God is Pleased with My Gay Relationships

[From the archives.]

I have gay relationships. I have lesbian relationships too. I think God is pleased.

There seem to be quite a few people in my profession who fall into one of the LGBTQQIA categories – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexual, asexual. In fact, our professional association created an LGBT Section a few years ago, much like we have sections for people with other common identifiers (such as ethnicity). The opening reception for the LGBT Section was at one of the association’s mid-year conferences a while back, and I was there with Dave, a friend of mine who organized the formation of this new group. He even declared me an auxiliary member, since I was hanging out with him as he greeted the other members. Not that auxiliary membership actually exists, but if it did I’d be a shoe-in.

Why was I there? Because, like I said, Dave’s a friend of mine.

He is one of the people I am closest to, not too far behind my wife in that regard. We call each other up when things are on our minds and we need to talk. In fact, he called last night and my wife and I put him on speaker phone so we could all chat as we made dinner. He’d heard that our daughter’s car got totaled and since she lives 10 minutes from him but 8 hours from us, he offered to loan her his car. Dave and I borrow sweatshirts from each other when it’s cold. He and his husband have dinner with me and my family. Getting together is rarer than we’d like, since we live at opposite ends of the state, but when we do see each other it commences with a hug.

Go ahead and call it an intimate friendship. I do.

I also spend time with other gay and lesbian colleagues from up and down the state. We serve on committees together, make dinner reservations if we’re at the same conferences, and support one another. One of them is even a person I turn to for prayer support at times, as she does me. As I said, I have lesbian and gay relationships and I think God is pleased.

You see, Jesus spent time with people who were on the margins – the woman at the well in John 4, Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke 19, the woman caught in adultery in John 8,  the woman who used her own hair to wipe her tears from Jesus’ feet in Luke 7, to name a few – and he wasn’t concerned with how it looked to the upright religious leaders around him.

Why do I identify with my lesbian and gay friends? Because I think Jesus would have.

My friends know my faith. It comes up in conversation often. Jesus talked to his friends and acquaintances about God; so do I. In fact, as odd as it may seem, I actually find it easier to do so with these particular friends than with others sometimes.

And let’s face this fact too. Even though my colleagues have reached the pinnacle of their profession, they can still be marginalized at a moment’s notice. Each and every one of them is always a hair’s breadth away from unfair discrimination and downright bullying. Make no mistake about it, it is still dangerous to be homosexual in America.

These are my friends. I like them and find them a pleasure. I think they feel the same about me.

I also love them. I think Jesus does too.

[Jesus said,] “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10.)

My friends who don’t know Jesus yet aren’t so different from me.

We all need Jesus.

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Being Egalitarian and Taking the Bible Seriously

Too often I read criticism that egalitarians don’t take the Bible seriously, or they simply don’t pay attention to it at all. One blogger recently decried the decision of a conservative church to open up the office of elder to women, saying “The denial of complementarianism undermines the church’s practical embrace of the authority of Scripture.” (Denny Burk, Some reflections on a church that has recently embraced egalitarianism, quoting Ligon Duncan.)

My experience, though, is that egalitarian Christians carefully engage with Scripture. Groups such as Christians for Biblical Equality, forums like the Junia Project and bloggers like Margaret Mowczko (and many others) are proof of that.

In any case, I thought it would be handy to have a symbol ready for the next time someone tries to claim complementarians are the ones who take the Bible seriously while egalitarians don’t.

Jesus loves me, this I know,

The authority of Scripture that teaches me that Jesus loves me is the same authority that informs the rest of my understanding of God and his people. Others might come to a different understanding on various matters: free will and predestination, God’s sovereignty and our responsibilities, whether to be pre-millennial and look for a literal seven year tribulation or not. More can be listed, but the point is that no one should denigrate another’s position as being the product of a lack of concern for the Bible’s very words.

So here I stand:

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.

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The Joys of Blogging: Deviled Spam

spambotMy blog’s spam filter catches some devilishly  interesting comments.

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Christian Dating Tips – the one to avoid

Here’s my tip: If you’re ever speed dating and run across this guy, run the other way.

speed datingRead, study, have opinions, talk about ideas, be willing to learn and willing to teach.

Explore. Examine. Express your thoughts.

Be an interesting person and take an interest in other people.

Which leads me to my next dating tip: If you ever find yourself on a date with someone who thinks you shouldn’t do those things, it’s completely OK to go home early, pick up a book or turn on the TV, and never date the person again.

Let me know if you want more tips. I have plenty.

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Running Like an Inflated Drunkard

[I have the pleasure of guest-posting at my friend* Bronwyn Lea’s place today. Here’s a sample, then click over to read the rest.]

Contrary to the impression I might have given with posts on running a 6 mile obstacle course and a half-marathon in the Happiest Place on Earth, I am not wont to join a few thousand strangers in order to traverse long distances in company.

But I did it again.

This time it was a 5K through a bunch of bounce houses. Three miles and a dozen inflatable obstacles made for a fun-run in the truest sense. It also made me feel like …

[What did I feel like? The rest is right here!]

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*Not friend in the internet sense. Friend in the we live in the same town and have known each other for years sense.

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Scripture, Culture and Context – a quote from Keri Wyatt Kent

"Ignoring the cultural context of Scripture leads to arbitrary interpretations of the Bible." Keri Wyatt Kent

“Ignoring the cultural context of Scripture leads to arbitrary interpretations of the Bible.” Keri Wyatt Kent

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Resources on the blog on the importance of context include:

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The Impotence of Sanctified Testosterone

Teaching by Obfuscation

In an article by Jason Allen, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood decries what they see as a lack of masculinity – “biblical masculinity,” that is – in today’s churches.

Many churches are bereft of male leadership, and many congregations exist in a settled fog over what biblical manhood should look like.

Allen argues that the only way to correct this deficit is through radical spiritual reform. He calls it “sanctified testosterone.” He’s serious:

Through this, the church needs to recover biblical manhood, Christian masculinity—what we might think of as sanctified testosterone.

Aimee Byrd

Aimee Byrd

Aimee Byrd handily addressed the many problems with Allen’s arguments, quoting his points one by one and responding with thoughtful and incisive analysis. (Full disclosure – Aimee Byrd is a friend of mine.) One example is her response to the first excerpt I quoted:

“Many churches are bereft of male leadership, and many congregations exist in a settled fog over what biblical manhood should look like.”

As to the first part of the sentence, that is a sweeping claim. Maybe it’s true? It isn’t my experience in my church. But I’ll take him at his word. As to the second part, I agree. But this article may be a reason for that.

I go one step further and suggest that tepid phrases like “biblical manhood” and shock value phrases like “sanctified testosterone” are examples of the befogged obfuscation inherent in the positions taken by Allen and CBMW.

First off, there is nothing in the Bible that even remotely supports a cockamamie concept like “sanctified testosterone.” It’s a fancy sounding phrase (Aimee labels it propaganda)that has a value of less than zero. Second, the Bible does not call us to “biblical manhood and womanhood.” It calls people – women and men without distinction between the sexes – to be more like Christ.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:28-29.)

What woman and men were really made for

The beauty in this call to Christlikeness is that it is solidly based on the way we were created in the first place. As Aimee points out in response to Allen’s insistence that every man in a church has a leadership role over every woman in that church:

“There is a defined role of leadership, authority, and protection men in the church must play.”

Is there? Please show me where this definition is. Again, is every man a head to every woman in the church?

Aimee goes on to answer those questions in her next paragraph:

And just as a side note, the word ezer, used to describe Eve in Gen. 2:18, is the same word used to describe God as an ezer to Israel throughout the Old Testament. And when you look at these verses, we see this word used to communicate great strength. I particularly find Psalm 89:17 interesting, “For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” Here we have the word ezer, usually translated helper, translated strength. These verses are also saturated in military language as they describe God as Israel’s ezer. The root for this word is used one hundred, twenty-eight times in Scripture, meaning to rescue and save. It is used referring to God’s rescue in thirty cases, which we see mostly in the Psalms. So, although I completely acknowledge men do have greater physical strength than women, and should use that for anyone’s protection whenever someone may be in need, women also have strengths that are vital to the church. Women are also called to be protectors, leaders even.

I would add that when the woman is called the man’s ezer in Genesis 2, the modifier kenegdo is absolutely necessary in order to make sure the Bible is not placing the woman in a position superior to the man.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper [ezer] suitable [kenegdo] for him.”

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:18, 21-22.)

If Genesis 2:18 merely used the word ezer, the original readers might have thought the woman to be a superior helper since (as Aimee points out in the excerpt on ezer above) the word was used to refer to God and his strength as the rescuer of Israel, often in passages with militaristic language. When the word is applied to God as helper or strength, we know he’s being described as a powerful helper of unstoppable strength.

By adding the modifier kenegdo (meaning suitable or of the same kind), Genesis 2 is clear that the woman is not to be considered a superior created being who condescends to help the man as God reaches down to help his people, but is instead a helper at the same level as the man. In other words, if the woman had been described with the word ezer alone, it might suggest she is superior to the man. The full phrase ezer kenegdo thus shows that men and women are of equal strength in God’s kingdom.

Marg Mowzcko

Marg Mowzcko

There is nothing whatsoever in the expression ezer kenegdo that implies a subordination of women. Instead, it has the meanings of strength and similarity. Each of the creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 5, highlight the similarity, unity and equality of men and women, and tell us that their joint task involves being God’s regents of the world he created … . (Marg Mowzcko, Kenegdo: Is the woman subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?)

How is this joint task performed? As Aimee said, “Women are also called to be protectors, leaders even.”

Note her word choice there: “also.” Men can lead and women can lead. Women can protect and men can protect. This is the way it’s been from the beginning. It’s what we were made for. Let’s have no more befogged obfuscation with talk of “sanctified testosterone” and “biblical manhood and womanhood” as if those phrases meant anything. They don’t.

Ezer kenegdo – now there’s a phrase that means something.

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Funny Hunny: a Star Wars story

Vader and Pooh

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(Darach Conneely came up with the caption and I made the meme for it from a picture I posted on FB.)

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Jesus Never Put a Woman Down

I read a lot of blogs written by women, and I’ve been told that showing up and commenting on these blogs encourages the writers. Some of the bloggers, though, give me the impression I’m a bit more encouraging than they’re used to, particularly from a man.

Perhaps it’s true.

Why might I be so encouraging? Frankly, I think it might be because Jesus never pushed a woman down, put her in her place or shoved her to the side.

Jesus and His Women

The Gospel accounts record a number of interactions between Jesus and women, not casual encounters but meaningful moments that not only brought the Light of the world into their lives but also give us examples of the deep love of God. Despite the expectations of the society around him – expectations that Jesus would disregard women, even shun them publicly – Jesus chose to honor and cherish these women as people made in his Father’s image.

There’s the Samaritan woman at the well, an outcast among her own people and a pariah to the Jews. But Jesus engages with her in a lengthy conversation, listening to her words and her heart, showing her that what she’s longed for all her life as she lived with one man after another could be found in him, the One she eagerly awaited as Messiah.

Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1807)

Another time, when snobby religious leaders rebuked Jesus for allowing a woman to caress his feet, Jesus gently honored her, comparing her acts favorably to the shortcomings of his host. The master of the house did not offer water for Jesus to wash his feet, but the woman wet them with her tears and dried them with her hair; he didn’t greet Jesus with a kiss, but the woman never stopped kissing Jesus’ feet; he did not honor Jesus with oil for his hair, but the woman poured costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and massaged it in. And Jesus sends her off with gentle words of peace and forgiveness.

Feast of Simon the Pharisee, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

One woman wanted to be with Jesus so badly that she forced her way through a crowd that was hurrying him along to the home of a sick little girl they wanted him to heal. The woman just wanted to touch the hem of his robe, knowing that if she did she would be cured of the bleeding that had plagued her for twelve years. It worked immediately. Jesus stopped, the crowd surging around him. He called her to him, said she was his “Daughter” and he gently blessed her before continuing on his way.

Healing the Woman with a Flow of Blood, Paolo Veronese (1528-1588)

And then there’s the woman who literally ended up owing Jesus her life. Caught in adultery, she’s thrown at Jesus’ feet where her accusers demand the ultimate punishment – being stoned to death – as much for judgment of her sin as to test Jesus’ orthodoxy. The fact he came to her defense might not have surprised her accusers. It’s what they wanted him to do, so they could accuse him in turn. But the way he did it was unassailable:

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Christ and the Woman Caught in Adultery, Rodolpho Bernardelli (1852-1931)

Jesus didn’t tell her to clean up her act before he’d forgive her. He didn’t even mention forgiveness with this woman. He just stood up for her, told her she’s free from condemnation, and that she should go and live accordingly.

The Godliness of Encouragement

It’s the way for all of us who belong to Jesus. We are forever free from condemnation.

The world doesn’t always treat women that way. In fact, people in this world are more likely to condemn women to a life of second-class status. And heaven help the woman if she’s a woman of color. How quickly a woman can fall from second- to third-class status or lower, condemned to less than full membership in society.

It’s an ungodly way to treat them.

So why do I spend time at women’s blogs, reading women writers, supporting women’s efforts to bring their insights and wisdom to work in the kingdom of God?

I’m just following the example of Christ.

Jesus Never Put Women Down

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[This updated post first ran as a guest piece back in 2013 at Bronwyn Lea’s blog.]

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