Saturday, August 29, 2009

boy's club: no girls allowed

Recently heard in a sermon: "The Bible clearly teaches that women should not be pastors and that the husband is the leader of the home."

Actually, it doesn't. I know, I know. Anyone who has known me for a long time probably cannot believe that I just said that. I was the one who used to make those tired old points. Like the one that women are ontologically equal to men but just differ in their roles. Or the one about how women can do lots of great things in the church, but not teaching or having authority over men. How about the one that women were not supposed to work outside the home if she was married with children, which of course she would be if at all possible.

But I got this one wrong.

Thank goodness I never made the argument that women don't make good leaders because they're too emotional. Perhaps I had attended enough professional sports events to know that's not actually the case.

During grad school, I became unsure about my position. It had a lot to do about the things I was learning in my classes, taught by male and female professors on both sides of the issue. I finally got to the point where I realized that I was not comfortable with real, practical, pragmatic equality for women, but I also realized I couldn't get that from the Biblical text. So either I had to ignore what I felt Scripture was saying or I had to make myself change. It was a difficult but obvious choice.

I also realized that almost everything I had ever learned in church and school was from a male perspective. There's nothing wrong with the male perspective, but it cannot wholly represent an accurate view of the world around us.

The tribes of evangelicalism that still silence authentic female perspective do so by taking a few tiny pieces of Scripture out of their historical and grammatical context and carry them over to extra-Biblical issues like ordination and seminary professorship.

The Southern Baptists have really lost their minds and the rest of their credibility because of this. Just ask Sheri Klouda. Don't worry, though. Women will still be able to attend the seminary and can now exclusively participate in the academically rigorous homemaking program, and (I'm not making this up) wrestle with these deep theological problems:

  • textile design and clothing construction (with lab), 7 hours
  • meal preparation (with lab), 4 hours
  • financial stewardship, 3 hours
  • interior design, 3 hours
  • something called "the value of a child" (no medical exam prerequisite), 3 hours
  • home and family management, 3 hours
  • senior practicum (hmm...using a real man or a close facsimile?), 1 hour
As for men who are attracted to this program, no dice, but there are a lot of other programs in which men can contribute in ways more suited to their God-given role. I guess we should just stick to making the money.

This is hilarious on one end, but it should make any Southern Baptist, or evangelical Christian, angry. What a damaging witness.

As for the issue of women in marriage, I also realized that there were many couples who would adamantly argue for the complementarian position, but for whom it made no practical difference. This was the case in a couple I was very close to growing up. I'll call them Burt and Sally. Burt was the ceremonial leader of his family. He prayed before dinner at family gatherings, made big announcements on the family's behalf, etc. But in reality, he and Sally shared the important decisions and Sally was the one who really made things happen. Burt was the King of England, really a figurehead, but Sally was the Prime Minister; the one who drove the policies and decisions.

Look around. Most complementarians are in an egalitarian marriage. Those who aren't are often in abusive unions. Complementarians know this on some level. They even laugh about it constantly (insert cliche "better half," "earners and spenders," or "she's my boss" joke).

But they just turn their heads. It's kind of like Ted Kennedy. Everyone knows the guy was a creep. He was a womanizer and a heavy drinker and a cheater and should have gone to prison for letting Mary Jo Kopechne lie in her watery grave for hours. You wouldn't know it from watching the nightly news today.

Augustine said that "sin is to a nature what blindness is to an eye." God, please open our eyes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

steel Bible covers

Recently heard in a sermon: "If there's ever an argument here's my position: the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it."

Really? Why do Christians so often feel like we have to draw these kinds of lines in the sand? I guess it's more polite than saying "you better believe what I believe because I really, really believe the Bible and anyone who says anything different from me just doesn't believe it as much."

But there's so much we really don't know. Greek and Hebrew scholars will admit this is true. The rest of us have to be extra careful.

When I moved from Texas to go to grad school in the Chicago area, many things changed for me. The biggest realization was that there were all of these Christians: Baptists and Lutherans, high church and low church, liberals and conservatives, egalitarians and complementarians, Calvinists and Arminians who all believed the same thing about the Bible - that it is the inspired and infallible record of God's revelation. All of them.

This was life-giving. It really set me free. I didn't have to be suspicious and skeptical of others anymore. Honestly, it made me a new person in a lot of ways. I came from a background that scrutinized behaviors and I learned to be one of the best at this. I hurt and offended a lot of people (including a lot of believers) by telling them that there was no way they could believe in the Bible's reliability and believe that women could be ordained to ministry or that adult immersion was the necessary form of Baptism.

I was the one who wasn't serious about the Bible. I thought God's truths were all mine. They never were. They were always and remain God's.

Cling to Christ, love God, and follow the Spirit. Hold everything else with an open hand.

Monday, August 10, 2009

back in the buckle of the Bible belt

I had the privilege of leading the music for First Baptist, Waco yesterday morning. It was good to be back.

I had forgotten how beautiful the place is. The sanctuary is large, but feels intimate. Everything inside seems strangely clear and in focus. The pews are wooden and the floor creaks all over, but that's okay. It only adds to the warmth.

I also learned something that I took for granted during my three years there. FBC is a singing congregation. A lot of churches do music by having as big a group as possible on the platform and amping the sound up as much as possible. They create the feel of a singing congregation. They fill up the space electronically.

Yesterday at FBC was not like that. The choir was not large. The instruments were supportive but not overpowering. The difference was in the congregation. They were actually a congregation, not an audience vegging out on sensory inundation.

There was something else, too. They weren't just loud or hearty. There was some depth to their singing. It's hard to really put my finger on it. I don't want to make it sound like a purely emotional experience. Not at all. There was obviously a heart connection to the songs, both those they knew well and the new ones. It's great to be leading music in a place like that. I was able to step away from the microphone, quit waving my arm and participate.

I have always thought the tune to "Out of My Bondage" was mediocre. Not bad, but just so-so. With little help from me, FBC got it right yesterday. To hear Waco Baptists singing "Out of unrest and arrogant pride, Jesus, I come" was moving. It was a musical prayer and a great, worshipful response to the 1 John 1:5-10 preaching text. Brain to heart to mouth in 6/4 time.

I had also forgotten not to ever, ever drink Waco water. I swore I'd never forget. Thanks a lot, central Texas ranchers.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

do what I say and nobody gets hurt

This weekend I will be back in Waco, filling in as music director on Sunday for First Baptist. I was thinking earlier about the four years I spent at Baylor and how much different my life was back then and the growing I have done since I left the land of green and gold four years ago.

I've mentioned before about how I fell into a difficult time of depression a few years ago, one that I should have seen coming but which really hit me by surprise. There were lots of things that brought it on, but one of the chief culprits was a judgmental spirit I held on to back then.

At the time, there was no word I hated as much as "judgmental." Probably because a bunch of people who didn't understand the word threw it my way a lot.

I shudder to think of what I was like to those who were around me. I had a lot to learn about grace.

I remember feeling like I had this responsibility to proclaim the path of righteousness to those around me. I'd rip people for voting democrat, partaking of adult beverages, going to restaurants with people who partook in adult beverages, smoking pipes on the sidewalk by the dorm (I did waver a bit on the smoking thing - seemingly every other week, I indulged my affinity for cigars), going to non-denominational churches...you get the idea.

Funny - kinda - I also remember ripping people for being horribly judgmental. How dare they tell me I'm doing things wrong.

One of my college roommates - I'll call him "Q" because of his love for James Bond movies - caught me in this once. This roommate was a good guy, though it was tough to overlook the beer in our fridge. "Jack," (that's what they called me back then), "how come you watch R-rated movies." I asked, "I don't know, man, how come you watch R-rated movies?" "No, Jack, I mean, you're so big on not watching Family Guy on TV, but you watch R-rated movies. Don't you think that's kind of, I don't know, hypocritical?"

By the way, "judgmental" was the only word I hated more than "hypocritical."

I was stuck, but I pretended not to be. I think my response was particularly well-reasoned and insightful: "Well, I don't watch ALL R-rated movies."

I felt instant remorse after talking with "Q." No, actually I didn't. I actually remember asking how he could see the speck in my eye with the giant redwood protruding from his and then saying something about how I didn't need two Holy Spirits.

It's tempting to blame this on my Southern Baptist background and upbringing. Those things definitely played a part, but I still deal with the guilt from letting myself get into this mindset and attack those around me with it. I should have known. I turned a lot of people off and had few good friends and still thought I was doing the Lord's work or something.

This really grieves me. It's a part of my past that grieves me very deeply. It also makes me all the more thankful for the blood of Christ which covers me. There's nothing else I can do.