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Christianity

Submission to physical abuse?

I know many of you are John Piper fan boys but this is appalling. Piper is telling women to "submit" to abuse for a season and then go to the church. Really? What about an abuse shelter? What about pressing criminal charges? What about leaving him? Abuse can never be tolerated.

Piper talks about abuse being sin and the answer is in the church.  Of course it is sin but violence against women and children (and anyone) is illegal and the answer is first to get the women to safety and then the courts.  Yes the church is a part of the solution as it can be in any restorative process but there are laws in this land that say that no one needs to tolerate physical violence and abuse, not even for a “season” as Piper suggests.

The idea that this needs to be done in the context of the church and community is wrong.  If I hit Wendy or abuse my kids, I have crossed a line that as a society we say that we won’t tolerate, it’s why there are laws that prohibit family violence.  The actions of the abuser have taken the consequences out of the realm and authority of the church and into the realm of the police and judges.  This isn’t an issue of submission, this is a criminal issue now.

I have no idea why some of you believe in the submissive crap that guys like Piper keep preaching. I have listened on the phone to women being beaten by husbands and parents while they were trying to protect their children and have listened to friends tell me they thought they were going to die from the abuse they were enduring.  No one should ever deal with that ever. People knew that they were being abused (and yes they were in the church) and didn’t take a stand because they women were submissive.

That "doctrine" drives me crazy. It’s based on bad theology and a bad translation of the Hebrew.

Being Jesus in Nashville

My friend Jim Palmer likes to color outside the lines of modern evangelicalism and to make a long story short, his last book was controversial enough that his publisher tossed him which for me, makes me want this book to be published.  He is publishing it independently and needs your help.

I set out to disentangle Jesus from the religious machinery of Christianity and discovered a profound and unexpected answer to the question, "What would Jesus do?" I devoted more than a year of my life to live as Jesus and learned that Jesus was special not because he was more divine than the rest of us, but because he was courageously more human than most. Unfortunately that message didn’t go over well with my publisher.

I don’t know if this book is theological sound or not but many books in the history of Christian theology were seen as heretical when they came out.  Even if Jim is wrong, it adds something to the conversation of praxis and how Jesus would live today.

I’ll embed the video.  I hope it’s okay but I can’t hear it.  This ear thing really sucks.

The end of the line for Prairie Bible Institute?

Canada’s oldest fundamentalist Bible College finds itself in the middle of a sex abuse scandal.  As Jeremy Klazus reports in the Calgary Herald, instead of looking outward for a third party, it is trying to handle things internally.

Callaway, who did his master’s research on sex abuse in churches and recently completed a doctoral thesis on Prairie’s history, says the school had a "high authoritarian" atmosphere in which L.E., who died in 1984, spoke for God.

"You just didn’t question him, at least publicly," he said.

After L.E.’s death, the school slowly started relaxing rules (staff, for example, were allowed to have TVs in their homes).

Callaway says he’s not surprised but saddened by the allegations of abuse at Prairie. He was also not surprised when he heard that the board appointed a member to handle the matter, given the school’s history.

"I thought, ‘This is a chapter out of that same book – going to keep it internal, going to try to solve it in-house,’ " said Callaway.

The school has suffered from plummeting enrolment and internal strife over the past decade, but this year the numbers levelled out.

Mark Maxwell, who took over as president last year, has repeatedly said the school is taking a new direction toward openness and transparency.

"There’s this idea that the board is going to protect the image or the reputation of the school," said Maxwell. "No, that’s the way you destroy the school, actually, by trying to artificially protect its reputation. I think we can leave the reputation of the school with God."

Prairie’s willingness to publicly acknowledge the allegations would have been unheard of in years past.

The school put a news release about the matter on its website before the Herald broke the story on Saturday, more or less inviting media scrutiny.

"The move could backfire," said Callaway.

"It’s one of those situations where you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, really."

I am not sure what to think.  I have several friends my age who were sexually and physically abused in churches across the country and the families and churches when they found out, kind of just ran the abuser out of town.  In rural areas there wasn’t the capacity to deal with a lot of the abuse.  When Wendy came out about her own sexual abuse, many women we know (and readers of this blog) reached out and said they went through the same thing.  You also have the residential school abuse.  Even noted lawyer and scholar Larry Lessig went through is own personal abuse.

If I was Prairie, I would bring in a third party, offer whatever help that they can offer, and cooperate in whatever way they can.  In many ways I would pay as little attention to my lawyers as possible and listen to some pastors and counsellors.  If victims want to sue, I doubt Prairie has the resources to survive and if you are going to go down, go down trying to do the right thing.  I feel for the victims.  Hopefully there is a process that can lead to peace and heading.

Andrew Jones makes me feel really old

Andrew looks back a decade at some of the original theological bloggers and finds out what we are up to.  It’s funny to think I am indirectly responsible for three of the people on that list.

Sermon feedback

I don’t do a lot of public speaking anymore but when I did, I would have appreciated the kind of feedback that AKMA is proposing here.

Still, one wonders what would happen if sermons were regularly reviewed by a good critic (or by an itinerant representative of the diocese/synod/whatever), or if it were permissible to take preaching as a strong ingredient in such gross indicators as rise or fall in attendance. What if the church were obliged to be honest about the plain fact that some preachers are not as good at their craft as are others? And what if the church recognised that some of the most prominent characteristics in selecting for ordained ministry, and then also for determining appointments, are not co-implicated with preaching skills? What if, to be blunt, ‘preaching well’ is not the norm, but a noteworthy exception?

The Death and Life of Prairie Bible College

Jeremy Klazus has a great article on the trials and tribulations of Prairie Bible College.

Prairie Bible College Opinionated alumni and donors have long scolded PBI leaders for deviating even slightly from the status quo. Even L.E. got flak. After spending 19 years as a missionary in Japan, a Prairie grad named Marvin L. Fieldhouse returned to PBI, disliked what he saw and wrote a fiery undated pamphlet titled “Whither Bound” (described on its stark black cover as “a shocking analysis of current trends at Prairie Bible Institute”). Inside, he recalled seeing Ernest Manning, then Alberta’s premier, on the platform at PBI’s 40th anniversary in 1962, a scene that would have been incomprehensible in the institute’s early days. L.E. had warmed to politics over the years and especially liked Manning, admiring that he kept his radio broadcasts free from politics (“a wiser man than Aberhart,” he once wrote). Fieldhouse was nevertheless incensed. “I honestly wanted to vomit right where I sat in the tabernacle,” he wrote.

L.E. got sheaves of letters from similarly disgruntled American fundamentalists. A Minneapolis woman who’d heard that her niece was using hair rollers at Prairie wrote in 1966, “No wonder that in the picture which she sent home that she looked so worldly—much more so than when she left home. What is happening to your standards up there anyway??” Other letters carried a more menacing tone. After a PBI quartet visited his church in 1977, Pastor George C. Bergland of Le Roy, Minnesota wrote saying he was distressed by the singers’ appearance. “For example, last night, some of the young fellows badly needed a haircut. One of them had a moustache.” Bergland was further offended by “pictures of girls in slacks playing tennis” in a PBI publication. Then came his threat: “I am writing to say that if the trend towards worldly dress and haircuts continues I am sure that it won’t be long before our support will be discontinued. I am sure that the same will be true of many fundamental churches.”

L.E. responded generously even to the kooks. To Bergland, he wrote, “we appreciate folk who hold standards in this day—when the whole world has pretty well gone down the drain.” Yet he reminded his correspondent that “there are greater things that unite us” than moustaches and hairstyles. Still, change came slowly at PBI. L.E. himself resisted faculty efforts to relax rules forbidding male-female interaction, and TVs were forbidden in staff homes until the mid-’80s, after L.E. had died.

Looking at harm reduction from a Christian perspective

So Calgary has stopped giving out free crack pipes as part of it’s harm reduction strategy.

Free crack pipeSince 2008, Alberta Health Services had been giving out crack-pipe kits as part of the Safeworks program, an effort to reduce transmittable diseases. The kits contained a glass pipe, mouthpiece and cleaning tool and were handed out in an AHS van.

More than 14,500 crack pipes were given out as of June 2011.

However, AHS has discontinued the Safeworks crack-pipe program as of Tuesday, citing the “potential for a legal challenge with respect to distribution.”

Tim Richter, Calgary Homeless Foundation CEO, said the program was an effective first step in engaging hardcore, street-involved crack addicts.

“We’re disappointed the program has been cancelled in the fashion it was,” Richter said. “Harm reduction and giving these crack pipes out was good, smart public health.

“It seems like a knee-jerk reaction on fairly simplistic moralistic ground.”

Some groups, including the Calgary Police Association, recently expressed concerns with the Safeworks program prior to its cancellation. CPA president John Dooks said it set a dangerous precedent.

“It’s implying you can use elicit drugs or unlawful drugs in a safe manner,” Dooks said. “The message should be there is no safe way to use drugs,”

I grew up and still am an evangelical Christian.  My grandmother was president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Saskatchewan and I work for the Salvation Army which coined the phrase “demon rum”.  Being against harm reduction and all for abstinence is in my DNA.   I hate what the drugs do to people.  I see it every day but for that very reason, I am for harm reduction.  Here’s why.  By the virtue that people are coming for free crack pipes, they are doing two things.  Realizing that things are out of control and putting themselves in contact with the very people that can help them.  That’s why Insite works.  Insite isn’t for just any heroin addict.  It’s for the addicts that realize that they need help and can’t continue on the path that they are on.  Insite isn’t a destination, it’s the start of the journey.  The same is with grabbing a crack pipe from a street worker, they are admitting that something is wrong and taking a small step in the right direction.

In Saskatoon there is still some debate about needle distribution, a debate I can’t understand, even from a Christian perspective.  You have drug users using dirty needles, passing them around, getting high.  Statistics tell us that they are at a very high risk of contracting HIV or Hep C, both are costly diseases to fight and we know many users don’t fight it.  As a friend who runs another agency once told me, up to half of our mutual clients have untreated HIV/Aids on any given night.  The more I think about it, the more I agree with her.  As a Christian who wants the best for them, by taking the needles/crack pipes away, we are just complicating things.  I am increasing the risk of a disease that will hinder them rest of their lives or shorten it drastically.  A lack of harm reduction options increases healthcare costs in addition to lost potential due to a shortness of life or a diminished capacity for life.  

The main reason to do so doesn’t seem to be a legal reason or even a moralistic one, it seems to be driven out of societies dislike and discomfort with addicts and their lifestyles and a desire to punish them.  If I can nuance Tim Richter’s stance, this isn’t about a moral stand, it’s a puritan stand, one that says that people that do wrong must be punished.

In my years of working at the Salvation Army, I have known one guy that enjoyed being an addict.  The rest hate it and want out but can’t do it yet.  On my walks home I run into a client who for years was an ass to deal with.  Was always angry at me, always yelling, and threatening.  One night he walked in and was clean of the drugs and was quite a nice guy.  Entirely different.  Part of his path out his hell was harm reduction.  He’s been clean (and struggling) ever since then.  He rents a place not far from me and is scraping out a legit existence doing a variety of jobs.  He stops by to chat when he sees that Wendy and I are around and stops by Wendy’s work to say hello to her.  Every time I see him he is always telling me that he is amazed that his drugs didn’t destroy his relationship with the Salvation Army and myself and goes on to say over and over again, how they destroyed almost everything else in his life.  His story isn’t unique.  I could insert in a variety of names and contexts into that story and the pain is always the same. 

When we look at drugs users, the explanation is that it is either a personal choice or they have a low genetic tolerance towards it (in describing Aboriginal Drug Abuse).  Both of these answers have the same underlying principle, it’s not my fault or responsibility.  One thing we overlook is the societal aspect of drug and alcohol abuse.  Drug and alcohol abuse on reserves was not a problem until the Residential Schools opened (The damage was done to those taken and those left behind.  How would you handle it if the RCMP took your children a part of a government policy.  I know I would be seriously messed up if I lost Ollie and Mark).  Now I do meet some men and women that came from extremely stable households who for whatever reason decided to self destruct with drugs as a personal lifestyle choice but for the most part the drug use is a result of escaping horrible family situations, mental health issues and is a part of concurrent disorders.  In other words the kind of individuals that we as a society have an obligation to help the most.  For decades Canada has had a social safety net for those that need this kind of help.  It has generally come in the form of healthcare or Social Assistance but as the drugs have become more potent and addictive, the solutions are more complicated as well.  Harm reduction works.  It’s not about the pipe, it’s about the pathway out the personal hell they are living in.  Alberta Health was wrong to back down and all of Albertans will pay the costs.  It’s my Christian faith that calls out for harm reduction strategies, it’s fear and a lack of grace that fights against them.

Notes:

1. My grandmother would be totally opposed to EVERYTHING that I wrote in this post.

2. I believe the phrase demon rum should be used more often than it is.  I try to use it as much as I can at work but to be honest, no one drinks rum anymore and it seems awfully judgemental to say about anything else.

For Sale

The Crystal Cathedral

The Crystal Cathedral is for sale.  Seriously.  According to the L.A. Times

The Garden Grove church, which said it owed more than $50 million to creditors and vendors when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, will file a reorganization plan with a Santa Ana court as soon as Friday.  The plan includes the sale of the 40-acre campus to a real estate investment group, alleviating financial pressure from a $36-million mortgage, Charles said.  The church has a guaranteed option of leasing the campus for 15 years. After four years, the church could buy back the core buildings, which include the 10,000-pane Crystal Cathedral, the 13-story Tower of Hope, the welcome center and the cemetery.

I am not too heart broken by the news.  Wendy and I took a tour of it a decade ago and it had already become a parody of itself then.  The highlight was a women’s washroom that cost a million dollars to build.  I know things like this are contextual but c’mon, a million dollars for a women’s washroom.  Yeah.

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Fringe Expressions

Fringe Expressions

Andrew Jones has launched a major new project called Fringe Expressions.  As he calls it.

We are going to partner with leading mission organizations and denominations by helping them start 50 new church/mission structures around the world that will act as role models for church planting in the toughest parts of the world.

As well as being highly effective fresh expressions of church and mission, these new communities will bring a lasting, holistic impact through these 3 strategies:

1. Through social enterprise and mico-business they will move their ministries towards long-term sustainability.

2. Through social justice ventures they will touch the needy in their cities in measurable ways – ie, a spiritual, social, financial and environmental impact.

3. Through social media streaming they will contagiously share their story to leverage their experience and compel others to follow their examples.

Sneaky . .  huh?

These 50 new communities will be fresh expressions of church but, also, because they will intentionally position themselves to impact those on the fringe, we will call them "fringe expressions".
By fringe, I mean the cultural fringe (alternative, non-churched, victimized) the economic fringe (poor, needy, vulnerable) the geographic fringe (church-unfriendly areas and countries) and the spiritual fringe [NOT your father’s old-time religion] where traditional church efforts make little progress.

Or in other words, they will go where no fresh expressions or missional communities or emerging churches have gone before.

If it’s something you want to support (and believe me, you do), check out the full post out for more information.

Cornel West on speaking truth to those in power

Good interview with Cornel West on the failures of the Obama administration.  “I thought he would have more fight and backbone… an extension of Wall Street and corporate elites”.

Playing the Percentages

Theologian David Fitch has a good post on the debate about Rob Bell’s new book

I blame Rob Bell for this inflammatory mess (along with his publisher) because of the excessive bating and provoking all in an obvious attempt to attract attention to his book. This is no way to pastor I say. This is no way to lead. (but it does sell books).  On the other hand, to be even handed, I blame people on the Neo-Reformed side as well, people like Kevin DeYoung. Sorry Kevin, I know you mean well but when you do a 20 page review that largely argues out of an incredibly narrow view of orthodoxy with little to no appreciation for history before the 1920′s,  it comes off as defensive and parochial. For both sides, the tactics reveal a lack of a place to engage this issue productively for the furtherance of the Kingdom beyond our own personal enclaves (or ambitions). And yet discussing this issue is essential in order to be shaped for a posture for Mission that has been lacking amongst the traditional evangelicals, the church I am part of and remain committed to.

I have been kind of intrigued by the entire debate… not so much that I will read the book or any of the debate but the nature of the debate in itself.  Let me explain.  Theological debates never used to be like this.  They were much more private events, often done through letters, in person, or in small circulation academic journals.  Book sales were small.  I am going out on a limb and say that Rob Bell will probably outsell Barth’s Commentary on Romans in a couple of months.  What used to be a private and contemplative debate has been sped up tremendously through blogs, Twitter, and competing book deals and the resulting conference speaking gigs.  All of this is driven by Christian publishing companies that are either shareholder held or are owned by News Corp, famous for taking sides and then profiting from the division.

There is always going to be different ideas in the church.  I have some reservations with Brian McLaren’s theology that we have talked privately over (not sure who is right on that… been thinking about it for ten years) and even with David Fitch, I still am trying to figure out his theology of social justice and how to work on it in my context.  Hopefully in the next decade I can put to words my issues with it but it needs some more thinking about but my theological reservations don’t need to be tweeted, blurted, and raced out.  At the same time, I need to present my ideas in the expectation that some of them are going to be offensive to others.  I am a Methodist.  I am quite confident that my theology is correct but some of my beliefs stand in contrast to my own denomination even let alone others yet I don’t feel the need to refute and inflame others all of the time.  I have my questions about Brian McLaren’s theology, David Fitch’s social gospel and CFL allegiances (I think but check back in 2018), Darryl Dash’s theological worldview (he’s Baptist, same could be said for Santosh Ninan and Kyle Martin), Len Hjalmarson (Anabaptist),  Randall Friesen (moved to Alberta and cheered for Brett Favre), or anyone that I know that doesn’t subscribe to a liberal Free Methodist worldview that I do yet i think we have managed to have better discussions than what we saw over this latest dust up.  We are always going to have things that divide us (the Hamilton Tiger Cats?  Really?!) but can’t we have these discussions without cutting each other off and using the terms heretic.  Good grief, Tillich and Barth continued on their correspondence despite seeing the world in very different ways (with evidence that Tillich and a pantheist.

I wonder when we are going to realize that speed isn’t always vital or even desirable in theological debates.  The rush to be first or provocative may appease your masters at News Corp, Google, and Amazon but is it adding anything to the church.  I don’t think it is.  I think what we gained in speed was lost in perspective, contemplation, and depth of dialogue. 

Saint Boniface Cathedral

Saint Boniface Cathedral in St. Boniface / Winnipeg ManitobaSaint Boniface Cathedral in St. Boniface / Winnipeg ManitobaSaint Boniface Cathedral in St. Boniface / Winnipeg ManitobaSaint Boniface Cathedral in St. Boniface / Winnipeg ManitobaSaint Boniface Cathedral in St. Boniface / Winnipeg Manitoba

While exploring Winnipeg, a co-worker told us about the basillica in St. Boniface.  Since I was driving and am a sucker for a great looking church (or ruins of a church), we headed right over there.  We jumped out to take some photos.  By the time I had snapped 12 photos, my hands were so cold I could not operate my camera any longer, my ears had frozen, and I was having trouble enunciating.  Welcome to Winnipeg.

Soularize 2011

This came from Spencer Burke of TheOoze yesterday.

Soularize 2011 in San Diego, CaliforniaIt’s been almost 10 years from the first Soularize in Seattle, and we’re exciting about hosting another learning party in 2011. As usual, this event will unite both traditional and non-traditional teachers, artists, theologians, thinkers, and social activists.

This year – sunny San Diego!
October 12-14, 2011

Save the date and plan to join us for one of the most unique experiences of your life. If you’ve been to a previous Soularize, don’t miss this 10 year reunion event. If you’ve never been before, you won’t want to miss it.

We’re partnering with an incredible church in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego to put on an incredible event that will cultivate a thought-provoking and spiritual experience while introducing a wide variety of ways to connect and grow with others on the journey.

Didn’t Soularize start a year earlier than that in in Los Angeles?  Whatever the case, San Diego in October looks inviting.  Update: I am planning to be there.

iPhone app allows users to go to confession

iPhone app allows users to go to confession The best part is that it costs $1.99 at the app store.

Described as "the perfect aid for every penitent", it offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the sacrament.

Now senior church officials in both the UK and US have given it their seal of approval, in what is thought to be a first.

The app takes users through the sacrament – in which Catholics admit their wrongdoings – and allows them to keep track of their sins.

It also allows them to examine their conscience based on personalised factors such as age, sex and marital status – but it is not intended to replace traditional confession entirely.

This isn’t their first digital effort

Two years later created a Facebook application that lets users send virtual postcards featuring the pontiff.

Before you mock it, when I went to Bishop James Mahoney High School in Saskatoon, we had a similar checklist to speed up the confession process (as a Methodist, I just judged others silently) so it’s not like this is a new idea.  Of course we still had a priest to administer the sacrament.

Where have all the denominations gone?

In the Wall Street Journal

Are we witnessing the death of America’s Christian denominations? Studies conducted by secular and Christian organizations indicate that we are. Fewer and fewer American Christians, especially Protestants, strongly identify with a particular religious communion—Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc. According to the Baylor Survey on Religion, nondenominational churches now represent the second largest group of Protestant churches in America, and they are also the fastest growing.

More and more Christians choose a church not on the basis of its denomination, but on the basis of more practical matters. Is the nursery easy to find? Do I like the music? Are there support groups for those grappling with addiction?

It’s not all bad news for denominations

Where hymnody once came from the spontaneity of slave spirituals or camp meetings, worship songs are increasingly now focus-grouped by executives in Nashville. The evangelical "Veggie Tales" cartoons—animated Bible stories featuring talking cucumbers and tomatoes—probably shape more children in their view of scripture than any denominational catechism does these days. A church that requires immersion baptism before taking communion, as most Baptist traditions do, will likely get indignant complaints from evangelical visitors who feel like they’ve been denied service at a restaurant.

But there are some signs of a growing church-focused evangelicalism. Many young evangelicals may be poised to reconsider denominational doctrine, if for no other reason than they are showing signs of fatigue with typical evangelical consumerism.

For example, artists such as Keith and Kristen Getty and Sojourn Music are reaching a new generation with music written for and performed by local congregations. Yes, prosperity preacher Joyce Meyer sells her book "Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes," which encourages Christians to "lighten up" by eating cookies and buying shoes (seriously). But, at the same time, Alabama preacher David Platt is igniting thousands of young people with his book "Radical," which calls Christians to rescue their faith by lowering their standard of living and giving their time and money to Church-based charities.

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