I'm watching the current in-house barney among those who consider themselves, or are considered by others to be 'emergent'. It concerns an issue close to my heart, and mentioned before on this here blog - homosexuality.
This really seems to be the issue of the moment, both in christian and secular circles, what with political scandal in Blighty, the Organ grinder/monkey debacle about Chad Allen, and of course ongoing skirmishes here and there.
Recently, Brian McClaren write an article dripping with the post-modern version of compassion (read 'wimpiness') where he just couldn't bring himself to say whether homosexuality was wrong. He thinks we probably need another decade to sort that one out. He even alluded to the apostles deciding whether or not something 'seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us', which I found amusing. How long did the apostles take to come to decisions?
His example was somewhat baffling. A young couple who had met through their fathers hooking up asked him the churches position of homosexuality. I really don't know what his answer can possibly have been, but I personally don't understand the dilemma of stating a churches position on something. You don't have to get out the statement of faith and give them a sound thrashing with it. Surely it's possible to explain a standpoint with gentleness and tact? What he did end up saying, he doesn't say. But anything other than stating the position of the church with gentleness and tact, is, of course, just a shell game. McClarens problem is that, yet again, he wants to stand for something, but he just really hasn't quite decided what yet.
Now, it's unsurprising to find a conservative, modernist, traditional type like me taking issue with McClaren's fudge-box approach. I don't mind fitting the stereotype there one bit.
What is really interesting is the response it's getting from those within the emerging church themselves. Mark Driscoll (who is turning out to be someone gleefully impossible to box in, which I like) has written a gloriously acerbic response, adequately needling the flaws in McClarens logic, such as it is.
He says: "Lastly, for the next 5-10 years you are hereby required to white out 1 Peter 3:15 which says “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” from your Bible until further notice from McLaren because the religious right forget the gentleness and respect part and the religious left forgot the answer the question part. Subsequently, a task force will be commissioned to have a conversation about all of this at a labyrinth to be named later. Once consensus is reached a finger painting will be commissioned on the Emergent web site as the official doctrinal position."
Personally, I think the part I've highlighted in Bold is about as neat an illustration of the problem the church as a whole has with the homosexual issue as I've ever seen.
I read the comments for a microcosm of what seems to be happening on various emergent message boards, blogs and so on. One person told him off for quoting scripture in the passage I've quoted, saying he 'proved McClaren right'. I'm guessing that's because Driscoll was taking a right-of-centre position, thus aligning himself with those mean and nasty conservatives. Does that mean only mean and nasty conservatives quote scripture? ;-)
Some agreed wholeheartedly, but most of those who disagreed did so by agreeing with the content of Driscoll's views, but telling him off about his tone.
One commenter said: mark you are entitled to a rant just as much as everyone else is. i disagree with you not so much in your ideas as much as in your tone.
This had me rolling about with laughter. I'm always being told stereotypes don't exist, but it was really funny to see one actually commenting. Say what you want to say, but say it nicely.
I don't think I've heard the word 'tone' used so much since I did English Literature studies at school. You threw the word in when you wanted to sound as though you understood subtext and nuance. It was pretentious then, and it's mighty pretentious now.
I'm watching the current in-house barney among those who consider themselves, or are considered by others to be 'emergent'. It concerns an issue close to my heart, and mentioned before on this here blog - homosexuality.
I first started online back before the turn of the century. See how I injected a feeling of history there? It was around 8-ish years ago now, which doesn't quite have the same weight, but never mind.
I was far and away about as tossed about mentally, spiritually and physically as can be. Still at uni, I was LGB rep with the Student union (and by God's grace, not a very good one). I discovered a whole new world of wierdness online to immerse myself in. I actually got involved with Jesus Army from an initial contact online, so the internet didn't have the greatest influence on me in the beginning. However, in due time, and once I was away from the toxic atmosphere of Uni life, I started finding things that helped me greatly.
By far the most significant at the time was Pros Apologian: Thoughts from the Apologetic Front
. Given that I had been involved on and off with Jehovah's Witnesses since my early teens, attracted to Roman Catholicism, and was generally a mixed up puppy, James White's brand of forthright, clear-sighted apologetics was literally a Godsend. My internal compass was heavily skewed. I had trouble defining who Jesus was, I was focused entirely on a works-based faith, and put simply, I had never really understood the gospel.
I slowly began to absorb all the goodies in the AOMin archives, and the blog was such an eye-opener to me. I had become familiar with the apologetics of Roman Catholics associated with EWTN, and I had never heard any convincing arguments against their views until then.
Eventually, on a more even keel, I began to start trying to talk to the Witnesses that came to my door. As I was never a baptised Witness, they still can. AOMin were very helpful in this - helping me to clear my own mind of some of the muddled thinking about things, and also to really puncture some Witness mental defences. I am still witnessing to around three JW women, and I'd value your prayers in that endeavour.
Dr White's Blog is an amusing jumble of tech-stuff (Waaay over my head), useful apologetic primers, links to The Dividing Line online broadcast, and random cartoon art and 'fractals' *She says, pretending she knows what they are*. It's always worthwhile, and I read it before I even knew what a 'blog' was.
So there you go. ProsApologian. Why I am not a JW or a Catholic.
What is the Internet? And why do I like it?
I've rolled this one around my brain for a while now. I honestly think it's because it's like being at uni/college. There's spirited debate, a fair amount of bloke-ishness among male bloggers, a fair amount of condescending head-shaking among female bloggers, an ever-increasing glut of in-jokes that mean nothing to the outside world (honest, try dropping TR or pomo into an average conversation and see if any comprehension registers on your listeners face. If it does, they're a Christo-blogger for sure).
And I love it. I'm an average wife and mother, bucking some UK trends by home-educating, true, but mostly just fulfilling a calling to do housework, serve my husband and raise my children. Not saying it's worthless, because I emphatically don't think it is. But I'm no academic eternal student type.
And part of me loved the buzz and banter of the university. So it's just really, really refreshing to be able to engage with that sort of brain-stretch again.
Now, this being the case, I'm going to start a new series, looking at the blogs I read, the forums I participate in, and the other assorted websites I visit and the reasons I do that. You may have noticed the updated sidebar links, and that will be expanding as I have time. Some you will know, some you may not, some may surprise you, and some still surprise me. Why, it's almost like real life.
A topical mention of Pyromaniac is neccessary, given that the blog has evolved into a team blog. More matches for your money. See the Firebugs link. I can only imagine the scorched earth that's going to be created in the wake of combined family Pyromania and Turkish delight. What do I need to add? Most of my readers came to me via the link from Pyro, so there's little use explaining, even if that were easily achieved in a brief blogpost.
Pyromaniac. Why I started blogging in the first place. Jolly good stuff.
I've been thinking about redemptive themes in movies. It's kind of a big modern thing to talk about, and I'm ok with that, because I did quite a bit of media work at college, and I love picking apart a subtext as much as the next girl.
nhe makes the point that as humans that are made in the image of God, and we have that hang-over from perfection, it isn't surprising to find redemptive themes all over the place. It's like magic-eye pictures. Once you get the knack, you can always see the hidden images.
I agree. I vividly remember the 'resurrection' of Neo in the Matrix hitting me square between the eyes. Trinity tells the dead Neo that he can't be dead, because she loves him. That is the only thing that brings him back to life again - I found it a powerful image that yes, sure, I could see redemptive typology in.
Conversation starters like this are littered all over the place in movies. The End of the Spear will have, I have no doubt reams of redemptive elements. How could it not? There'd be no point telling the story if it didn't. Good stories almost always show the protagonist changing, and the best stories - the ones that leave you feeling better, not worse - usually have that protagonist grow in a redemptive way.
The unfortunate casting decisions have thrown a shadow over a film that I may well not have picked up on in the UK. This is to be regretted, but can hardly have been a bolt from the blue for the producers. American evangelicalism is a much more muscular animal than the UK variety, and it was 100% guaranteed to be an issue spoken about.
I've been reading around the issue a little bit now, and a few thoughts occur to me. Firstly, I think it was a poor decision to cast Chad Allen. But my over-arching reason for that is the 100% guaranteed response it was bound to get. Christians find themselves in a cleft stick - on the one hand feeling duty-constrained to speak out against sin, and on the other hand hopeful that such an amazingly redemptive story will have a positive effect. The controversy seems almost designed to neutralize the usefulness of the film in gospel terms, which explains a lot of people's frustration with other for pointing out what they are completely right to do. And of course, vice versa.
Now, that's not to say that the film presents a clear gospel message.
One believing reviewer says that one can hardly miss the gospel in it, and I don't doubt it.
But this is the other thought I've had. When one is a believer, one is able to see the gospel almost anywhere. We have a mind made alive, and sensible of our salvation, we see it reflected wheresoever we go.
From that perspective, the circus around The Passion of the Christ seems even more ridiculous to me. The naivete of thinking one could bring an unregenerate friend along to a movie and see them saved by viewing it, which is what was often promoted, is breath-taking. You, as a believer, may be deeply moved by a depiction of the suffering of Christ, aware as you are, of what it means for you, and possessing a regenerate mind. But these things are a rock of stumbling for those who are dead in their sins.
So, from that perspective, it is neither here nor there whether or not a clear gospel is 'presented' in The End of the Spear. The story itself is powerful, but to those without eyes to see and ears to hear, it will not help turn a stony heart into a fleshy one. We must be willing to actually talk to people about these things, and deliberately tie them to scripture and the gospel.
Because really, though people in the image of God understand the idea of redemption, and fill their stories with its motifs, they will never understand the essence of it unless they are explicitly told.
Humans like redemption - but the idea that redemption is something entirely outside of ourselves, unearned, undesired, this we do not like. These great redemptive movie themes will only touch one small part of us. Christians hold the vital element, and we must be willing to go and share it. Ultimately, when casting decisions are long forgotten, and even if they had never been an issue, celluloid redemption is as flimsy as the media we see it on. No-one will 'guess' that the redemption of Mincaye has been effected by the Holy Spirit. We must tell them.
My mum used to say bad things come in threes. Which is a good illustration that my mum didn't know everything.
Bad things come. Sometimes they pop round for a cuppa, other times they bring a sleeping bag and camp on the settee. Sometimes they come alone, sometimes they bring friends.
One of the most helpful things I ever read was in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. In it, he points out that humans have troughs and peaks. Sometimes we scale the giddy heights of ecstasy, other times we descend into the slough of despond. It's been useful to remember this at certain points of my life. It's been an aid to Learning Contentment, that much under-exposed trait of the Christian walk.
When I've been in the middle of some of life's sweetest moments, I've been able to squeeze every last drop from them, knowing the ephemeral nature of happiness.
When I've trawled along the sludge at the bottom of the deepest pit, I've been able to not bring a bucket along to carry the worst of it with me, because I know 'this too shall pass'.
I walked through the death of parents, friends and children, most often faltering, but still coming out the other side clinging on. I've had my breath winded out of me by joy at the birth of my girls, and the outrageous blessing of the life given to a disgracefully wicked woman like me.
But one thing I am learning, slowly but surely, is that troughs and peaks are not mutually exclusive. This past December has been a real lesson for that.
My husbands company laptop was stolen, a banking error meant we paid a double mortgage installment, the car broke down and required £1000 to fix and the Christmas lights nearly set fire to the tree. Twice.
*pause for breath*
My fathers marriage to the woman he committed adultery with has foundered and she left this Christmas. He is now nearly pensionable and having to pay a mortgage designed for two incomes. To top that off, he's ill and had a nearly fatal car crash at the beginning of the month.
Other unspeakably horrible things have occured this holiday season that I can't bring myself to write down at the moment, and indeed it wouldn't be right for me to do so. Suffice to say, they are pretty nasty low-down things.
Deep, stinky trough.
And yet. Our children have been a constant joy, the middle one has potty-trained herself, we managed to get to church three weeks in a row, and even managed to stay in the service when there, my atheist Dad is beginning to wonder why his life was spared in the car crash, Christmas Day was one of the most special, exciting and fun-filled days I've had for a long time, and I was given a Bach CD and a big shiny Colander.
My mum had another saying.
It's never as bad as you think it is.
That one I think is actually true. That's what hope is built on, for me, now. Not some unspecified optimism that unreasonably hopes for the best. But an experience that shows me that even when Bad Things come to stay, Good Things always stowaway in their luggage.
Just when you thought it was safe to go along to the cinema (in case you ever did) after the Narnia circus calmed down, another storm is brewing on christian-engagement-with-visual-arts-mountain.
Leaving aside the unpleasantness of Brokeback Mountain, with its romanticizing deep ugliness, the End of the Spear is causing big ripples in the blog and forum world. Challies.com is where some of the debate is happening. It centres around the choice of an outspoken homosexual activist actor to play the part of martyred missionary Nate Saint.
Now, given how the story of Saint, Jim Elliot et al. is so very dear to the Christians who would, no doubt, be a large part of the demographic the film is pitching for, it strikes me as foolish in the extreme not to have trod as carefully away from this kind of controversy as possible. No doubt all publicity is good publicity and all that.
And of course, this being the age it is, not everyone is unhappy with the choice of Chad Allen. Some Christians are inordinately annoyed with anyone for bringing up his sexuality at all. 'It shouldn't be an issue,' they say, 'or are you going to check if your plumber went cruising last night before he fixes your taps?'
Well, for starters, those objecting didn't bring his sexuality up. He did. In a constant, droning, never-ending schmaltz dribble about love and tolerance etc. The other actors in the movie may well be serial adulterers, drunkards and hurt little kittens for fun, but they aren't going on Larry King live and pontificating about how wonderful it is to roast kitties and if you don't do it yourself you should at least respect others who do.
It reminds me of the recent debacle in the uk where we now have gay marriage in all but specific vocab. I had a conversation with Simon of the Lost Message about it, wherein he put the view that in a secular society, there was no good reason why gay people shouldn't be allowed to have legal commitment ceremonies.
I do follow his point, but the more I've pondered this in the past few weeks, the more something seems to jump out and bash me between the eyes, and even more with this new movie controversy.
It keeps being said 'Well, they're not believers, so they can't be expected to hold the same standards. If they don't believe in scripture, why on earth should they be held to scriptural standards'
I can see how that line of thinking gains credence in a relativistic mind. But you know what? It's rubbish.
Before I was a believer, I lived to please myself and couldn't care less about scriptural standards. For a good long while afterwards too, to my shame. If I had died in that state, and stood before a Holy God, do you think I may have got a pass because I didn't actually believe in the law He was judging me by?
It does not matter if people think God's law is relevant. The authority of Gods law, and the responsibility of His people to uphold and defend it, does not lie whether the world thinks it's acceptable to them.
Whatever rational excuses you may be able to provide for an unrepentant homosexual playing a faithful christian, in a story which is supposed to be about the power of the gospel, whatever compassionate sounding passages you may write about the fairness of giving marriage priveleges to any two humans that say they want them, regardless of gender, you are butting up against Divine law.
The Law of God is not just for believers, and the notion from some Christians that it is, is ridiculous. If the law of God was only relevant for believers, then on what basis would we become believers? How can we transgress a law that we are not held to? Why would we need to fear an adverse judgement by an irrelevant law? God's law is THE law - the one by which all humans are judged. To cosset unbelievers in their sins is to do them a great dis-service, and to dishonour God, whose standards don't go up and down relative to our belief in His word.
And yes, I get as frustrated as others do at the way it appears that homosexuality is so often the issue du jour. But you know what? That's the way the cookie crumbles when certain people are so blatant and proud of their sin that they neccessitate an answer.
Depression is the pits. In the midst of everything else that is going on at the moment, my brain chemicals are all out of sync again. It just makes everything ten times harder. I'm reasonably disciplined now about pushing myself through the neccessities - I pray, I make food, I take my b-vitamins. But it's like a chain wrapped round my shoulders, and I can only fight against it for so long before I feel my back slumping and the tears come again.
Circumstantial problems are one thing. I've dealt with plenty of stuff in the past every bit as bad as now. But this fog of heavy-heartedness makes it so much harder. Times like this I am reminded the His grace is sufficient. Because it has to be. There is some sense that I feel I have to yield, spread my arms out and float - but I can feel my flesh wanting to strive, to doggy-paddle to keep my face out of the water.
I'm tempted to just drop everything, but at the moment, sparse and unintelligent though my blogging may be, it's a helpful symbol that I'm still engaging.
We have runny noses in the house today. My dust allergy is combining with a royal cold, and that just about tops everything else off with a cherry. Still, there was a bright spot with my eldest.
She got her own box of tissues when we went shopping, picked out a flowery box with patterned tissues. She said,
"The reason they have pictures on, is when you are poorly, you look at the pictures, and you think of happy things, and then you feel better"
There was a case in the news today that had me searching for balance. Dr Andrew Gbinigie is a gynaecologist at the hospital I was under the care of with my first child. I also had an operation there on my ovaries some time before my pregnancy. Given that Dr Gbinigie seems to ripped out ovaries, pieces of bowel, and caused one woman to lose her kidney, I was feeling rather green about my blessed escape. I'm not even sure he wasn't the surgeon that performed my oophorectomy (removal of ovaries).
When I got past the nausea attendant upon that thought, other things about the case began to bug me too. Most of his butchery occured during abortions. It's almost like he got a bit scalpel happy.
I'm just not sure how I feel about that. I'll start by saying that I wouldn't wish those kinds of injuries on anyone, and nor do I suggest that the women deserved it. I want to make that absolutely clear.
But what kind of messed up picture is this? A doctor is being paid to kill these women's children, and he gets in trouble because he cuts out inanimate body-parts? Not to mention the awful, terrifying irony of the fact that he was removing their ability to ever conceive again.
There just isn't a good side to this.
The General Medical Council ruled 'the gynaecologist could continue to work - and carry out abortions - providing he abided by a set of conditions for three years.'
I am deeply reassured.
I doubt that the cessation/continuation question will be resolved to everyones satisfaction this side of glory. But it emphatically isn't just an interesting discussion between brothers that is not particularly different to whether or not we have hymns or choruses. It isn't an intellectual exercise.
It really does matter, and I'm aware of that today quite keenly. I need to know if I can trust my bible to give me all I need for the path I walk today, or if, actually, the Lord is trying to get some additional information and blessing to me through a prophecy or a word somewhere. It really matters to me right now, because I need all the help I can get.
Tonight I heard Tony Blair reach new heights of babbling rambling nonsense. The man actually said he thought that the loss of deference was a good thing, but the loss of respect was a bad thing.
def·er·ence ( P ) Pronunciation Key (dfr-ns, dfrns)
Submission or courteous yielding to the opinion, wishes, or judgment of another.
re·spect ( P ) Pronunciation Key (r-spkt)
tr.v. re·spect·ed, re·spect·ing, re·spects
To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.
I'm not a politician. I'm a housewife. Maybe that disqualifies me from understanding what on earth the man was blathering on about. But it certainly looks to me like deference and respect are reasonably synonymous.
So, go on, Mr Blair. Please explain how you can get shot of that pesky deference thing, and retain that precious commodity of respect?
Let me guess, respect was the word of choice in the focus groups.
To quote an oft used graphic at Centuri0n's blog, You keep talking, and all I hear is 'blah, blah, blah'
False dichotomies can be intensely irritating. It bugs me when I take those test things and they give me two options like;
Do you like to pray in a quiet place? Or do you think that the bible is inspired?
That kind of thing just really makes me itch.
Equally frustrating is the christian who really, just really, thinks that we should all stop this debate and go out and feed some poor people, m'kay?
One does not preclude the other. Even less so in online debate, which can be accomplished at all hours of the day, meaning you can fit it in between your copious acts of good samaritanship.
People accuse Paul of a good many things, but I've never heard anyone critique the NT letters he wrote like this:
You know, Paul really should have put more into reaching people with the gospel. He wasted so much time with this pointless need to be right.
So please, let me make it clear. It's perfectly possible to hold to a firm, defended faith and give the broken-hearted a big hug, OK?