Unequal Equality (?) Too Confusing: Just Can’t Get It!

So my thoughts may be random,
Scattered somewhat in tandem
With battered emotional abandon,
But release brings some peace,
And maybe my raging will cease?

You see, this cannot be for me
To agree, and yet neither to flee
From such intellectual debris,
Spiritual humus that only creates
Brumous ideas in every heartbeat.

So what do I want to say this day?
If I may express my own dismay
In such an unabashed, cutting way:
Some make profusion of confusion
In the ‘biblical’ goal of sex roles!

Did not the Apostle say, “There is
Not any longer the male and female;
For you are all one within the veil
Of Christ?” And is this not the scale
To measure one’s worth from birth?

Did not the same Apostle declare
To the married pair, “Submit one
To the other,” sister and brother,
Husband and wife, father, mother;
And this means loving one another!

Should we dare to stare at wisdom
From the ancients to better prepare
Our hearts and, thus, begin to repair
Damage done by neglecting the Son,
What this One truly, newly brought?

If a woman so chooses to submit,
Then who am I to cry and then try
To remit her choice, silence voice
And complain she should remain
Solitary in some stark-cold equality?

Ah! But then even from ancient times
Wisdom chimed women were vessels
Of glory, quarry of the very heavens,
So the story has been boldly told
And retold through pages of the ages.

Has it not been said of old, “I am he,
You are she; I the song in the throng,
You the verse to traverse the universe;
I am heaven, you earth and birth-giver.
So will we dwell as one under the sun.”

I am confused, then, by evangelicals
Choosing to follow traditions so hollow,
While clinging to Bible and miracles
Of God, who is neither male nor female;
Scriptures holy are sacred tales spun,
Centering upon rugged cross and nails,
… and inexplicable love from above.

Willingly in the position of submission,
Still, why do these good women accept
That this means disrespect, dishonor
And neglect? Do they not ever reflect
On love, and marriage elect to correct?

Representing heaven and earth, God
Did leaven the world with man, woman
And gave birth to beauty of humanity,
But not the insanity of profane vanity
Of men who often excuse their abuse!

But why, oh why, do evangelical women
Accept this tragic-comical situation,
Which is only a mock representation
Of most holy matrimony, as some sort
Of divine patrimony given to her cohort?

Ah! But the churches preach and teach
An unequal equality impossible to reach;
Command compliance, demand obedience,
Reprimand any woman held in defiance,
And she takes it and bakes it in her mind!

Why? Is the “real biblical man” she wants
Expected to taunt and flaunt his manliness;
To be proud and loud, brash, foolishly rash;
And a cruel jackass, as stubborn as a mule?
Is this the love-pool for which she drools?

Ah, I persist too long and insist too much;
Tis better for me to be a man such as I am,
Without inquiry into such mirey theology
Fraught with an ontology of misery bought
At the price of humiliation and degradation.

Now … I have written and vented enough.

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‘Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God Mother…’ Oh Really?

Yesterday I was referred to the article, Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God ‘Mother’, by one gracious reader in response to my blog, “Imagined Conversation With God,” in which I refer to the Deity as “Mother.” I have provided the link above to the actual article, so anyone interested can read the protest points made by the author, Fr. Dwight Longenecker. If anyone cares for me to respond, please ask and I shall do my best to accommodate, extensive footnotes included. Until such interest is expressed, though, blessings to one and all, especially the reader who provided an “alternative perspective” to my own.

Imagined Conversation With God

sbmpatheYonatan –      I have long wanted to speak with you openly and honestly, laying bare my deepest pains and desires, of which you are doubtless already aware, to unburden my soul and, if you graciously acquiesce, to perhaps finally know some answers to my most plaguing questions, most kind and gracious and almighty Elohim.

Elohim –         Most assuredly, you are welcome, Yonatan, for have I not asked my children to cast their burdens upon me, assuring them that I care for them as a mother cares for her child? Have I not also promised that if you ask, you shall receive? No, Yonatan, surely I will not withhold answers to your questions, nor fail to explain the pain you feel, if only you’re able to understand. Know this, however: You may not be able to understand, nor may you be able to accept my answers even should you understand. Such is the gulf that divides us, dear child –– the gulf of intellect, of spirit, of very being. Can you possibly expect to comprehend my ways any more than Job of ancient lore?

Yonatan –      Forgive me, then, for asking questions the answers to which I may not understand due to my own human limitations, but I will make bold by your invitation to ask anyway.

Elohim –         Yes, Yonatan, ask freely and without fear.

Yonatan –      Very well, then, I shall begin with the troubling question of how I might relate to you, whether as Father or Mother, for this has troubled me for quite some time, magnificent Elohim. Tell me, if you please, if I might without sacrilege refer to you as Mother, for in my weakness I feel very deeply the need for an almighty life-giver, nurturer, protector, who is maternal. That I do not despise fatherhood is well-known to you, the All-Knowing, but I am constitutionally inclined to pray to you and worship you as divine Mother. Is this wrong?

Elohim –         And here, dear Yonatan, you may not understand yourself as well as you imagine, for it is my very Spirit communing with your spirit that has led you to cry out to me as I Am. You know well, Yonatan, that God is not bound by human gender; this is seen clearly even in sacred scriptures. I Am above and beyond gender, yet divine Mother and Father. I Am the Progenitor of All, the Birth-Giver of the cosmos and all life therein. Could any truth be clearer than this from a clear and sensible reading of the sacred literature?

                        I have revealed myself as the Birth-Giver of Israel, have I not? Will any deny this? And who, after all, gives birth? I have revealed myself as suckling my children at breast, and who feeds their babes at breast but the mother? I have revealed myself as the nurturing hen, the protective she-bear, the mother eagle; why, then, would anyone question my being Mother? No, Yonatan, my Spirit has taught your spirit more of the truth of my nature, which is in pure accord with what I have revealed of myself from of old. And see, too, I have revealed myself by many names and titles: God, Elohim, Yahweh, Allah (which means God), Father, Shepherd, and yes, Mother.

Be not afraid, then, of your own desires for me, for I am for you all that you need for me to be. Be still, and know that I am God. I will not be circumscribed by the petty narrow-mindedness of hypocrites and contemporary Pharisees, by those who strain at gnats and swallow camels. Know me; believe in me; trust me and love me, Yonatan, not blind, flesh-and-blood guides. There are those whom I have anointed to teach and led, and they hear my voice and follow me. They are those who are filled with my love, joy, peace, and happiness; they are filled with warmth, and enthusiasm, empathy, and understanding. These are devoid of acrimony, spitefulness, deceit, and vindictiveness; they are empty of malice, cruelty, cunning, and folly. Remember, you will know them by the fruits they bear, and they are not those who condemn you for coming to me, wrapping your arms round me in your lively imagination, which will one day be reality, and laying your head on my bosom, calling me Mother. No, Yonatan, they understand as I understand.

Yonatan –      Thank you, then, Mother Elohim. Your most gracious answer has made me confident enough now to ask another question: You deigned that I be a man, that is male, yet I have been long troubled that I do not measure up to the standard of manhood. As well, I also long for an intimate companion who is wise and strong and beautiful, my Lady-Lord. Is this wrong? Is there something distorted within me, perhaps because of my fallen nature? Because of sin? Do you intend the man always to be stronger, and to be in authority, to be the leader? Or might the woman in intimate companionship better fulfill the place of authority, or at least in primary decision-making?

Elohim –         Ah! Yonatan! How we must unravel this tangled misapprehension for many people, not only for you, my child! First, how do you imagine God defines manhood? Would I not say you are a good man if you are honest, charitable, kind and gracious, obedient to what I’ve directed you to do in life? How much more a man can you be than to be my faithful child, Yonatan? And how much more a woman can a woman be who does the same? That there are physical differences is obvious to even the most casually observant, young child! But, now, did I birth the male and female as two intrinsically, constitutionally different beings? No! Of course not! Have I not taught you, and everyone, that I fashioned male and female in my image, according to my likeness? What more, then, is there to say? It is sin that has distorted relationships between men and women; this was never my intention! And those who attribute to me the abusive distortion in such relationships with which you are familiar commit an act of practical blasphemy, Yonatan!

                        But let us go back to the beginning of all, to my creation of life. Do not both the science of humanity as well as my divine revelation teach that all life is lived in an interdependent symbiotic relationship? And life, all life, sprang from the same Life, for I Am the One Life-Giver, and in the growth and maturation of this life, the mother of all humanity, called Eve, became the crowning achievement of my handiwork. She was the diadem of the whole cosmos, which is apparent in the very title I bequeathed upon her – my very own, as Helper. The man, Adam, was incomplete, insufficient unto himself, and in need of physical, intellectual, and spiritual fulfillment. The female was that fulfillment, who herself was in no need of fulfillment, for remember I said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” and also I said, “Thus the man shall leave mother and father and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Is it not apparent, then, even to the sensibilities of a child, that the woman was made greater than the man?

Evil and wickedness distorted this, Yonatan, and men have been preying upon women ever since, just as the Adversary has been preying upon humanity. Sinful man, then, follows the course of the Enemy in satanic rebellion against all that is divine – all that is good, and true, and lovely.

Yonatan, I would have you know, though, that you are precious in my sight. You are not less the man I fashioned you to be. What? Will you be embarrassed for me to tell you that you are beautiful, instead of using the word handsome? You are beautiful, Yonatan, and intelligent, gifted, talented; you are kind and gentle and compassionate. You are like an amazing, spectacular flower ready to burst forth in a magnificent array of beauty to bless the world! Oh, Yonatan, do you not know that I know you need a strong and wise, beautiful and capable companion with whom to join yourself? Yes, child, I know you are pining to pour yourself – heart, mind, and soul – into the life of this kind of woman, and I know this strong and sturdy, level-headed and determined, righteous woman is not easily found because they are so rare, and they are so rare because so many women have been abused into being grossly subservient to the almost complete obliteration of the gifts and talents with which I’ve bequeathed them… But do not lose hope!

Yonatan, you are a thinker, researcher, essayist, story-teller, poet and care-giver. You are what I want you to be, and I love you passionately, like only a mother could love you. I Am your Mother; you are my child. I will not leave you or forsake you, my son. Should she never come – and I believe she will – or should she be blind and deaf to the treasure that is your person, your self, then the loss will be hers; after all, the human is limited, but I am not, and I know ten thousand treasure hunters who would find in you an invaluable boon, my dear. Do not give up, then!

Yonatan –      Forgive me, great Elohim, for being so dull, but I must ask again, is there any sense in which you intended man to lead, to be the authority over woman and all of creation? This is, after all, what your Church has taught down through the ages.

Elohim –         Yonatan, are you so dull? Or is the weight of your own doubts so great that you cannot see reason? Let me answer, then, and say that if I created from lesser to greater, then the penultimate of my creation was humanity, and within humanity, the woman. Is this not apparent? Also, consider my nature and what would be my divine intention, and then look at the record left by man. For tens of thousands of years, man has ruled the earth, and what legacy has he left? Violence, war, pain, suffering, disease, starvation, oppression, exploitation, marginalization, degradation, evils of all kinds. Is this the exercise of authority God intended?

                        Return to the beginning again, then, and know that I created woman to be life-giver, nurturer, and cultivator. Even the simple child can understand this is leadership, for who could be greater than the one who births new life, who nourishes all life, who cultivates home and family and community? As an icon of the divine Helper, the woman as helper was intended not only to complete the man, but also to complete the whole of my created order. Is this not astonishing enough! Is this not answer enough! Within this order, then, I intended woman to naturally provide loving guidance and direction, as she was creatively constituted by me to do so, and why not? In the pristine purity of that paradisiacal time, there was no inequality, or grasping for power, or envy, or malice and the like. In my Christ, I have tried to restore this original relationship, Yonatan, as in him there is no longer the man or the woman, but rather an interdependent relationship of love.

You do not quite understand this, as so many others fail to understand, but you do know this about yourself: You long for the strong, confident, wise and knowledgeable, attractive woman, whom you can completely love and trust, and to whose guidance and direction you can (and would) gladly yield. This is good, Yonatan, for you have gone beyond the foolish acrimony of the typical male into the peaceful, life-giving desires of an unsullied heart. Know, too, that the image of man presented by the society in which you live militates against the image of good men that I have presented around the world, in every language and culture, down through the ages. So too the image of the woman presented in your society; it is gross and degrading to the finest of my creation, and further serves to subjugate those who are meant for so much more; those who are intended to be an invaluable blessing to the world … and, yes, often in positions of authority.

Yonatan –      Is this, then, not such an absurd thought? That you, the Everlasting One, created woman wholly differently than we experience woman in this fallen world today?

Elohim –         Yonatan, the heavenly feminine, very real and alive in a manner beyond your understanding, was with me in the beginning: intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle. She was and is my very breath, the pure emanation of my glory, the reflection of eternal light. She is the heart of the way of Life and is immortal, the mysterious mother of all, of heaven and earth, of everything; invisible yet ever-present. She it is upon whom you can feed without any diminution to her whatsoever. She protected the first-formed man and for him I incarnated her from his very loins to be his heavenly-earthly companion-helper.

                        Yonatan, she is the great portent that appeared in the sky in the vision of my servant, John the Revelator, the vision of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. This woman imaged the re-incarnate Eve, the second Eve, the most blessed and ever-Virgin Mary, mother of your Lord Jesus the Christ. And think now, Yonatan, how could these images be divorced from the constitutional being of woman and what I intended of woman? No, if humanity fell into darkness, sin, and death, as is apparently true, then everything in the whole of the created order was affected, just as you have been taught, just as you can see for yourself. This damage to the created order extends throughout creation into each of its parts, including relationships. Would it not be fair to say, then, that what you have seen throughout the history of the world is warped, skewed, so that you must know that typically common relationships are from inception twisted and marred?

Think, too, of this possibility: If what I have thus far told you is true, and it must be, so if you trust me, then what you have heard and read in your society about women trying to be like men in authority and leadership, and in so many other ways may not actually be true. It is at least possible, is it not, that for millennia upon millennia it has been men who have been trying to be what I intended women to be. Will you not admit this as at least a possible reason for the horrendously repulsive legacy of man? Perhaps it is not women imitating men, after all; perhaps, Yonatan, it is women returning to their divine-primordial being, raw and vibrant, naked in innocence, visceral in power… Ah, but there are so few!

Yonatan –      Will I ever meet such a one, gracious Mother? Will this servant of yours be joined to such as this woman? Will you so bless me, your child-servant?

Elohim –         This I will tell you, Yonatan, and this only, because I have so orchestrated the world that each individual must travel the course of their life much under their own compulsion, directing themselves down whatever path they may choose. I have left life quite largely open, though not completely so; nevertheless, I can assure you that there is such a woman for you, yes. Whether she discerns this and acts upon this knowledge only time will tell, for I have chosen for myself to leave that knowledge as an open end. Know this, though: She struggles with an unimaginable burden peculiar to women, so that even though she would find in you everything she could hope to find in a man of your disposition, yet she may be quite hesitant all and only because she acutely feels the weight of the expectation of her community to be what society, and particularly the Church, has defined as woman.

Yonatan –      In the meantime, though, my soul is in anguish, my mind is in turmoil, my very body hurts, compassionate Elohim. What am I to do, this lonely man that I am, to survive this plight? To be surrounded by people, yet ever deprived of intimacy with an intended soulmate, is so excruciating that it must be some form of hell.

Elohim –         No, Yonatan, this is not some form of hell, but it can be purgatorial. If you will allow, this time can refine and purify you in and through your suffering. What you should do is what you already know to do: Work as you have been working, for it is an invaluable service to another precious human; write as you have been writing, for in so doing you are giving vent to your soul, and there are those who appreciate and benefit, though you doubt this to be true; pray and meditate, for you know from experience that joining yourself to me in this way always benefits you because you know I love you with an everlasting love, and you love me, too; sing and praise, for the light of worship often drives out the darkness of despair; take your medications, for I have given humanity the capacity to work healing in many ways and this way is one way by which you are helped significantly; love your friends and family, spend time with them, and enjoy their company, for this, too, will help guard you against loneliness. Finally, though, trust and believe that your soul mate is even now coming to know you, forming within herself an important familiarity, contemplating you, praying for you, preparing for you. I Am your Comforter, Yonatan, and I will not leave you or forsake you. Trust and believe, my child, and never give up hope! You are on the right track; stay the course!

Yonatan –      Praise be to you, Elohim, Mother God, the Everlasting One! Praise be to you, Christ Jesus our Lord and Redeemer! Praise be to you, Spirit of Light and Life, Love and Truth! Praise be to you, Holy One, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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Sloughheart, My Self, and Silly Fundamentalism

My own background was socio-politically conservative; economically capitalistic; and broadly evangelical, Protestant-Christian. To make some necessary distinction, though, it was not libertarian or hyper-capitalistic, nor was my background religiously fundamentalist. Growing up, I was encouraged to read (and listen) widely, including of course other, differing perspectives. For example, my father handed me The Communist Manifesto to read when I was about 14-years-old (or so), and at some point gave me an interesting introduction to Catholicism entitled, Mr. Jackson Talks to Father Smith,[1] which was written (and presumably published) in Jackson, Mississippi to be distributed there to anyone interested in the Roman Catholic Church. He also introduced me to his friend, the Catholic priest in our town, back in the early 80s, allowed me to visit other churches (and he was a pastor), introduced me to foreign films, notably those of Federico Fellini, an Italian filmmaker “known for his distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images with earthiness.”

No, not in any sense did I grow up in a legalistic, fundamentalist background. Of course, I was appropriately catechized in the Reformed tradition, even though we attended an independent Methodist church my father pastored, the rationale being that George Whitefield was also Methodist and he was Calvinistic. We were not exactly Calvinistic, but leaned heavily in that direction, so the Westminster Shorter Catechism did nicely for my doctrinal training. However, I was also exposed to the sermons of John Wesley; we did have a traditional, Methodist-type service at our little church; professors from Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi were invited to preach and/or teach, etc. I remember, too, my parents purchasing for me (at my request) a collection of essays by Marx and Friedrich Engels on religion. (It turned out to be a rather boring read, but…) My father wanted me to understand libertarianism, socialism, the New Deal, and the Great Society. My mother particularly encouraged me to read especially C. S. Lewis, but also Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, etc. My father steered me in the direction of Leo Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Victor Hugo and others.

The last of five children, with my closest sibling being eight years my senior, to a certain extent I felt like an only child; however, my (by then older than usual) parents and I had an awful lot of fun. We went camping, hiking, fishing; we loved to grill out and play games, indoors and out; we had pets (always at least one); we loved singing and laughing and watching television (and later movies) together. My parents were by no means fuddle-duds; they were serious when they needed to be serious, but otherwise … fun … and very lovable. Consequently, I don’t know that I have the background necessary to critique fundamentalism – as I did in my last essay, Masculinity According to an Evangelical Woman – yet I don’t know that I can quite apologize for going ahead and doing so, either. Thankfully, my background also included some exposure to fundamentalism early on, and my father was the one who began explaining to me the pitfalls of moral legalism, theological dispensationalism,[2] and the anti-intellectualism that seems to attend both.

I also attended two Independent Bible Fundamentalist (IBF) high-schools – where, let me be quick to say, I met some of the best folk in the world despite the environment – and so I tasted enough firsthand to legitimately say that, despite my upbringing, I do have some experiential knowledge of legalistic fundamentalism. This is the topic I’d like to address now. So far as other socio-political and economic perspectives are concerned, well … perhaps another time. (Suffice it to say here, I have moved to just “left of center” politically, and I also see some redeeming value in socialistic ideology. Hyper-capitalism is no better for people in general, or society in toto, than Marxist-Communism … in my humble opinion.) Why this seems to be such a burning issue for me, I may never know, but it is and it has been for years upon years. One can readily see (I believe) from what I’ve shared that I didn’t get clobbered with legalistic fundamentalism growing up; just the opposite, in fact. Let me go one step further and say with certainty that I would never have read as much and as widely, nor travelled as much, nor frequented art museums, etc. had it not been for my parents. Yes, I have grown up into my “own man,” so to speak, and I know full well they would disagree with me at several points … but I also know they anticipated this with me, as they did with all of their children.

My encounters with fundamentalism and what knowledge I do have of this peculiar life-perspective has significantly factored into what “my own man” is today, that is, the still-maturing individual I am now. For example, I never understood the passionate zeal for altar calls and divinely gratuitous salvation displayed in so many IBF churches on the one hand, and extreme moral legalism on the other. What is the necessity, according to this way of thinking (if I may use the term loosely) for moral legalism if salvation is completely an unearned gift? Gratitude, perhaps? I can’t help but say, though, from my observation, IBFs don’t ordinarily strike me as being very grateful; point in fact, to look at their lives, salvation seems quite burdensome rather than something for which to be thankful. Nevertheless, gratitude may very well be a reasonable answer to my query; however, this only seems to include moral legalism, not charity. Where charity – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, etc. – is concerned, this is all-too-often condemned as “works religion,” something Roman Catholics do; no genuine, Bible-believing Christian would ever engage in works-based religion. There is, of course, an entire breakdown in logic in this line of thinking: If one should show gratitude through abiding by some strict moral standard, then one should also give charitably in order to show gratitude. (After all, it’s certainly commanded in Scripture!) If, however, charity is “works-based religion,” i.e. trying to earn one’s way to heaven, and if this is wrong, then abiding by a strict moral code must also be “works-based religion,” and thereby be wrong as well. Both are of the same species, and what applies to one, so far as life-action is concerned,[3] applies to the other, too.

I’m also certainly capable of illogic, perhaps as much as the average Joe or Jane (maybe even more so), but I think the difference is, if someone points out to me the intenability of something I’ve said or written (argued, presented, etc.), then I believe I will usually respond by rethinking my original position (perspective or whatnot) and make whatever corrections need be made, if not change altogether. The legalistic fundamentalist doesn’t typically do this, which is something brought through, at least indirectly, in my Sloughheart Series. On the topic of men and women, masculinity and femininity – gender characteristics, or attributes, I suppose – there is also a definite militation against the legalistic, fundamentalist perspective in the narrative. The character of Joy Brighterday serves as the premier example of this: She is well-educated, cultured, intellectually astute, and well-spoken; she has an affable personality, complete with an excellent sense of humor and deep compassion; physically she is stunningly beautiful, strong, robust, lively, and healthy. One might say I’ve idealized this character, making her an almost demi-god, but that’s probably not quite accurate.

The character has been exaggerated, and purposely so, but Joy Brighterday also has her share of shortcomings, evidenced, for example, in her meetings (along with Effete) with the attorney, Justin Case. Also, she is introduced at the beginning of the whole series struggling in prayer at the altar of St. Gianna’s, where she is the rector (or pastor.) She is unmarried, and in the end this seems to come back to bite her; she is, at a deep level, virtually left alone while those she has helped so much go on with their healing and/or now-very happy lives… All in all, though, the character of Joy Brighterday presents a woman, who is not only physiologically female but very much “in tune” with herself; who is strong, resilient, caring as well as commanding; who possesses upstanding character and integrity, wisdom and discernment, but also some faults, failings and shortcomings, too. And why this character? In order to image an archetype female in both a specific role traditionally ascribed to men and within a general cultural-societal context where women have found it difficult to thrive (and still do).

Along the way, the attempt is made to provide justification for this in the face of condemnation by the character Fen Sloughheart, an independent, legalistic, fundamentalist preacher – the antihero of the story. One episode consists of Joy writing to a young woman considering entering the ministry. Early in her letter, Joy notes:

Yes, even now it’s still difficult for women, especially when you’ve grown up in a tradition, such as your own church, that (paradoxical as it may seem) both honors women and yet bars them from ordination. Have no fear on that point, though; I know you’re not ‘dissing’ your church, as you say! And I’m not going to either, but believe me, I fully understand.

It is still challenging, but not impossible or unbiblical. (Bishop N. T. Wright addresses this issue very beautifully and effectively in an essay entitled, “Women’s Service in the Church.”) This is something completely out-of-bounds for the fundamentalist, though: To completely reconsider long-held perspectives, even by means of utilizing careful exegesis of Scripture. (One could reasonably argue that if they did so, they would no longer be fundamentalists!) The fundamentalist would say, “Thus saith the Lord…” and that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it will be in obedient, Bible-believing churches until Jesus comes back to rapture the faithful into heaven (leaving billions behind to suffer unthinkable atrocities … supposedly.) For some reason, this mentality is excruciatingly difficult for me to ignore; I suppose to some extent, at least, I take it personally, almost as if beloved family are being attacked. Of course, I know very well that the Ancient Near East was a patriarchal society, just as I know the ancient world as a whole was thought by its occupants to be shot through with the numinous, often to be overrun by the dæmonic, full of mysterium tremendum.[4] There are no illusions here, and perhaps this is part of the point.

My ancestors in the faith-religion of Judeo-Christianity may not measure up to contemporary, Western, socio-religious and ethical standards any more than my biological ancestors. There is no pretending otherwise, I suppose, but I’m still in many ways their progeny; consequently, I don’t really appreciate their lives being misrepresented or their teachings misconstrued … or sometimes horribly distorted. That convoluted interpretation of selected portions of Scripture is often used to justify all forms of abuse only makes legalistic fundamentalism all-the-more egregious. One simply cannot cherry-pick juicy bits of an ancient law code of nomadic peoples about to settle into an agrarian way of life and apply those decrees and guidelines – or forcefully impose them like diktats – within contemporary society, no matter how divinely inspired in origin. Besides, we have ample witness from the New Testament that much of the ancient law code would no longer be applicable to Christians – Jew or Gentile – and that was approximately two thousand years ago!

Fundamentalism wallows in shallow, anemic over-simplification, and when challenged, IBFs will (in the greater part of such instances) either try to out shout their opponent(s) with Bible verses and trite remarks, or withdraw into their fundamentalist fortress where they can privately deride their opponent(s) and relish the fantastical feeling of victory. In the meantime, the archetype of Joy Brighterday answers them on a number of fronts, including, for example, the ordination of women to the ministry:

You probably know, of course, some of the common objections to the ordination of women. The Apostle, St. Paul, instructed women to be silent in church, but then he also recommends women as “fellow workers” and even deacons, like Phoebe. Besides which, there were always female prophets, with whom Paul would have been familiar, like Miriam and the four daughters of Philip as well as the prophetess Anna, who openly spoke at the Temple. So, in my estimation, this particular argument is rather weak.

Of course, Paul also instructs women to veil their heads when they pray, yet how many opponents of female ordination actually push this practice? You see, as in so many other cases, there seems to be some inconsistency here, but I think Paul’s words ought to be contextualized anyway … at least, as best we can do that, and only then applied. But there are other arguments, too, like, ‘Christ was male, and so his priests should be male.’

My response to this has simply been the fact that there are any number of qualities we might lay down as restrictions. He was also Jewish, for example, but do we really want to prohibit non-Jewish people from serving in ordained ministry? For that matter, I suppose we could restrict ordained ministry not only to Jewish males, but to virgin-born Jewish males! You see, that sort of argument is not only weak, but it’s anything but helpful.

The question is, how much difference does gender really make in ministry now and why? And is the restriction of this vocation physiologically based? If so, why? Or is there another reason … perhaps psychological and/or spiritual? You see, one either quickly descends into a morass of confusion on this point, or ends up forwarding chauvinistic arguments, such as:

  1. The woman is physically weaker; therefore, she cannot command the respect, much less the following, of adult males
  2. The woman is generally less intelligent; therefore, she cannot reasonably be expected to teach adult men, who are, on average, more intelligent
  3. The woman is more emotional; therefore, she is psychically unstable and, thus, unable to “shepherd the flock”

And other distasteful, reprehensible contentions, all subsumed under the heretical assumption: God created woman to be subservient to the man.

This is not, of course, the only area in which the legalistic fundamentalist perspective is baneful. Another is the fundamentalist’s aversion to the Sacraments – which, naturally, they don’t recognize as Sacraments – thus, their infrequent celebration of Communion, or the Lord’s Supper. Simon Chan explains their excuse(s), then rebuts those reasons quite effectively:

Two reasons are commonly given for infrequent observance of the Eucharist. One is that if the Lord’s Supper were observed too frequently, it would lose its meaning. But according to a Reformed evangelical pastor, Leonard J. Vander Zee, this rationale betrays ‘the old gnostic tendency’ to exalt the ‘spiritual’ and denigrate the ‘material.’ Further, the rationale assumes the Lord’s Supper is another commemorative event, like a birthday or wedding anniversary. But if the Lord’s Supper is indeed a ‘feeding on Christ to eternal life,’ making us into what we eat, then there is no question about whether frequent Communion would cause a loss of significance. No one has ever yet complained that having three meals a day had eroded the significance of eating. (Some even insist on have more!) As Vander Zee puts it, ‘If God feeds and confirms our faith in the sacrament, then we deprive ourselves of the fullness of his grace when we sit around the table only once in awhile. We need every nourishment God provides, and to miss the meal not only snubs his gracious hospitality but creates spiritual anorexics.’

Second, it is sometimes argued that Word and sacrament are merely two ways of communicating the same gospel. If what the sacrament conveys is already conveyed, in fact in a better way, in preaching, then the sacrament is quite extraneous in the regular church service. Sacrament, according to this view, merely ‘portrays’ the gospel – and in a limited way at that – whereas preaching gives almost unlimited scope for the exposition of the gospel. But this is to misunderstand the very nature of Word and sacrament and their distinctive functions in the liturgy. Not only is the sacrament more than the visible form of the Word, but each is indispensable to the other. Sacrament brings the proclaimed Word to its fulfillment.

We come to know the Real Presence effected by the Spirit in the Lord’s Supper. Word without sacrament remains incomplete, and sacrament without Word becomes an empty sign. ‘If one cannot live by bread alone, neither can one live by word alone.’ For just as the Word is completed in the sacrament, so the sacrament derives its meaning from the Word. As Louis Bouyer states, ‘Every sacrament is a verbum visibile, a word made visible, and every sacrament also essentially implies verba sacramentalia, the sacred words which give to the sacred action itself not only meaning but also its own inner reality.’ Word and sacrament cannot be separated. The whole liturgy of Word and sacrament is both God’s Word and God’s action for the sake of the church. Worship becomes less than what it is when one is emphasized at the expense of the other.[5]

Chan states these two commonly given excuses for infrequent Communion quite graciously, wording them far more intelligently than one usually hears them in person. Still, he points out quite well the lack of spiritual depth and theological understanding one typically finds within the IBF world,[6] which reveals an ongoing spiritual abuse-by-neglect in these churches. Bereft of healthful, life-sustaining, divine nourishment, it’s little wonder, then, there is also abuse-by-action. It’s almost as if, being starved within sight of food and drink they cannot get to, they become frenzied and begin cannibalizing each other!

Fundamentalism is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, which upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.” I think I would modify this definition to read, “1 a form of religion, which upholds belief in the strictly literal interpretation and application, sometimes selective, of sacred scriptures and/or inherited customs and religious traditions; 2 the elevation of particular doctrines and practices as being fundamentally important to the religious faith-community, the observation and practice of which are obligatory, with the failure to adhere to this standard being punished, sometime severely.” Robert J. Burrowes offers an apt analysis of the fundamentalist along the lines of this definition:

A fundamentalist is usually considered to be a person who adheres strictly to a doctrine, viewpoint or set of principles that are considered original and ‘pure’; this doctrine might be theological in nature. For the fundamentalist, many of their beliefs and the behaviors that arise from them will, at least in theory, be derivative of their fundamental doctrine. For the fundamentalist, there is no room to consider views that are at variance with their accepted doctrine and contrary views will usually either be dismissed out-of-hand or resisted with considerable vigor and, often, violence.[7]

Touché! Which makes me all-the-more grateful that I grew up in an environment of free enquiry and learning, wisdom and discernment, appreciation for the arts, literature and music, and so much more conducive to a healthy mind, body and soul. Pity the victims of legalistic fundamentalism!

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[1] Note: I believe this was the title, though I’m not completely certain. Also, I’m not absolutely sure of the place of publication.

[2] Dispensationalism is a Christian evangelical, futurist, Biblical interpretation that believes that God has related to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants in a series of “dispensations,” or periods in history.

[3] In other words, same context, i.e. one’s life; similar scriptural injunctions; same purpose, i.e. to show gratitude; etc.

[4] Rudolf Otto’s classic work, The Idea of the Holy, is an excellent read on the subject and where I got the expression of mysterium tremendum. On this note, I would venture to say we could use more mystery and greater awareness of the numinous in our day and age, if for no other reason than to counter-balance the all-too-often cold and impersonal sciences as well as what has come to be called the “corporate mentality.”

[5] Simon Chan, Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community, 65-66

[6] Note: This is not to imply that IBFs are the only ones who partake of the Lord’s Supper infrequently. This, in fact, is Anabaptist in origin, yet no one would say Ulrich Zwingli was cognitively retarded. Also, many evangelical Protestant churches have fallen into infrequent celebration of Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, yet this is not the Lutheran or Reformed heritage. Martin Luther celebrated Holy Communion weekly, if not more frequently, and promulgated the doctrine of consubstantiation. Calvin in Geneva celebrated the Lord’s Supper more often than four times per annum (quarterly,) and believed in the real pneumatic presence of Christ. Of course, the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches celebrate the Eucharist quite frequently and most reverently with a far deeper, richer understanding of Communion than one finds elsewhere.

[7] Robert J. Burrowes, “Fundamentalism: A Psychological Problem,” January 9, 2014, as accessed on May 19, 2015

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Masculinity According to an Evangelical Christian Woman: A Critical Appraisal

An Updated, Expanded Version of Gender Traits and BS: What Does It Mean to be Masculine?

Troubled by nagging doubts of my own masculinity, fostered no doubt by my own not-so-unique enculturation, I thought I’d do a little online “research” into masculinity and what passes for masculine traits. What I found was, quite frankly, a lot of twaddle, like the nine “masculine traits” listed by an evangelical, Protestant Christian woman on her website. Why do I say it’s a bunch of hooey? Well, let’s take a look, shall we? I’ll list each trait in her words, then respond. So, here we go…

Confidence: Believe in yourself, not only that you can do what you set out to do, but that you already are what you need to be (even if on the outside it doesn’t yet show.)

O.k. So if this is a decidedly masculine trait, does that mean the corresponding “feminine trait” is lack of self-confidence, timidity and diffidence? If the “real man” is supposed to be confident, because confidence is definitely masculine, then should the woman be shy, hesitant and fearful? Was Jael timid; did she lack confidence when she drove a tent peg through the temple of Sisera? Was Artemis, the great and wild hunter-goddess, timid? Ooops, sorry! I almost forgot Greek mythology and polytheism are not allowed in such discussions … nevertheless, I’ll leave this statement as at least a curious point of reference to the divine feminine, which was, undoubtedly, one of the most widely venerated deities of the ancient world. (Note: the Roman equivalent is Diana; also, some scholars believe Artemis may actually pre-date Hellenistic culture.) Let us proceed, though, to the next vaulted quality of genuine masculinity, namely:

Courage: A masculine man is courageous (I’m not talking about being willing to do stupid stunts, either), willing to do what is necessary without showing weakness (even if he is scared to death.)  A man cannot be truly courageous and brave if he does not fear something.

Oh great! So courage is definitely masculine – that is, it pertains to or is characteristic of man, or men, which is the definition of masculine. Right? Wrong! This is nonsense! The Blessed Virgin Mary was just as, if not more, courageous than most any other character of history that comes to mind. And what about Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Boudicca, Ruth, Queen Esther… Need we add more names? Courage does not fall within the province of masculinity or femininity. It is a universal virtue that pays little heed to class, ethnicity, gender, creed or age. Period.

If this rather misogynistic woman is right – very doubtfully so, but… – perhaps Queen Esther was wrong to pray, “Remember, O Lord; make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion!” (I can’t help it; I just have to note, too, that if there are no other gods, then there could be no “King of the gods.” Of course, there could also be no “putting other gods before” Yahweh, either, so anyway…) Strangely enough, though, Esther seemed to exhibit not only courage but a great sense of responsibility but, alas, this may be a masculine-defining quality as well…

Responsibility: Take responsibility for what happens in your life and stop being a victim.  Being a victim is exactly what society expects you to be.  Be who you really are intended to be – a leader and victor.  Make plans and carry them out.  Don’t fear failure.

Oh wow! Feminine women are not expected to be responsible? Femininity precludes accountability and dependability? Again, nonsense! Men and women, old and young, rich and poor ought to be “responsible.” This is another universal virtue arbitrarily made “masculine.” Unfortunately, this sort of thing has been done over and over and over again, down through the ages. Men, if they are “real men,” are confident, courageous, responsible, dependable … and disciplined. (See below)

On the “stop being a victim,” advice: How many men in our culture cry about being victims, anyway? Personally, it’s understandable why so many women go to counselling for being victimized and, consequently, I hear (or read) an awful lot of criticism of women “playing the victim game.” I believe this is largely unfair, but that’s not what this woman is saying. Remember, she’s delineating, however fallaciously, supposedly “masculine” qualities; consequently, the question, “‘how many men play the victim game?’”

As for “who you are intended to be,” are we to suppose women are only intended to be barefoot and pregnant chattel-slaves; household sex toys, dishwashers, and laundresses, so that there is no need to question what they are to be? Obviously, it would be out of the question, then, that any individual man, i.e. in his unique individuation, could possibly be the stay-at-home spouse, “help-mate,” dishwasher, launderer, et al.? (I have deeply desired to be this, but evidently this is grossly feminine; however, I can go one step further in my apparent heresy and say that I perceive no deficiency or inferiority on my part for having such desires.)

No, it cannot be otherwise than that he is intended to be the “leader and victor.” By the way, over whom or what is he supposed to be the victor? At any rate, all this surely requires a great deal of discipline.

Discipline: Take charge of your life and what goes on in it.  Carry out and complete your goals.  Do everything you say you will do.  Eat right and stay in shape, therefore you will also be able to think more clearly.

Of course, women are not expected to “take charge” of their lives; that’s for the man, i.e. to take charge of his life and her life, too, because as everyone knows, women are not capable of administering their own personal affairs (despite the fact that they commonly raise families and run households, but who’s being logical here??? And if some man simply does not possess leadership qualities, although he may very well have many other wonderful qualities, well … guess he’s just s**t out of luck! Right?) And so it stands to reason that the “masculine man” will keep his word, “eat right and stay in shape,” while the “feminine woman” will vacillate, gorge herself like a pig, and get fat…  Make sense?

Evidently, this woman has never really studied the 31st chapter of Proverbs, often horribly misunderstood and woefully underappreciated, in my humble opinion. This teaching is introduced as “the words of King Lemuel, an oracle his mother taught him.” This is almost assuredly not Solomon, and, come down to it, we really have no idea who Lemuel was; that Solomon did not author this oracle is almost certain, though. One point worthy of mention at the outset is the fact that this teaching comes directly from the woman, not the man. In an important sense, then, the originator is female, and what does she teach?

Skipping down to the so-called “Proverbs 31 woman,” she describes the capable wife as a virtuous woman of power and strength and intellectual acumen, thus she is invaluable. She is completely worthy of trust; she is dependable. She is marked by constancy and permanence, like a rock, i.e. like the divine rock of salvation. She is an economist, merchant, realtor, and manager. She is fit and resilient and healthy (as much as is reasonably possible, which would naturally differ with each individual.) This woman is productive, altruistic, and charitable; wise, magnanimous, and courageous; kind, honorable, and praiseworthy…

No, this teaching has never struck me as one positioning the woman cowering before her tyrannical husband, or even being “submissive” in the misogynistic sense so often believed to be “biblical;” just the opposite, in fact; the woman pictured here is one who is worthy to be reverenced (and for many of us, yes, followed.) This is not to say, as the scriptures certainly do not teach, that men are not to strive to exemplify these qualities in their lives. What strikes me is that this was, of course, written in the Ancient Near East from within a decidedly patriarchal society, and I don’t know that one can torture the whole of this teaching enough to make it misogynistic. This has always come across to me, in an individual-personal way, as an injunction to pray for and find this sort of woman (or for her to find me), with whom to enter into an interdependent (not co-dependent), mutually selfless relationship of love, joy, peace, and happiness … at least as the supreme ideal for which to strive. However that may be, we can be quite certain on some points:

  1. This teaching derives from the woman, not any man
  2. The qualities and characteristics mentioned here are enviable and laudable virtues, skills and endowments for anyone to possess, so…
  3. The woman herein described is in no manner being denigrated, but – the temporal and cultural context rightly understood – is being exalted and venerated

So, this teaching may not reverse the traditional husband-wife roles of antiquity; nevertheless, it does seem, at the very least, to alert Lemuel to the truth that the most desired qualities in the wife are not docile submissiveness, but upstanding character and integrity, strength and fortitude, etc. Someone may protest that submissiveness was not mentioned because it was so commonly held that, of course, the wife would be submissive. The answer to this is that this teaching would have served to reasonably temper this understanding. Look at verse 23: “Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.” Commenting on this passage, 19th century Methodist Bible scholar Adam Clarke remarks, “He is respected not only on account of the neatness and cleanliness of his person and dress, but because he is the husband of a woman who is justly held in universal esteem.” It would seem this is as much the truth of the case as the husband’s esteemed civil service as one of the elders/magistrates. The whole of the passage says as much, really.

We’ve spent enough time on this point, though, so let us move on…

Honesty, Integrity, and Kindness:  Be honest with yourself and others, holding yourself to the highest of standards.  Find the fine line between kindness and honesty when necessary.  Sometimes, one is more important than the other.  With some finesse, you will be able to be honest and kind at the same time.  Be kind and gentle toward women, children, and the elderly.

This is also “masculine.” Truth, upstanding character, and compassion all fall within the domain of that which pertains to or is characteristic of man, or men … evidently not women. These traits are definitely not feminine, right? So, what are the counterpart, feminine traits here? Deception, manipulation, corruption, cruelty, animosity, etc., and this is a woman writing this! Astounding to say the least … but how many women and men actually, subconsciously buy into this faulty line of thought? (Or, perhaps, even consciously.) Far too many, I’m afraid! But here comes one of the best…!

Treat Women Like Women:  Most of today’s men don’t seem to have a clue anymore (this is largely because of Feminism).  I take my kids to Judo practice and am saddened by what I experience there.  There are only a few chairs and they are always full of both men and women.  When I arrive, not one man ever offers me his chair – a masculine thing.  Real men honor women.  Real men treat others with respect and dignity.

Ah the boogeyman (or, should I say, bogeywoman?) of feminism! Damn the heresy! Women deserve to be treated like the shy, hesitant, fearful, irresponsible, fat, vacillating, corrupt, cruel, and manipulative creatures they are! Unless, of course, they’re some of those damn feminists who act like men, i.e. display “masculine traits” instead of being feminine like God created them! Horror! And shamefully, “most of today’s men don’t seem to have a clue anymore!” Yeah … I’m one of those men. By the way, I’d gladly give up my seat to any woman or man who needs it, or maybe even if they don’t need it, just because I’m that courteous. (Courtesy? Is that masculine or feminine?)

One question about the judo: Are her children all boys? Surely only boys ought to be trained in the martial arts! This dear woman effectively says as much below under the heading of “defend the weak.” But first, listen to the weak.

Listen:  We have two ears and one mouth for good reason – we are supposed to be doing twice as much listening as speaking. When a woman speaks, listen with your heart. Instead of thinking, “Oh great, here she goes again;” think, “She has a need. What is it? What can I do to help?” This goes against the nature of today’s men, it seems. They want to strike back and have forgotten who they are dealing with. When a woman lets you know she’s upset, what she is really doing is asking you to take charge and help her. It is a cry for help. Most of the time she will just need your love, understanding, and a listening ear. But under no circumstances are you to take abuse from her. Make that very clear. You must keep your cool. A woman will not respect a man who loses his cool.

Of course, listen to the woman with your heart, because trying to mentally process what she’s actually saying is a waste of time. Everyone knows women are not rational, so what they say is not worthy of the time-consuming and sometimes arduous process of thinking and cognitively comprehending. Conversely, the man has no need for someone, anyone to listen to him “with their heart.” Men don’t need the heart, right? After all, men are supposed to be confident, courageous, diligent, responsible, strong, honest … etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Oh! But don’t let that woman abuse you, because women are like that! Constantly abusing men! It’s an alarming problem in our society … actually, always has been, right? Women abusing men! Right? Yeah, right! She needs you to be strong and take charge. (And I will open up at this point and admit, honestly but embarrassingly, that I am a man who came out of an emotionally, psychologically abusive relationship; therefore, I know from personal experience that, yes, women can be abusive. I trust, however, that my readers will understand that this is not the point, or denial, I’m making here.) Her emotional diatribe, according to this evangelical Christian, is her way of crying for help as well as subjugation because the woman is, after all, weak. Which leads to the next important masculine trait:

Defend the Weak:  Protect and provide for your family and anyone who is being unfairly attacked.  Consider getting martial arts training; learn to use guns and keep them ready, etc.  Be prepared for disasters and have a plan.  Refuse to allow anyone to overstep their boundaries, but be smart about how you accomplish this.  Plan ahead.  Remember, you are a leader, so act like one.

“Defend the weak,” that is, women and children. Especially your woman; after all, that’s why she’s with you. She needs provision and protection. In return, you get good food and great sex! And laundry service, too, of course. Obviously, guns are necessary in order to properly protect your woman and family, and you’re the only one who needs to know how to properly use these weapons (as well as the only one who needs to know judo.) Women are not capable … or, at least, they shouldn’t be because effectively using weapons (and/or martial arts) is “masculine.” This is all part of masculinity and is, consequently, the responsibility of the man.

Also, the man is “a leader,” so he should “act like one.” How many men without any leadership qualities have been promoted into leadership positions over capable women just because they were men? Many, many times, of course, and in my own life I’ve been given the same … what? Order? (Coming from a woman, too, which is interesting in itself.) Yep… Stand up and act like a man. Be a leader. You’re in a leadership position now, so take your responsibilities seriously… There was never any consideration that I might have been able (in my own past profession) to teach, speak, write, plan and coordinate, etc. but not actually lead, at least administratively. No, no consideration whatsoever, and so guess what? I simply could not continue – and, no, I’m not whining – and had to transition into another profession.

Of course, there have been some irritating limitations here, too, such as: Not being considered for hire precisely because I am male and the job being applied for is a “woman’s job,” which is horrendously degrading to women. What? If they have to work outside the home, then they have to be in some service under men? I know this is changing quite significantly, yet the ways of the old world are still more current than many might think. Old ways die hard, even if they have no rooting in an ethos of light, life, love, peace and truth. At any rate, being “the leader” means there are follower, so the man is expected to…

Inspire submission: A masculine man in a relationship with a woman will always inspire and never force her submission. He will remain a gentleman at all times.

Yep, if you’re really a “real man,” then the woman will just naturally be your servant; after all, this is what God created the woman to be, right?  Submissive, docile, compliant, passive, subservient, obedient … along with being shy, hesitant, fearful, irresponsible, fat, vacillating, corrupt, cruel, and manipulative of course! Can’t forget these fundamentally feminine traits, can we? Maybe, though, submission in the sense of yielding and reasonable compliance can be inspired; I’m certainly willing to entertain this idea. However, one question comes to mind: Why can’t any woman inspire yielding, in areas where she is more qualified and capable, and reasonable compliance, as opposed to stubborn (and potentially harmful) resistance?

This is very much part of the problem within the evangelical/fundamentalist religionist world: All of these traits – except, perhaps, the sixth point, but even then we can turn that around to simply respecting each person – are admirable, universal virtues we should like to see in anyone and everyone.  Why does this conservatively religious woman list them as being “masculine,” that is, pertaining especially to men? They’re not exclusively “masculine,” not even especially masculine, and you know what? So far as the last one goes, as a man I’d happily “submit” to any woman displaying all of these traits… She would certainly be more than worthy of my love, allegiance, deference and respect!  Don’t you think??? But, then, maybe I’m being too feminine.

Then again, are there specifically masculine traits? Even in sacred scripture one does not find traits specified so much as positional responsibilities. The husband is presented as, say, the priest of the family, or rather more appropriately to the Ancient Near East, the patriarch of the familial clan assumed this role. Yes, this was a patriarchal society, but it’s worth mentioning that the patriarch was patriarch in this capacity. The Ancient Near East knew nothing of our “nuclear family.” This in itself changes the dynamics a bit. Some men, presumably, would live out their entire lives without ever assuming the priestly-patriarchal role. Add to this the fact that most people lived in an agrarian society, and one justly wonders just how much “telling to do” there was, practically speaking. Most people likely woke up each and every morning to perform work – excruciatingly hard labor – with which they were very familiar.

Men went to the fields; sometimes men and women went to the fields. Women worked in and around their living complex; men also performed labor in and around the domicile(s). Women would barter, trade; men would also trade, etc. What did it mean, then, in the Ancient Near East for the man to be “head of the household” in the biblical sense? To the exclusion of cruelty and abuse, which was never divinely intended, (if we can at all trust holy writ,) it would seem that, at least in a general sense, they performed the roles of prophet, priest, and king (more in the capacity of ductor, not tyrannus.) But, then, one might imagine (as not completely outside the realm of possibility, especially if Proverbs 31 is at all indicative of the ideal of marriage and family life in this temporal-cultural context) that the wife, or matriarch, assumed the role of prophetess, priestess, and queen.

I will leave this subject at this (for now) and reiterate my last point that certain admirable traits are not highlighted in Scripture as being exclusively masculine; if there is any separation, as is obvious in even a cursory reading, then the differentiation is that of role-performance. One must remember, this comes from out of a particular temporal-cultural context, though; how likely is it, even if more or less assigned roles were sensible and even beneficial then, that those same assignments are still beneficially applicable today? More on this later, perhaps … if there seems to be any interest. For now I will finish off by expressing my deep thankfulness that God is not constrained by gender at all, though S/he is most assuredly holy in every sense of the word, according to the Judeo-Christian faith-religion; this salient truth has had very deep and salvific implications in my own life.

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(Some) Christians’ Phallic Fallacy on Authority and Leadership

I have known good, Christian women who, in an effort to shape their lives by the scriptures of our Faith, have deferred to the authority of their husbands in every matter, even despite very obvious cognitive deficiencies and spiritual-psychological inadequacies that lead to sometimes horrendous difficulties. Example after example comes to mind, which is not to say that men in general have such gross deficiencies and inadequacies, yet the solution to many difficulties in marriage might be more authentic co-operation stemming from a right understanding and application of biblical principles not at first blush having anything to do with leadership (or headship) within the sacramental covenant of Holy Matrimony.

I can only think that men and women, down through the ages and in our own day and time, have committed what I’d like to refer to as the phallic fallacy of leadership; that is, that the possession of a penis alone qualifies one for authority. I don’t know if this sounds too Freudian. I’m certainly not deriving my thought from Freud, but rather from observation as well as inductive reasoning. After all, the holy Scriptures of Judeo-Christianity really do not, on the whole, preclude female leadership. Even the Apostle St. Paul’s prohibition of women teaching men in the Church,[1] rightly understood, does not preclude any and all forms of female leadership, however conservatively one wants to interpret his directive.

Deborah, prophetess and judge of Israel, led her people into battle at the behest Barak ibn Abinoam.[2] Jael, which means “wild gazelle” or “mountain goat,”[3] slaughtered Sisera, captain of Jabin’s army and became instantly a celebrated hero among her people.[4] The prophetess Huldah was consulted as the only one in or around the Jerusalem area who could interpret the Law of God during the reign of Josiah, when no one else (presumably) could truly and insightfully understand the Book of the Law[5] – an outstanding example of spiritual-religious (and, to an extent really, socio-political) leadership. Dr. Joseph Priestly invidiously commented on Huldah, noting:

It pleased God to distinguish several women with the spirit of prophecy, as well as other great attainments, to show that in his sight, and especially in things of a spiritual nature, there is no essential pre-eminence in the male sex, though in some things the female be subject to the male.[6]

Junia (or Junias) was “prominent (outstanding, notable) among the Apostles.”[7] Phoebe was an ordained deaconess commended by the Apostle Paul to the Church at Rome, to be received and assisted in whatever matter she might require.[8] Sheerah, daughter of Ephraim, founded and built three towns.[9] Of course, one might justly say these (and others that could be mentioned) are exceptions to the rule, but here is the point: There are exceptions to the rule, and this is notable as it comes from patriarchal ages and cultures that were sometimes even quite misogynistic. Of course, there are examples in Scripture of wicked women who exerted authoritative influence upon their husbands, such as Jezebel. Yes, it cuts both ways; however, the thought of someone – anyone – following a raving idiot over the side of a cliff due merely to age or biological relationship, or because that person wears an insignia of high rank, possesses a penis, or whatever is completely intolerable, yet this is precisely what many conservative Christians still believe, teach, and live.

Perhaps we can begin a reevaluation of the relationship of male to female with the observation of St. Paul that “there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”[10] By the love and unity of the Holy Spirit, in Christ Jesus, such divisions and distinctions have not been entirely removed but superseded. Yes, the female is still female and the male is still male, but the consequence of this distinction fades into the background when the couple stands before God, who is above and beyond such disparities, filled with the Spirit of Life, in and through Christ Jesus. In the context of this relationship, love and wisdom will certainly be (or should be) the two most important operating principles. To turn away from all sense and sensibility (to borrow from Jane Austin) and endanger the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, for example, all to obediently appease the phallus-bearing “head of the household” is shameful and irresponsible … not pleasing to God. The almighty Creator gave each of us, women as well as men, an organ called the brain… He expects us to use it!

Interestingly enough, it is from Lady Wisdom – Sophia – we most aptly learn to think rightly and righteously, “for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”[11] Indeed, “wisdom is a fountain of life to the wise…”[12] And so we are enjoined to “learn where there is wisdom, where there is strength, where there is understanding, so that we may at the same time discern where there is length of days, and life, where there is light for the eyes, and peace.”[13] Some are wiser than others; some women very obviously have more insight, understanding, and perception than men; some men are keener than women. Who should make the decisions, then? The one who is wiser. It may be that the man has many, many gifts and talents, works hard and honestly, and lives his life with complete integrity, yet this man may not be adept in financial matters or real-estate or household management; he may be an electrical engineer or college professor or agriculturalist of the highest caliber, though. Albert Einstein was one of the greatest scientist of the 20th century – perhaps the greatest – yet he had difficulty navigating through ordinary, everyday life. Is it really unrealistic to believe that someone like Einstein might actually need a loving partner to take charge of practical matters and daily affairs?

I vividly remember watching a somewhat dark-comic movie titled Pumpkin,[14] which was about a beautiful, uptown college girl who falls in love with a cognitively challenged young man affectionately called “Pumpkin” (at first by his mother and then others, of course.) He fell in love with her, too, but his mother and her parents and friends all thought the whole arrangement was utterly foolish, totally impractical … but they genuinely loved each other. By the end of the movie, everyone recognized this, appreciated and even supported it; however, there were no illusions concerning who would necessarily provide overall guidance and direction – wise and loving leadership – in the relationship. There could be no question as to who was capable of managing, of presiding over their household. She would have to assume the responsibility of headship (and, to a great extent, really, guardianship), phallus-deprived though she was, and Pumpkin would have to accept this necessary marital structure. This could be, and probably is – surely somewhere – true-to-life, and is this wrong? Is it sinful for the mentally-challenged to fall in love with someone who thoroughly loves him? In other words, is what we might now call the “Pumpkin Relationship” untenable just because the phallus-bearing mate is incapable of leading? Should he be consigned to a life of loneliness, deprived of Eros bathed and wrapped in Agape love?

If not, then, could you imagine a woman in a Pumpkin Relationship saying something like, “He gave me some money to spend today, so I can treat myself to lunch.” Or worse still, “Pumpkin gave me permission to pay off the bills this month, so we won’t incur any penalties.” Or even more egregious, “Pumpkin said it’s not black mold in the bathroom, and he won’t let me treat it or get rid of it; in fact, Pumpkin won’t allow me to open the windows to let in fresh air, despite the good weather, because he says it bothers his allergies.” Insane? Yes, of course it is, but I tell you I know of such situations. I’ve heard such statements almost verbatim, except for the “Pumpkin” part, of course. And the rationale behind this? The woman claims she wants to be obedient and honor God. Harrumph! Would someone tell me how endangering the well-being of oneself and, if it’s the case, the health and welfare of one’s children is honoring God? I do not question a woman’s right to marry a buffoon, but she ought to realize she’s marrying a buffoon and act accordingly. If the pompous, idiotic ass feels slighted because he’s the one with the penis but hasn’t carte blanche authority, then she should pack his bags and send him back to mamma. As Sophocles said in his Antigone:

The kind of man who always thinks that he is right, that his opinions, his pronouncements, are the final word, when once exposed shows nothing there. But a wise man has much to learn without a loss of dignity.[15]

Of course, we are talking about wisdom bathed in love or, better yet, enveloped and kept in love, specifically the love of God. “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”[16] Marriage and family are all but nothing when devoid of love. I don’t know if there is any personal relationship worth having in which love is absent. But why bring up this subject at all? We’re living in the 21st century, after all, and in a progressive society, right? Well, there are at least three reasons:

  1. There still exists a substantial minority of people who adhere to the grossly misconstrued “biblical” principle of pater familia.
  2. There remains vestiges of this principle in at least the subconscious thinking of (probably) the majority of people in our society, men and women.
  3. Because of points one and two, the result is the continuing inexcusable degradation of women.
    1. This includes the forming and shaping of the disposition of young females toward lives of practical inferiority to the male.

I certainly do not want my daughter to grow up with the absurd idea that she needs the male counterpart in her life because she is incapable of actually living life apart from some man; although the man, whoever he is, would be completely capable of doing just that precisely because he is a man. (Not that I have any influence in the matter anymore, but…) I don’t want her to grow up believing that her “place” in life is abject subservience to her husband, when her husband may very well be wrong many times over. Not that I want my daughter to be lonely – no! certainly not – but like any single man, the single woman can surround herself with good, wholesome friends, and integrate herself into a healthy faith community, engage in productive and fulfilling employment, and so forth. And, no, I’m not holding this up as being ideal, though some individuals are called to this sort of life; I am merely saying I want my daughter to know that her life, and the rounding out and wholeness of her life, does not depend upon any man rescuing her like some damsel in distress, and holding her hand as if she were infantile. I want her to realize, as the case may very well be, that the success of her marriage depends as much upon her wisdom and love and, yes, guidance and direction as much as it does upon her husband; that, in other words, the relationship is better fit to succeed and be what God intends through genuine co-operation … not abject subservience. And I don’t want her ever to feel as if she’s caught in a trap of grave stupidity and dangerous folly with no way out, which does not mean that I want her to divorce at the first sign of trouble. Again, to borrow from Jane Austin, it’s a matter of exercising sense and sensibility.

I have addressed this subject before from different angles, but now I want to end this particular essay on a personal note: I’ve never felt comfortable as a male, who is quite comfortable in his own skin, so to speak, trying to fit myself into some predesigned mold, which is all-too-often a kind of John Wayne seasoned with a little Jimmy Stewart kind of model of what it means to be and live like a “real man.” What if my gifts and talents lie in areas outside the traditional purview of household management, or headship? Is it impossible for me to still be very much a man, who nevertheless listens to and generally follows the leadership of his wife? Is this radical, or can I not fulfill my own destiny in life without dirty boots, shotgun shells, pick-em-up trucks, and cans of cheap beer? Is it not possible that I might actually be “stronger” in some areas of life and my wife “stronger” in others? Could we not genuinely co-operate with me, as the husband, generally deferring to the wisdom and love of my wife? Really, just how unbiblical does this look and sound? On another personal note, I’ve always wondered how some women, so evidently intelligent and talented and otherwise strong, could continue to degrade themselves in bending the knee and bowing the head to foolish, self-serving, adult-sized boys when there are more than a few truly decent, mature men in the world, who would genuinely love and respect them? This is not the time or place to attempt to answer this question, though. Enough for now to say, “Enough is enough! Time for Christians – more specifically of the fundamentalist ilk – to stop committing the phallic fallacy on authority and leadership!” Amen and Amen.

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[1] Cf. I Timothy 2. 12

[2] Cf. Judges 4. 8

[3] Cf. Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions H3278

[4] Cf. Judges 4. 7 – 5. 24

[5] Cf. II Kings 22. 8-20

[6] As quoted by Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible, on II Kings 22. 14

[7] Romans 16.7 (NRSV, ISV, EMTV, RV)

[8] Cf. Romans 16. 1-2; also Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible for same verses; The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on the same, as well.

[9] Cf. I Chronicles 7. 24

[10] Galatians 3. 28b NRSV

[11] Proverbs 8. 11 NRSV

[12] Proverbs 16. 22 GNT

[13] Baruch 3. 14 NRSV (Note: “you” changed to “we” to flow with sentence structure)

[14] Pumpkin, 2002 drama directed by Adam Larson Broder and Anthony Abrams, released by Indie Films

[15] As quoted at http://www.notable-quotes.com, accessed on May 5, 2015

[16] I Corinthians 13. 4 RSV

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Rue Resists Raising Questions

RueScience class was not his favorite, but Rue Sloughheart did find it intriguing, if not troubling.  Fifth grade science at Ebenezer Christian School was centered on the Bible, as were all subjects, and the theory of evolution was rejected outright as an atheistic invention of humanistic man. And this so-called “theory” had been disproven time and time again, as his teacher had just finished saying.  Rue stifled a yawn.  Mrs. Slendersense was a nice lady with a pleasant voice … so calm and agreeable, in fact,  it tempted eyes to close and bodies to rest more than anything.

He got it, all the proofs against evolution ~ something about dust accumulation on the moon, no evidence in the fossil record, evolution is highly improbable, something about the sun shrinking ~  and another stifled yawn.  What really gripped eleven-year-old Rue’s active mind was Genesis. Of course, he’d always been taught that this was the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God, and the first two chapters told us just how everything was created, how it all began … exactly.  In fact, this was one of the proofs against evolution!

Rue had questions, though; questions he dare not ask in class because it would get back to his daddy, the Reverend Fen Sloughheart, who was, of course, administrator of the school.  Everything got back to him, especially when it concerned his children, and most especially if it seemed like they were somehow faltering in their faith.  So Rue kept his questions to himself … well, except the one he’d asked his mother about plants and animals being created before Adam and Eve in chapter one, but after Adam and before Eve in chapter two.

He had other questions, too:  How could everything be created in 24-hour days when the sun, moon and stars weren’t created until day four?  How could there be light without the sun, moon and stars?  God created Adam and Eve, then they had Cain and Abel (and Seth, too),  but what about the girls?  And with only four people alive on the earth, why is Cain afraid of people slaying him?  Who were they and where did they come from all of a sudden?

And why did God curse him for murder, then decide to protect him from being killed … especially when God’s the one who says a murderer should be put to death?  And why is there a walking, talking snake in a tree?  What’s up with that anyway?  Oh, and Cain “knows” his wife – however she came about – and they have a son, and then Cain builds a city and names it after his son!  Where did all these people suddenly come from?  A whole, blasted city???

That was just Genesis; then there was the one Gospel that says Jesus sent out seventy disciples but another one says seventy-two.  Isn’t that a contradiction?  Rue wondered silently for the umpteenth time.  And as many times as he’d heard his daddy preach about the Great Tribulation, he still couldn’t quite understand where he got the seven years?  Something about weeks in Daniel, right?  The weeks are not weeks but years … no, the days are really years, that’s it!  And they somehow end up in Revelation, even though you don’t read about them there…

“Rue!  Are you with us?”

Rue jumped and blinked.  “Yes ma’am!” He could hear barely suppressed laughter from around the room. Always a good laugh when the preacher’s boy gets caught.  Dear God, just this once please don’t let daddy find out!

“Well then, maybe you can tell us how it is we know dinosaurs lived during the same time as humans rather than millions of years before?”

“Uh,” Rue hesitated, then opted for the best, fail-safe answer of all. “The Bible says so?”

Joy Brighterday’s Interview

JoySpeaking“Oh my, Luse, look who’s on the radio!”  Mrs. Featherwit shouted gleefully.

“I can’t look who’s on the radio,” Luse gruffly responded. “It’s a radio!”

“Well you know what I mean.  It’s our own Rev. Brighterday. She has such a sweet voice, don’t you think?”

“I listen to her sermons once a week; that’s enough. I don’t need to hear her sweet voice on the radio.”

“Oh come now, don’t be such a glum-bug, Luse. She must be saying something very important to be on the radio.”

“Just because she’s on the radio? She’s been on the radio before!”

“And I’m sure she had something important to say then, too,” Mrs. Featherwit concluded in her own very self-satisfied manner.

And, in fact,  Joy Brighterday was saying something important, something to do with the upcoming ecumenical thanksgiving service but even more than that…

Joy:    … and believe me,  I could add to our list of concerns and problems in the world, too.  In fact,  I’m sure I could keep you here for another couple of hours.

Host:  (Laughter)  Well, we don’t have quite that much time, but I guess you don’t agree with the Reverend Fretnworrie that this is premature.

Joy:    (Light Laughter) No, not really.  Look,  I like and respect Rev. Fretnworrie and, like I said, I know we still have problems in the world and in our society that we have to keep working on – and with God’s help, we will, of course – but it’s never premature to come together and give thanks to God for what is good, what is right, in other words for blessings in our lives, and communities, and the world.

Host:  O.k. Fair enough,  I guess,  but Fretnworrie and some other ministers in and around the City of Splinterbit say you’re too optimistic and even idealistic.  And I’m sure you know there are even some clergymen who accuse you of ignoring important parts of the Bible, they say! They say…  (Both Laugh)

Joy:    Yes…

Host:  How do you respond?  I know it may be a touchy question, but…

Joy:    That’s alright.  I don’t mind answering and, really, it’s not so touchy.  At least not for me because I’m not ‘ignoring’ scripture.  In fact,  I’d say I’m trying to live out my faith consistently with integrity.  You know,  one of the beautiful Psalms teaches, “The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;  the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.”  And “gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.”

As someone who claims to be a Christian – and I do my best – and even an ordained minister,  I certainly believe that “the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared” over two thousand years ago in the person of Jesus, as St. Paul writes in his Letter to Titus, “in virtue of his own mercy.”

You see,  it’s precisely because I believe that this merciful God stepped into the world and lived life with us, and suffered and died and rose again…  Well, this is the reason I can’t believe I’m too positive or idealistic. This is what we celebrate each Christmas as Christians – that is, the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

And the whole of the Christian faith rests upon the belief that this Jesus not only rose again – yes, Easter is central – but also that when he ascended into heaven, he sent his Spirit to live in us so that we could continue his physical presence in the world. It’s really not that theologically deep or complicated; we’re called the “body of Christ” in some very important scriptures because together we’re supposed to … well, to be Jesus.

I don’t think that’s too positive or super-idealistic, and I don’t think that’s ignoring important parts of the Bible.  I think that’s trying to center my faith on what’s really important.  It’s not looking at the world around me through rose-colored glasses, so to speak, but looking at life and the world – as best I can, I hope and pray – through Christ-colored glasses, if you will.

Host:  Then you don’t buy into the whole idea of the world coming to a fiery, cataclysmic end,  I take it?

Joy:    Well, why don’t we just say I don’t know exactly how the world will end, but  I do know what I read in, you know, some of those “important parts of the Bible.” (Some Light Laughter)  Important as in, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” and “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him…”

That just doesn’t sound like God is ready to give up on the world and burn it to a crisp. (Both Laugh)  You know what’s really interesting is what we read at the end of one of the most popular, or well-known, Bible stories, the story we call “Noah’s flood,” where God in his anger destroys the whole world except for one man, his family, and a sampling of all the animals…

Host:  Yeah, when I was a kid we sang songs about Noah and the animals and his ‘arky, arky…’

Joy:    (Both Laugh)  Well, yeah, which is really kind of amazing that we’d teach toddlers and kindergarten kids such a sing-song ditty about judgment, death and destruction …  (More Laughter)  But anyway, you know,  I don’t know that that’s even the main point of that tremendous and, yes, very important Bible story.

Most folks, of course, are familiar with the whole rainbow in the sky as God’s sign that God will never again destroy the earth by flood.  But the story actually has the Lord saying something far more significant before he sends the rainbow. God says, “Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings … and never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

This is the same God who, through the prophet Ezekiel, asks rhetorically, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked … and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”  And then, of course, God answers, “No,  I have no pleasure in the death of anyone … so turn,” that is, repent, “and live.” And this doesn’t change when we go from what we call the Old Testament into the New, either.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy and very plainly tells him that “God our Savior … desires all people to be saved.”  And this comes right after St. Paul “urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.”  Everyone, see?  The whole world.  Even the Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation – tough as it is – is filled with hope for this life in this world…

Host:  O.k., o.k., then, you certainly seem to know your Bible! (Both Laugh)  I just wish we had more time to dig into some more controversial, important parts of the Bible…

Joy:    Sorry,  I get carried away sometimes, but you’ll just have to invite me back!

Host:  And we’ll do that,  you can be sure!  It’s always a pleasure.  And the ecumenical thanksgiving service…

“Oh wasn’t that nice,”  Mrs. Featherwit nodded.  “She has such a pleasant voice.  I think I’ll call her and tell her just how much I enjoyed listening to her sermon on the radio.”

“It was an interview!” Luse bellowed.  “And don’t call; she might actually ask you something about it!”

“Well,  I don’t see why that would matter,”  Mrs. Featherwit answered in a perturbed tone of voice. “Besides,  I want to ask her what she thinks about the flower arrangement on the altar.”

“Probably what she always thinks!  It’s the same arrangement you put up there the first Sunday of every month!”

“Well I never!”

“You’re telling me!”

Note: This entry follows ‘Effete Sick Unto Death … Almost’

Sloughheart Writes To Reverend Brusque

The Reverend Fen Sloughheart turned his rotund body toward his office computer, cracked his fingers, then opened his word processor to begin an important letter to his spiritual brother and friend in ministry, the Reverend Grim Brusque:

Dear Brother Brusque,

It is with heavy heart and deep concern that I now write you.  As you know, events in our country and throughout the world seem to point to better and brighter days filled with peace and hope. (It brings to mind something those God-forsaken hippies used to call the Age of Aquarius, and it is certainly just as pagan by whatever name!)  But we know the Word of God, and we have been warned that in these last days “false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24.24)

Brother, this is happening all around us!  Has peace come to the Middle East?  It seems like there is now peace, but this is an illusion.  It is only window dressing, only a façade, and we know it will not last.  Tragically, though, it’s enough to deceive even the elect.  Has a cure for AIDS really been discovered?  It seems like it, but we know differently.  This terrible disease was divine punishment upon the homosexual community, and God will not be thwarted by the efforts of science.  AIDS or some other epidemic will return with heavenly vengeance in retribution on the wicked, but for now even the elect are being deceived.

So many seemingly encouraging, hope-filled stories fill our daily news, but this is nothing more than satanic deception.  In the end, God “will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.” (Joel 2.30)  And if these days were not cut short “no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect these days will be shortened,” (Matthew 24.22) and the Lord Jesus will return, “coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13.26) Hallelujah!  Praise God!  We must stay the course and remain faithful to the truth of the revealed, inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God!  And I know you will, brother, because you have always been a steadfast and faithful servant of the Lord.

golden mask
Sloughheart Hunts for the Devil

The difficulty I am having now  –  and this is the reason I’m turning to you  –  is discerning the presence of the anti-Christ.  I’m sure you will agree that he is in the world.  Look at all that’s been happening: Jews and Palestinians seeming to reconcile and live in peace,  the so-called cure for AIDS,  renewable energy and less pollution,  deeper space exploration and colonization…  I could go on and on, but all of this has been prophesied. The Apostle Paul clearly warns us about the “power, signs and lying wonders” of Satan.  Remember he clearly prophesied that people will believe the deceptions of the anti-Christ “because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (II Thessalonians 2.10)  Amen! That’s happening now … but who is the anti-Christ, brother?  Who is he and where is he?

There is something else, more important, and that is knowing exactly what we as Christians should be doing right now.  I must confess to you in strictest confidence that I am having some difficulties leading my flock during these difficult days.  For years they have listened to me faithfully preach the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God  –  and I know you know this is true  –  trying to make them better Christians and prepare them for these last days and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But now many of them are doubting.  I’m not totally surprised, though.  They don’t know it, but I know many of them watch sordid, humanistic programs on television and socialist-communist, so-called open-and-affirming Hollywood movies!  They visit sites on the Internet and read material no God-fearing Christian has any business reading… Do you know I was told that one of my parishioners has even subscribed to the Huffington Post and New York Times!  No wonder they’re so easily deceived!  Well, if you eat the devil’s food long enough you’re bound to get sick!

On another note, the heretic Lutheran minister, Joy Brighterday, actually sent me an invitation to attend an ecumenical thanksgiving service!  Can you imagine the audacity of that woman!  She shouldn’t even be in the ministry, but I guess if the woman has the nerve to play the part of a man and call it godly,  I shouldn’t be too surprised at any depth of evil to which she might sink!  She had to know I wouldn’t accept, of course, so I know she just sent me the invitation as a slap in the face.  God will judge her, though, for “vengeance is mine, and recompense. Her foot shall slip in due time, for the day of her calamity is at hand, and the things to come hastens upon her.” (Deuteronomy 32.35 … and, yes, I have taken a little liberty with this verse, brother, changing “their” to “her,” but the Lord won’t mind! Amen?)

Well, brother, I will close now.  Please write to me as soon as possible, and remember to send your response in a safety-sealed envelope by our trusted mail courier.  No e-mail, phone messages or regular postal service for this one!  What we are discussing, as so many times before, is of utmost importance and for our eyes only!  We don’t want to invite the enemy in to attack us any sooner than he already will … and you can bet that day is quickly approaching, brother!

Sincerely Yours in Ministry,

Rev. Fen Sloughheart

With that the Reverend Sloughheart pressed the “print” icon and listened to his printer hum. After the machine finished spitting out his letter he quickly deleted the document and called for his secretary, Mrs. Gloomserf, who would call the courier and dispatch the message in an addressed, safety-sealed envelope that very day.

Note: This follows the first Sloughheart blog found at http://noblethemes.me/2012/11/16/sloughheart-and-the-illusive-end-of-the-world/

Chosen People, Chosen Land and the Choices We Make

John Hagee, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, is an ardent “Christian” Zionist and the founder of Christians United for Israel

Some self-proclaimed “Christian” Zionists and supporters of Israel complain of something called “supersessionism,” or “replacement theology.” They claim that the idea of the Church superseding the Jewish people as the “new” Israel is unbiblical. This is made painfully clear in one blog article entitled, “Replacement Theology: Its Origins, Teachings and Errors.”  They go on to proclaim (rather loudly and abrasively, too) that ethnic Jews are still “God’s chosen people” and, thus, have divine right to “the Land.” Hence, the Palestinians, whom they (absurdly) claim never existed have no rights at all and just need to leave.

Let’s look at this for a moment…

Very simply, “supersessionism” denotes the belief that the Church “supersedes” the Israel of the Old Testament. Accepting this definition, then, we ought to say right off the cuff, “No, the Church does not supersede Israel.” Gentiles were grafted in to replace branches that were cut off (through unbelief), as the Apostle St. Paul teaches, but the plant itself was the same. (see Rom. 11.11-24) In other words, the Israel of God remained, but was/is now wholly fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the long-awaited and prophesied Messiah, in whom “there is neither Jew nor Greek (or Gentile),” as again Paul also makes clear:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith… So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3.7-9, 26-29, NIVUK)

Furthermore, the Apostle very lucidly teaches that ethnicity is inferior to ethics and relationship anyway:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2.28-29, NKJV)

As an aside, interestingly enough, Rabbi G. J. J. Neuberger pointed out at the 1976 Tripoli Conference on Zionism and Racism that…

Jewish parents throughout the world bless their children every Sabbath and holiday eve, and they have done it in the same way for millennia. If the children are girls, the blessing is, ‘May G-d let you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.’ Not one of these matriarchs was born a Jewess; they were all converts to Judaism. If the children are boys, the blessing is, ‘May G-d let you be like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ The mother of these two was an Egyptian woman who became Jewish and had married Joseph. Moses himself, the greatest Jew who ever lived, married a Midianite woman who became Jewish. Finally, the Tanach, the holy writings of the Jews, contains the book of Ruth. This woman was not only not Jewish by birth, but she came from the Moabites, traditional enemies of the Jewish people… At its very end, the book of Ruth traces the ancestry of King David, the greatest king the Jews ever had, to Ruth, his great-grandmother. (International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Zionism and Racism,  G. J. J. Neuberger, “The Difference Between Judaism and Zionism,” 188)

Quite fittingly, then, Rabbi Neuberger concludes, “So much for this racial nonsense!” And we should add only, “Amen!”

So, at any rate, does the Church “supersede” Israel? No. Rather what we find is the continuation of the idea of Israel, now culminated and fulfilled in Christ and opened out to the whole world, “for he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…” (Eph. 2.14, NIV) If one needs some label, then, may I suggest “continuationism” as a possible candidate?

Certainly, of course, the Jewish people as a people (ethnically speaking) have not been forever “cut off,” a point upon which the Apostle St. Paul is equally clear. Point in fact, the promise has been made and will be fulfilled that the Jewish people will eventually embrace en masse the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ who has already come and suffered, died and risen again. But this is the same Jesus who said to the Samaritan woman,

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.  (John 4.21-24, ESVUK)

Does this directly bear upon the question of “the Land?” I certainly believe that everything thus far discussed (and certainly more could be added) does directly bear upon the question. But for the sake of argument – and the likes of John Hagee certainly would argue – let us say it does not; then  where does both the place of Christ Jesus as well as an ethical responsibility before God enter into the equation? This is an essentially important consideration, because nowhere does God make his promise for a parcel of land more important than his Law, which our Lord Jesus summarized, of course, in two basic commandments:

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Mt. 22.37-40, NKJV)

And, by the way, if there is any concern this might not include non (ethnic)-Jews, we should call to mind his parable of the Good Samaritan as well.

Point in fact, we Christians claim to follow the Prince of Peace, (see Isa. 9.6) the Messiah, sent by the God who is in his very nature Love. (I Jn. 4. 7-9) The idea that he has torn down dividing walls of hostility seems very consonant with his nature, then, especially when we add to this the fact that “he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins;” (2 Pt. 3.9, GNT) “for God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have life.” (Wis. 1.13-14a, NABRE, emendation mine)

Some so-called Christians seem to have forgotten this fact, if ever they knew it, and rather focus on very strange ideas of “prophecy” and even practically salivate at the thought of the whole world coming to a fiery end, the prerequisite of which (they believe) is ethnic Jews returning to and taking control of the whole of the “Promised Land.” Really rather horrifying to think that these people, in the name of Christ, actually actively support violence and bloodshed to hurry along the end of the world so they can all-the-sooner enjoy heaven … without any apparent concern, by the way, for the eternal fate of either Jewish or Palestinian people, (much less circumstances of their lives in the here and now.)

This is not the faith-religion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, but the complete distortion of that way of life. Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware sums up our call to life in Christ very succinctly and beautifully when he says, “We become truly personal by loving God and by loving other humans… In its deepest sense, love is the life, the energy, of the Creator in us.” Amen. And this is precisely how we ought to approach the question of Israel and Palestine today, and most especially the very real and very tragic plight of the Palestinian people.