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Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week: My Guest Post at Rachel Held Evans

IMAGE BY DANI KELLEY

IMAGE BY DANI KELLEY

Today I’m guest posting at Rachel Held Evans’ blog, talking about abuse and images of God.

God is love. I believe that with my whole heart.

But what is God? And what is love?

We need to ask ourselves these questions and think deeply about them before we can even begin to start solving the problem of abuse in the Christian church.

Read the rest at RachelHeldEvans.com!

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Why Chris Rosebrough is Wrong: A Case for Ordaining Women (Guest Post By Travis Mamone)

Here are some thoughts from my friend Travis Mamone (who blogs about cool stuff like Doctor Who and theology here!) on why popular arguments against the ordination of women fall flat and why sometimes it’s best to just step away from “theological bullies.” He included a picture of a fluffy animal to represent Rosebrough but I couldn’t get it to load, so for now, here is my cat in a tiny top hat. Enjoy!

Image

Photo credit: My sister, Sam Moon, and her iphone

Like many of my fellow emergent Christians, I once tried to pal it up with fundamentalist discernment blogger Chris Rosebrough, aka Pirate Christian. Yes, he is anti-gay. Yes, he is against ordaining women. And yes, he has publicly trashed many in the emergent Christian movement. But because he actually talked to his opponents (unlike some other discernment bloggers), we thought that we could somehow forge a friendship with him that would transcend beyond oppositional theologies and therefore fulfill Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

Boy, were we wrong!

We eventually realized that Rosebrough’s words were harmful to female and LGBT members of the emerging church movement. Slowly we began to step away from him. To quote Gotye, now he’s just somebody that we used to know.

Having said that, it has recently come to my attention that Rosebrough recently included the “Call Me Maybe” parody video “Ordain a Lady” on his Museum of Idolatry blog (which is just one of his many blogs, mind you). He then proceeded to quote 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, which are two common clobber passages used to “prove” that ministry is a boy’s only club. After sharing Romans 16:7 with Rosebrough on Twitter, he responded with, “Clear passages govern unclear passages. Plus, Junias was a man.” He then sent me a link to a Christian apologetics website that supposedly “proves” the Junia of Romans 16:7 was a man. However, upon further investigation, this website also claims that humans and dinosaurs lived together. I pointed that out to Rosebrough, but our conversation went nowhere.

Chris Rosebrough is flat out wrong about women in ministry. And here is why.

First, despite what Rosebrough says, Junia was indeed a female apostle. In his e-book Junia is Not Alone, biblical scholar Scot McKnight writes that Junia was thought to be a woman until some mistranslations made her masculine. McKnight writes:

It happened, or can be illustrated in Greek by changing the accent in an originally unaccented text from Jun-I-an to JuniAn. This change is accent led to the male name JuniaS, the Anglicized form. (Loc. 138-40)

According to McKnight, there is “no evidence in ancient manuscripts that anyone understood Junia as a male, no evidence in translations she was a male, and there was no ancient evidence that Junias was a man’s name” (Loc. 276-79). And Junia is not the only female in the Bible to have any sort of spiritual authority. McKnight writes about Phoebe the deacon found in Romans 16:1:

She was not a “deaconess,” which in my youth referred to women who gathered the communion wafers and small plastic cups of cheap grace juice and washed them out so that men would have them for the next time our church had communion. No, Phoebe was a deacon, which meant she was a church leader. Paul calls her a “benefactor,” and this probably—it is disputed—means she financially provided funds and wisdom for Paul’s missionary trips. (Loc. 119-22)

If Rosebrough is reading this, no doubt he is saying right now, “But what about 1 Timothy 2?” For starters, it is debatable whether or not Paul actually wrote 1 Timothy. Second, according to scholar NT Wright, the entire passage must be read in context:

The key to the present passage, then, is to recognize that it is commanding that women, too, should be allowed to study and learn, and should not be restrained from doing so (verse 11). They are to be ‘in full submission’; this is often taken to mean ‘to the men’, or ‘to their husbands’, but it is equally likely that it refers to their attitude, as learners, of submission to God or to the gospel – which of course would be true for men as well. Then the crucial verse 12 need not be read as ‘I do not allow a woman to teach or hold authority over a man’ – the translation which has caused so much difficulty in recent years. It can equally mean (and in context this makes much more sense): ‘I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women.’

As you can see, there is room at the pulpit for women. We must not let theological bullies like Chris Rosebrough rob women the freedom and choice to answer God’s call and serve God’s church through ministry.


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Intangible Christianity

I was raised to believe that salvation was a shadow of things to come. An image of an otherworldly kingdom that could never be realized (even in part) on earth. Jesus’ death on the cross was an ethereal magic trick…

It’s an illusion, Michael…

…that somehow, in some way washed away our sins.

But our sins were still here.  We still sinned. That didn’t matter. They were washed away in the realm of the almighty. Covered somehow by a metaphorical river of blood.

This was always explained as a “great mystery.” Something we could never fully understand. But “God’s ways are higher than man’s ways,” they told me. And I was forced to be satisfied with the shadows of things to come, and to trust that these shadows weren’t simply smoke and mirrors.

The same reasoning was given for how Christians should live in day-to-day life. Because salvation was an intangible concept, the worst of Christian “sins” also dealt with intangible concepts.

Like sex. Sure, folks would give lists of the tangible consequences of premarital sex, but if you questioned, if you pushed, if you broke down the tangible consequences the driving force behind them were the ideas of purity and virginity.

And what is purity? Who is pure? What makes someone a virgin…or not a virgin?

You could have sex and then become a born-again virgin. TaDa! No physical transformation required. You just pray a prayer and trust that somewhere in the world of the heavens, that magical blood is somehow covering your sins.

And what about helping the needy? Well, we feed them with God’s word. Nourish them with the scripture. We save their souls but their bodies don’t matter. No one’s do. Bodies are too real. Too solid and physical. They need to be hidden and shamed while the soul is exalted.

More shadows, being cast by a world to come, but nothing to cling to.

And when you start asking questions, they give you Faith to cling to. I never really knew what that Faith was faith of. Faith that something magical happened on the cross that we don’t understand, I guess.

But really, it’s the Faith we’re worshipping and serving. We wait. We watch. We keep ourselves pure.

But do we fight injustice? No, because we’re afraid the oppressed will take over us, the oppressors, if we give them too much freedom.

Do we feed the poor? No, Jesus said the poor will always be with us.

Do we change our world? No, because there is another world waiting for us.

Our salvation is from the horrors of spiritual death, not the pains of physical life.

When I asked, “what’s the point?” they called me unfaithful. They asked me if I was really saved, because if I was really saved I’d be satisfied with the shadows. I wouldn’t be searching for anything physical and real. I wouldn’t be craving a salvation that I could touch and see.

But didn’t Jesus pray “thy will be done on earth?” Didn’t Jesus promise us “daily bread?” Can we really keep pretending, even as we read about him filling the empty, physical bellies of thousands, that the bread he spoke of was just a Bible passage and an accompanying devotional?

If our salvation has nothing to do with this world and with these bodies, than why did God come to this world? Why did God become a body? Why did God feed bodies and heal bodies and rescue bodies from drowning in the ocean?

I think of salvation differently now. Yes, there are shadows that give me hope for a world to come. But these shadows are cast by things that are happening now. When the mighty are brought down and the weak are exalted. When the hungry are fed and the poor find justice. When the oppressed find freedom and the marginalized find love.

If the shadows that you’re grasping at aren’t being cast by something that exists here and now, how do you know you’re not being fooled? How do you know your faith is something more than just smoke, slipping through your fingers?

I want a solid salvation. One that is here. One that I become a part of, continuing Christ’s work on earth. I don’t want to wait passively and blindly for it to come to me when I die.

Today is the day of salvation.


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On the manic, dysfunctional, flaky God

Yesterday, I took a risk and finally started talking about the spiritual issues that I’ve been wrestling with for about a year now. Even though I stated that if the Baptist theology I grew up with is correct, then the Christmas story of Luke 2 is bullshit, I got mostly positive responses. In fact, I only got accused of heresy once!

So, that was encouraging. Thank you to all who responded (even you, heresy guy!).

Truth is, months before Rob Bell published his (in)famous book, Love Wins, I started questioning whether or not God could really send the majority of people to hell. And, if he could do that, how can we say that he is Love?

The trite answers no longer satisfied me. You know, things like, “God’s love is not like our love!” Well, geez, God’s love sounds a hell of a lot like hate if that’s true.

If we can know right from wrong–if the Spirit can convict us–then why does this version of God’s love seem so wrong to me?

If this is what God’s love is like, then why does the love that Jesus preached of seem like it’s antithesis? Why would he tell us to love our enemies, and then send his enemies to hell? Why would he tell us to do good to those that hate us, while punishing for all eternity those who didn’t even get a chance to know him?

Anyways, I don’t have answers for you right now. I’m still searching, praying, begging for God to show me the truth–to prove to me that he truly is good.

But it’s good to know I’m not alone. As I open up about these struggles, I find more and more people who are questioning the God that they grew up thinking they knew. I thank everyone in my life was willing to have these tough, confusing conversations with me.

I especially wanted to thank Abe Kobylanski. We’ll discuss this subject for hours on end. We’ll question and present one another with our feeble excuses for answers. We’ll cry and swear and flirt with atheism together. It’s hell, but we’re pushing through it together, and I’m thankful for his wisdom and insights.

This blog post (inspired by one of our long conversations) that he wrote last week has been especially weighing on my mind lately. I thought I’d close this blog post by sharing it:

It’s the manic, dysfunctional, flaky God view that I don’t get at all. So, God loved us all enough to send His son to die to save us from our sins (apparently, He didn’t love His son very much though). He tells us that we need to love people unconditionally. But God only loves us if we love Him. Otherwise, He becomes the Judgmental God and sends us to hell. But if we love Him, then we must follow His rules, or we’re not following Him and we’re slipping away from Him. Which means we never loved Him in the first place. Mmmkay…

Read the full post at Images and Words.