Posts Tagged ‘ Jesus ’

Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective

Earlier in the week I posted the first part of a review of Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. In that post I talked about the introduction by editor Tom Oord. I also promised to talk about the four sections of relational perspective that divide the book.

Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective is the first and largest section of the book, comprised of 12 essays. As I read through them I found that I like all of them and underlined most of each for quotes to use here. If I were to do that this review would be longer than the book and I would violate some copyright law by quoting almost the entire section. So, what I have decided to do is to select a couple of the fine essays, ones that stand out, to me. I hope that you will find them as interesting as I did.

Relational theologies don’t tell you how to think about God, but open doors of possibility for thinking about God, opening the doors of exploration. Well, at least that’s how I see them.

In his essay Relational Theology and the Holy Spirit, Amos Yong tells us that, “The Holy Spirit lies at the very heart of relational theology.” I think that he has something here, God in Trinity is by nature a relational being, the Holy Spirit brings us into that relationship.

If the Spirit is at the center of the relational life of God, the Spirit is also central to God’s relationship with the world….Ireneus held that the Father created the world with his “two hands”–the Word and the Spirit. If the Word of God structures the world and its creatures, the Spirit of God is the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.

I love that last line, “the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.” It is packed full of possibility.

Human beings find meaning, fulfillment, and significance precisely in relationship one to another, bonded together by the common creator Spirit.

In a fallen world, the bonds of human communion have been broken and people alienated from themselves, others, and their natural environments. But God’s redeeming work consists of healing the estrangement of our hearts, reconciling human beings with one another, and restoring harmony between humanity and the cosmos.

This is a brilliant little essay, so full of possibility based in the redemptive power of God.

The Image of God by Samuel M. Powell talks about how our Imago Dei  relational.

Because we are created in the image of God, our existence is marked by relationships. To be the creaturely image of God is to be essentially and unavoidably related to God, to fellow humans, and to the rest of creation.

Because we are created in God’s image we are afforded certain rights and responsibilities of relationship.

Because we are created in God’s image, each of us is due the highest moral consideration in every respect.

To be created in God’s image is to be a member of a human community in which everyone should receive respect, dignity, and consideration.

Everyone, not just a chosen elite, everyone, isn’t that how Jesus treats people?

I am going to quote from one more essay in this section.

Faith in Relations by Wm. Curtis Holtzen.

Relationship, like “faith”, is a multifaceted notion and not easily defined. When we explore relationship through the notions of love and trust, however, we see that faith and relationship become inseparable.

If faith is a relationship or communal bond, shouldn’t we think of God as someone of faith? … “Yes!” Faith is relational and relationships are reciprocal, two-sided. Because God is relational, God has faith. God’s relationship with us is not only loving but also trusting.

There are nine other essays in this section. They talk about love in relational terms, sin, and salvation in relational terms. They all open up the possibility of thinking about God and ourselves, theology in new ways, relational ways.

The  third part in this series, Biblical Witness & Christian Living in Relational Perspective is up.

Again the book is Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction,  (2012), Eds. Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow, Point Loma Press, San Diego. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

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Jesus and the Death Penalty

Lately there seems to have been a rash of “Christian” pastors/preachers saying that certain groups of people should be put to death. While they are absurd and most of us think so, there are still those who buy into their hate and bigotry, “Yeah, put those people to death!” followers of these false teachers cry. These false teachers are not so much Christian as they are Leviticans (a really cool term coined by John Scalzi in his 2004 blog post Leviticans. These are people more interested in holding others to the holiness codes of Leviticus and not so much interested in the grace brought by Jesus.

It is true that the Levitical code called for a death penalty for a myriad of transgressions, among them was adultery. In ancient times adultery was a capital offense, just like murder. Even in Jesus day the punishment for adultery was death by stoning.

But here comes this rabbi from Nazareth with this radical teaching: radical love and radical forgiveness. Jesus reinterprets the law and reduces it to Love, God and everybody else. Just love, that is the law. In his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:2-7:27 Jesus turns the law upsidedown and inside out. No, He doesn’t abolish it, He redefines it, shows it for what it was meant to be all along. Go ahead, go check it out for yourselves, I’ll wait, it is only 108 verses long, I have time.

See? Did I lie? Turns the law and what the religious leaders have been teaching the people on its head. Then in verse 7:28 the people recognize that Jesus taught them what they should have been taught all along, ” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” The scribes were the authority on the law, yet Jesus reinterpretation comes from one with even greater authority. Jesus reinterpretation, recasting of the law into the simple command to Love, increases the amount of love in the world, where the old interpretation, the old casting of the law served to diminish love in the world.

What’s this have to do with the death penalty, you ask? Well, stay with me a few minutes more and I just might make it clear. I certainly hope I can.

2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

We see that the religious leaders bring before Jesus a woman caught in the act of committing a capital offense, adultery. These leaders want to execute her, rightly under the law as written and interpreted for a millennium (Leviticus 20:10). Yet they ask Jesus what should be done with her, what should her punishment be? Basically Jesus says, you know the law and it calls for execution, execute her. Oh yeah, before you do you better make sure you are not guilty of any transgressions yourselves. If you have any guilt whatsoever then you may not execute this transgressor. The would be executioners drop their implements and walk away. The religious leaders recognize that Jesus has recast the law. In this recasting death is no longer a viable punishment. The death penalty is abolished because only the one with no guilt, no sin, can actually carry it out. We learned in the Sermon on the Mount that no one, no matter how righteous she thinks she is, is free from transgressing the law. That those who have lived by and obeyed the letter of the law have violated the spirit of the law. No one is fit, according to Jesus, to carry out a death penalty. In so interpreting and recasting, Jesus changes the law to the law of love, as it was always intended. Sure there are consequences and punishments for criminal behaviour, but the death penalty, for the Christian is no longer one of the options, it has been abolished through the fulfillment of the law.

Lessons

11 September 2001 I was in the Placer County Jail awaiting trial for offenses arising from drug related activities. By 0550 hrs PDT the correctional officer assigned to our tank turned on the TV. He had been on the internet while we slept and received a news feed which reported the first attack, the first plane which flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. Several of us got up to watch the coverage. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but as I recall we saw the second plane slam into the South Tower. We watched as the North Tower collapsed, then watched as the South Tower collapsed. We watched in disbelief. How could these buildings just collapse like that?

I have to admit that I am ashamed of my initial reaction to the attacks. Remember that just three months prior Timothy McVey was executed (11 June 2001) for his involvement in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. At this time (2001) I had been of the opinion that McVey would have been an American hero had he timed his assault differently and only destroyed property. The killing of the children in the on-site day care turned an act of revolution into an act of terrorism. I was sympathetic to a new American Revolution. So, my initial reaction was one of hope that this was an act of revolution. I was in the height of my atheism, four years prior to my conversion to Christianity. I had no, initial, thought of the potential loss of life. Regret for the deaths of innocent people began sometime later. When it was discovered that al-Qaeda, an Islamic terrorist group, was responsible my initial reaction was one of disappointment. I so wanted it to be American revolutionaries. This disappointment gave way to disbelief, but that’s stuff for another post, maybe even another forum.

Now, as a Christian I am ashamed of my reaction at the time of the 2001 attack on America. I am ashamed because my initial thought was not sadness for the loss of life. I am ashamed because I actually cheered this horrific act of violence and hate. I am ashamed that I ever thought that armed and violent revolution was a viable option for reclaiming America from the evil, hierarchical power structures that marginalize and oppress. I am ashamed of who I was at that point in time. I am ashamed. More I apologize to all for having held these ideas, for these reactions to this horror that claimed so many innocent lives.

I read a blog this morning before I went to church, Jesus Creed reposting of Will Willimon’s portion of a Christianity Today article, How Evangelical Leaders Have Changed Since 9/11. This post is a mere three short paragraphs and has changed the way I think about the attacks of 11 September 2001 or rather our response.

The American response to the attacks has been one of violence, and for a secular government maybe that is not totally inappropriate. I do think that we went too far, even in the days of my atheism. We were duped into thinking that countries were our enemies, when that wasn’t true. So we went in and killed innocents in our pursuit of the criminals responsible. We shredded our constitution and stripped American citizen of civil rights. If you think I am wrong, consider this fair analogy. A criminal group commits a particularly violent and heinous crime in one of our cities or towns. Lets say that in a botched robbery they killed several innocent people. They get away from the scene. Lets say that one of them has a friend who lives in your neighborhood or apartment complex. Now the authorities get information that this friend of theirs may be harboring them. Now the authorities invade your neighborhood destroying your house, killing your friends and maybe even your kids just to get to this criminal group. Appalling isn’t it? We certainly wouldn’t stand for it, would we? Would we? Maybe we really would, because that is exactly what we stood for, albeit unwittingly, when we stood for our government’s response to the terror attacks ten years ago. But I digress.

As I said, I can almost understand a secular government’s desire for the retributive action, such as ours took. But what I cannot understand is the Christian response. The church in America supported and even cheered on this violent response. We have joined our attackers in an assault on the Kingdom of Heaven. We do this when we hate, worse we generalize our hate to entire people groups, to an entire religion, to entire races. We have responded with hate and violence towards innocent people, demonized them because they happen to share the skin tone and religion of those who hurt us. Is this truly how we think Jesus would want of us? Seriously?

Another fair analogy. Back in my daze of agnosticism and eventual atheism I would read of Christians who gunned down doctors who performed abortions, who killed women who had had abortions, bombed abortion clinics and killed people. I judged all of Christianity based on the actions of these few mentally deranged individuals and the extremist groups that bred and supported them and their activities. This is exactly how American Christians have treated Islam and its followers.

In our unforgiveness, hate, and violence we have declared war on the Kingdom of God. In our unrelenting defense of Christendom we are wreaking destruction on the Kingdom of Heaven. Although I do not think that we are able to see this because we have so confused Christendom for the Kingdom of Heaven that we in our collective mind think they are identical. They are not! Christendom is empire, it is a part of the hierarchical power structure that oppresses. This happened when Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion and made it a tool of the Empire. The two, the church and state, fused, Christendom was born, the Holy Roman Empire. This is what we try to defend so vehemently. Yet, Jesus brings in the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is antithetical to empire, subverts the power structures that are empire. Don’t kid yourselves America is every bit empire as were the biblical empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Rome, and even Solomon’s Israel.

We have been conformed to the ways of this world, we have adopted the wisdom of the world (empire) and we think the wisdom of God foolishness. We twist the biblical witness to fit our worldview, to show how God is for empire, for the hierarchical power structures. When we think that God is for violence and hate. We may give lip service to love, but it is some perverted love that promotes the killing of innocents. A perversion of the Gospel when we believe that peace can be won through violence. This was the way Rome achieved Pax Romana, through superior firepower, oppression, violence. The way of Christ is true peace through love, forgiveness, non-violence.

If the events of 11 September 2001 have taught us anything it should be that the hierarchical power structures of oppressive empire are violent and lead to the escalation of violence. That violence is devastating in the lives of the innocent, their families, their friends, their communities, their countries, to the world. That it is devastating to you and me as well. When our consciences have become so seared that we support violence we too have become its victims.

So, on this tenth anniversary of the horror that was 9.11 lets us honor the victims by allowing ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Let us no longer think  like the world that the wisdom of God is foolishness, that Jesus way of love is NOT stupid or foolhardy, but is the only way for us to achieve real peace. Lets us stop defending Christendom and start promoting and living the Kingdom of Heaven.

I am a Heretic

I want to admit and declare that I am a heretic.

Let me take some time to explain how I see some things and I am sure you will agree with me that I am a heretic. Maybe, just maybe you’ll be one, too.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:7-9, NRSV)

6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NRSV)

I realize that John’s Gospel can be a bit mystical, like chapter one verses one through 18 is very mystical, but I don’t think that the passages above are too mystical. In these verses Jesus tells us that He is the way to the Father, to God. He tells us that He is the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven. I think that Jesus is pretty clear that it is He that decides who gets in and who doesn’t. The gatekeeper to the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus. If you want to get to God, Jesus is the one who grants us audience. Jesus decides!

So far so good? I’m not a heretic, you say? Well, read on.

Throughout the history of the Christian church we have interpreted the Bible, we have developed theologies, created doctrines, made them dogmas. We do this to help us understand, and that is good. But, we have also created doctrines and dogmas to say who is in and who is out. There are a couple of problems with this. For one any of our doctrinal statements, nay all of our doctrinal statements fail. They fail because God cannot be contained by our understandings no matter how elaborate or complete we think they are. This is okay if we recognize this and are humble about what we believe about God and salvation. When we know that not everything we believe is right and are open to correction, growth, learning, development our doctrinal beliefs are good and guide us, hopefully, into further understanding. However, when we make our beliefs about God and salvation dogmatic essentials then we err.

Some branches of the church today have elaborate dogmatic doctrines about who is included and who is excluded. They have a collection of essential beliefs that one must accept to be a Christian. We have done this from very early in church history with the ecumenical creeds. While I think that the early creeds have guiding value in defining the church I reject them as failing as God CANNOT be contained in our creeds, doctrines, theologies, dogmas. Some of our traditions go way beyond the early creeds.

Some claim that if we do not believe that the Bible is completely inerrant in everything that we are out. I do not accept Biblical inerrancy. the difference lies in our views of what it means that scripture is inspired, God breathed. The modern inerrantists seem to hold a view that is akin to God dictating what He wanted written. This doesn’t make sense to me. I, on the other hand, believe that God revealed Godself within faith communities. These communities then struggled with how to communicate these revelations to posterity and other faith communities. Out of these struggles documents were created when someone finally began writing the results of these struggles. These were in turn combined to form the bible as it has come to us. That until the canonical councils the texts that make up the bible were works in progress, perpetual progress. Maybe we err when we did this, made everything static.

Some claim that the bible is to be taken literally. This is an impossibility.

Some will tell yo tat you have to believe in a literal 6 day creation AND reject evolution. Bullshit! The best the Bible says is God created. No where does it say how He created.

I think I’m headed somewhere with all of this, I hope so.

Here goes, I believe that God told Israel, which we must remember means to wrestle with, or to strive with God, that they are to love. Love God and everybody else. In an attempt to codify love Israel created the Law of Moses. The Decalogue and the 600+ sundry laws. These reflect a patriarchal society, the reflect the faith communities to which God revealed Godself and His instruction to love. The laws that ancient Israel created in their effort to codify God’s revelation do not necessarily reflect our society today. I think that the rabbinic tradition recognized this and allowed for many different interpretations and even for the letting go of some of the laws, yet we want to make it all static, universal in time and context.

I think that that is it, we are to love. Love each other, love those like us, not like us, love even our enemies. Love those who will not love us in return. Jesus tells us that this is what all of the law says. Isaiah tells us something very similar. Love, that’s it, that’s how we will be known. That’s how we recognize those that know and are known by Jesus and the Father, because love comes from God. Not by their cognitive assent to our sets of doctrinal statements.

See the heresy yet?

So, we have created these elaborate doctrines about who is in and who is not. Many of these doctrines have nothing to do with love. I am specifically thinking of the LGBT community. I am also reminded of how Christians, especially here in America, talk about Muslims. There are those who would usurp the authority that belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone and decide that these communities are necessarily excluded because they do not meet the requirements of their set of doctrines, which to them is the real gate, the real way.

I deny their sets of doctrines have the power of Jesus to decide who is in and who is not.

PS I am gay affirming!

Forgiveness

Forgiveness. I have been thinking about forgiveness of late. We are told throughout the Bible that we are to forgive.

In The Lord’s Prayer  we pray that God will forgive us as we forgive others. Really? Do we really want to be forgiven as we forgive? Do we really want God to treat us as we treat each other? I don’t think so. I mean what would we have to look forward to if we got what we give? C’mon, be honest, what would you really have coming if God answered that prayer for you?

In my last post I talked a little about some false motives having been ascribed to me. I was hurt by it. I don’t know why, I don’t even know the person who did it, but hurt I was. In the pain I felt some anger, it’s amazing how we tend to turn our pain into anger when maybe we should just feel the pain and maybe express the hurt rather than fly off into some rage or another. Like I said I was hurt and the pain was starting to come out as anger.I kept thinking of that passage where Jesus tells the crowd, if you do not forgive others, your Father in Heaven will NOT forgive you. This person questioning my motives and projecting evil into them was obviously NOT forgiving ME.

I was going to enter the conversation as say as much when I saw that someone else had done exactly that. When I read that comment telling this person that they were removing forgiveness from themselves by not being forgiving I immediately saw the error in making such a statement, a statement I was just about to make, a statement that my mind had been screaming out for what seemed an eternity.

The error in telling someone who we perceive has been less than forgiving is that it is a demonstration of unforgiveness itself. I was so convicted, so remorseful for having even thought that, for having directed condemnation against another if only in thought. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes clear that our thoughts are every bit as damning to us as our overt actions. My thought, in the disguise of a righteous rebuke, was nothing more than a condemnation. The person who commented, kind of in my defense (but probably not) was condemning whether or not they knew it. I cannot condone any such action, especially on my behalf.

If I am being attacked, if someone is displaying unforgiveness towards me. Please do not come to my aid in the form of reminding the other that God will not forgive them if they do not forgive. Please do not do this. And I entreat you to not do this for yourselves either. I do not think that this is what Jesus intended when He made the statement.

So, as I was thinking about this statement from Jesus about not being forgiven if we do not forgive I began to wonder just what does it mean. So I thought and prayed and thought and recalled my experiences when I withheld forgiveness. What I think Jesus is doing is warning us that our unforgiveness puts us in a Hell right here and now. A Hell from which it is difficult for us to receive forgiveness. I know that the times I have withheld I suffered. I became bitter, angry, hurt. I moved into a Hell right here in my own existence, a Hell where the forgiveness I have received could not retrieve or rescue me. I was only able to leave that Hell when I could forgive that which I had not forgiven. Once I forgave I could claim the forgiveness offered me, because I really don’t think God withdrew forgiveness from me, I just set it aside. And God let me enter my Hell until I forgave, I received  the measure I gave. Was able to receive the forgiveness I offered.

Just thinkin’.

Oppression, Subversion, and Christian Perspective

Oppression exists. Oppression is all around us, we do not have to look very far or hard to find it. When we marginalize, disenfranchise, demonize we oppress. Oppression is an evil. It is the worst kind of evil. It is insidious and deceptive. Many who are oppressed do not even know that they are oppressed. Oppressors are every bit as oppressed as those they oppress. And here’s the real kicker I cannot be free while there are those living in oppression. This doesn’t just go for me, it applies to us all.

Our current world structure is inherently oppressive in that it is hierarchical. Hierarchies place one above another, one below another. We oppress others when we feel superior to them. The current oppressive structure differs from the ancient only on the surface. God recognized that this is the way it would be when He told Samuel what the king (secular government) would be like and damn if He wasn’t right. Saul did exactly as God predicted  as have most all of the Kings described in the Bible. All of our governments have done exactly as God said that they would. (being an open theist I do not hold to omniscience in its common sense, I think that God can know all that is  knowable, but the details of the future don’t exist and are, therefore, unknowable, but this is fodder for a different post.) Some governments have been better than others, but all have been oppressive.

I oft hear from more conservative Christians a defense for the current, American system as being somehow Christian. Yet, when we look at it our structure is not significantly different than any other except in cosmetics, the surface. I guess I am not just speaking of the political structures but those of all of society. Can we really say that our social structures are significantly different from those of first century Judea? Do we not have those with power and those who are powerless? Do we not have, and as Christians, support a hierarchical notion of gender roles? Does not our consumerism enable the exploitation of workers, many of whom are children being robbed of their childhood as virtual slaves? Does not our consumerism and fleshly appetites enable sexual slavery? Don’t we have religious oppression, when we demonize those of other faiths? Do we not hold prejudices and bigotry against the other? Did not all of these exist in some form or another in the ancient world?

As I read through the Bible I see that God does not support our hierarchical systems that oppress. In one of my favorite passages God tells people that He doesn’t want burnt offerings and the sacrifice of animals. Neither does He want a fast that is simply not eating. What God wants, what He always wanted was for people to love. Love your workers, pay them a decent wage. Love the foreigner, the outcast, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the hated and despised — the other and treat them like they are bearers of the Imago Dei. (Isaiah 58)

In the Gospels Jesus subverts the societal structures. The Sermon on the Mount is totally subversive to the structures of the day. The narrative of Jesus with the Samaritan woman subverts religious and social structures of the day. His whole life and teaching subverts the oppressive, hierarchical structures.

In Luke 10 we find Jesus at Marhta’s home for a gathering and dinner. Martha’s sister Mary is there. The place for a disciple was at the feet of his rabbi. the traditional place for a woman was in the kitchen serving the men. Martha is being obedient to the gender role hierarchy, she is serving in the kitchen. Mary, on the other hand, is in the position of a disciple, at the feet of her rabbi, Jesus. Martha goes in to Jesus and tells Him that Mary’s traditional place, the place dictated by the societal/traditional structures is to be helping her prepare and serve the meal, not being a disciple, women aren’t disciples. What does Jesus tell Martha? That Mary and even Martha have a choice in the roles they are in and that Mary makes the better choice. This teaching subverts the major societal structures, the religious/political and the social/biological.

When Jesus travels to Samaria and meets the woman at the well He is subverting the political/religious structures by simply being there. He subverts the social by actually speaking to this woman, for she is a woman and men don’t talk to strange women in public. And He takes a cup of water from her. Here again He stomps all over the oppressive, marginalizing, hierarchical systems.

These are but two examples, but the Gospels are replete with instances where Jesus subverts, trashes the customs and structures. He does this because these systems are anti-love and God is love, therefore…..They stand in the way of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Acts we see the early church creating its own economy, one that equalizes and empowers all. This stands in juxtaposition to the economy of the world which is hierarchical.

The Apostle Paul does the same thing as he pens his theology based on the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 we are told that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female. These three pairs represent the three major structures of society the religious, the political, and the social. Paul tears them down by removing the divisions, by collapsing the hierarchy and making all one in Christ.

Paul further subverts the worldly structures when he tells us to obey the secular authority. Our worldly structures need an underclass, a criminal class, they need to marginalize and disenfranchise in order to exist. Before I came to Christ I used to tell people in prison that thought that they were rebelling against the system by committing crimes and doing drugs that they were actually supporting the system they thought they rebelled against. The best way to bring down the system is to quit doing crime and drugs. If everyone would do this the worldly system would collapse.

So many people live under oppression around the world. We, here in America, live under oppression. Consumerism is a tool of the oppressive system to placate us, to keep our minds away from our oppression. Yet, this world stands opposed to the Kingdom of Heaven where there is no oppressive structure. To usher in the Kingdom we need to come to grips with our oppression and do like Jesus and subvert the system. We do this with radical love, radical acceptance. If we are in one marginalized/oppressed group we stand with all of those in all marginalized groups, even those with whom we disagree. Men are freed when women are freed. No one can be free until all are free, even our oppressors need to be freed because even they are in bondage. Just as God left Paradise to come be in solidarity with us against that which oppresses, the structures of this world ( I want to caution that we become the oppressor when we go against people instead of the systems of oppression) we are called to be of that same mind as Christ (Philippians 2:5-8).

Yet we hear over and over in our churches and from Christian leaders that we should support and adopt the systems of this world. Support and adopt a system that stands opposed to the Kingdom of God.

I am calling for us to be like Christ and love all people, be for ALL people, yet subvert the systems and structures that oppress.

Neo-Fundamentalism, Immaturity, Men, & Abuse of Women

I started reading Rachel Held Evans blog recently because of her questioning of her fundamentalist roots. Through reading this blogger I was impressed with some of the comments and began following the blogs of several young women. As these young women began relating their stories of abuse, self-mutilation, addiction I began to see a common thread, neo-fundamentalist upbringing.

These women relate stories of being taught that women are to be subservient to men, that there are specific gender roles that they must adhere to. For several of them the gender role issue made them feel less than because they did not possess the so-called female instincts and their interests were more in-line with male roles. The women who faced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse were abused even further by their Christian communities when they told of their abuse. There seems to be a blame the female victim mentality within the neo-fundamentalist community. One young woman was told that being raped was no big deal and she should just get over it. What the fuck? Other women were as hard as the men.

I recently read about a home for wayward girls in Indiana, The Horrors of Hephzibah House. Seems that most of the girls in this “Christian” school are not really wayward, but that most of them had been sexually molested in their own homes. Rather than focusing on the criminal, the perpetrator, oft the girl’s own father, the idea here is that it was the victims fault. These girls are then beaten and psychologically tortured to get the harlot out of them. Yes, girls as young as 12 who have been raped by their fathers are convinced that they, not dear ol’ daddy are the real criminals. Go to the links in the article and learn what former “students” have to say. In the name of being a “good” “Christian”. I use quotes around Christian because I seriously have my doubts about both the people at the school and the parents who would send their daughters there. Some will say it is not my place to judge whether or not these people are actually Christian or not,and they’d probably be right. I can judge the behavior and ideas and they are definitely do NOT represent any Christian teaching or fruit that can be derived from the Bible. This is more in line with those forms of extremist Islam (I am coming to the conclusion that extremist Christianity is no different than extremist Islam except for a name) than Christianity.

Sarah Moon published a blog on the use of the label and slur, “slut”, That’s Not A Slut, That’s A Person. Sarah tells of the instances in which she has seen this slur hung on women and girls. None of the instances she relates does the woman in question fit any definition of the word. Sarah, rightly in my not so humble opinion, says that the use of this slur is abusive and is an example of the ages old and continuing war on women. Sarah calls for us to quit using this word against women, to remove it from the vocabulary, not unlike the use of the word nigger (Sarah doesn’t say this, it is my analogy) because it is hurtful, abusive, and anti-Christlike.

As I read these blogs and articles and the stories of girls who have resorted to cutting, starving themselves, been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused I have to wonder about the culture in which these things arise. All the young women I am talking about have fundamentalist/neo-fundamentalist upbringings. They all faced further abuse when they dared to tell of their abuses. Abuse in the form of, “Oh it wasn’t so bad,” “Well you should’ve done this to your attacker,” “It’s all part of God’s plan,” “Well he IS the man,” “Boys will be boys,” “You need to submit to the males in your life.” When the women told them these things I could only thing of one thing, “The hypnotized never lie,” from We Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who. But that would excuse them? If they are adolescents or children, but it sure as Hell doesn’t get an adult off the hook.

Where does the attitude come from that makes it okay to perpetuate the war against women? Some will say that their attitudes are biblical. Have you ever even READ the Bible? I think not. Well, that’s not true I think that they have read it. I think that they have read it with presuppositions about God and the Bible and seeing what they are looking for, which isn’t all that hard. What they are not doing, because it is not possible to approach the Bible for the first time without presuppositions, is not letting the Bible and the Holy Spirit remove those presuppositions. They are not being shaped by their engagement with the Bible (maybe they are reading without engaging). These people lack maturity, Maturity of faith and intellectual maturity, many also lack emotional maturity as well. They hang on to cultural views of women and ignore the biblical view, worse and so very dangerous they bend the biblical view to fit their narrow, immature ideas. Their ideas are their idols and “I’ve got my reasons and to me they’re all true, and I wouldn’t change them, not even for you” Jesus, (quote from Mona Bone Jakon by Cat Stevens). They are stuck because they are immature and cannot engage their faith, cannot ask questions of it, they fear that they will lose it. It would be far better that they lose this narrow, bigoted, hateful, immature faith than to continue in anti-love, anti-Christlike behavior that arises out of such a faith. People will cite a couple Pauline passages to rationalize their beliefs, ideas, and idols. If you are telling me this, I am telling you that you are reading it wrong! Nothing in the Pauline corpus validates your ideas. The Corinthians passage is dealing with a situation specific to that church at that place in that time. The Ephesians passage, do not forget that most evangelical English translations wrongly places a section heading between 5:21 and :22 when in Greek the verb is in verse 21 not in 22. Verse 22 cannot stand alone, it continues from verse 21 where we are all instructed to submit to one another. The charge for wives is no more than it is for every believer. Look how Jesus treated women in the Gospels. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, did you know that the place of a disciple was at the feet of their rabbi? Mary was a disciple. Martha comes along complaining that Mary is not following the custom of the time, not submitting to the traditional place of women, in the kitchen, what does Jesus tell her? Mary chose the better thing, to break tradition, to subvert the societal cultural structure and be a disciple. Paul in Galatians 3:28 tells us that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, neither Free nor slave, neither male not female. What is he doing here? The same thing that John does in relating the story of Mary and Jesus and Martha, he is subverting the social structures that separate. The three main areas of society are dismantled, the religious with no Jew or Greek, the political with no free or slave, and the social/biological with there is no male or female. In this and the narrative from John we see that our common understandings are not a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. So why do we persist in supporting the structures of this world? Satanic influence? Maybe, but I’m going with immaturity.

Men, when you think that women were created to serve you you are in grave error. Women are not your slaves! They are people endowed with Imago Dei. When you reduce them to objects, when you try to subjugate them you do violence to their Imago Dei. You do this because of your lack of self-respect, lack of self-confidence, because you feel so fucking small that you have to pick on those you deem weaker. Make somebody feel bad so you can feel good. Go get some therapy. And until you can change your attitude towards women you are not capable of a relationship so stay away from the women. And by all means stop abusing them in word, deed, and attitude.