Newsflash: the Bible will hurt your feelings

Photo credit: mcaonline.org

The internet has been abuzz the last few days over the Nashville Statement, delivered from a joint conference between the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  The statement succinctly lays out a case for the sexual ethics expressed in Scripture and believed by the church since the dawn of it’s inception.

Given the contemporary mood regarding sexual identity and orientation, it’s no surprise that vitriol against the statement has splattered all over the internet in repudiation of what the statement expresses. No surprise either from those in the progressive camp that claim both Christianity and endorsement of homosexuality and transgenderism (as if the two can co-exist), a renouncement with the claim that the statement does harm to the LGBTQ community. What’s a bit more surprising is the pushback from those who for the most part affirm what the statement endorses but quibble with the impact it will have for ministering to those who claim this identity. There are other reasons cited but for the purpose of this post, I’m honing in on this particular line of reasoning.

In other words, a common thread I’ve seen from both the progressive camp and the ones who affirm the statement but have reservations is this: it will hurt the feelings of those with this identity. Put another way, being sensitive to the concerns of those who feel themselves oriented in certain directions is a pastoral concern at least, and in more unfortunate cases, a license to release people from feeling bludgeoned over their particular orientations. They should be free to live without condemnation.

Now, I get that we do need to be cognizant of struggles of same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. As Christians committed to the sexual ethics and gender identity sourced in God’s creative mandate, we do want to take a firm stand of what the church has rightfully recognized but at the same time be compassionate towards those who find contradictory tendencies within themselves when they are confronted with this reality. We don’t want to be insensitive jerks and lack compassion towards those who have to reconcile inordinate affections with what Scripture commands. I surely understand the need for pastoral care and tending towards those who at least want to do the right thing but struggle. Continue reading

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Another question: on being woke and Christian

I’ve been pecking away little by little on a follow up to my last post, Some Questions I’m Asking While Off to My White Evangelical Church. It occurred to me that there are some more questions I’ve been chewing on but didn’t get out in that post. But I also wanted to parse out the concerns I raise from real interest and needs with respect to Christian engagement with issues of social justice, for what it’s worth. My goal with all these questions is not to criticize for the sake of criticism and it’s certainly not to dismiss legitimate concerns. I wish to honestly evaluate if how we are going about the task of racial reconciliation is counterproductive to the cause of Christ’s kingdom.

In the meantime, Darrell Harrison over at Just Me Thinking wrote this fairly piercing piece, How Woke Theology is Hurting the Black Church. The heart of his concern is that present day social justice movement efforts are subordinating, if not undermining, the root of a Christian response to the ills of this world–that is, the need for redemption and forgiveness of sins through Christ. Highlighting the work and influence of James Cone, a noted Liberation theologian who Harrison believes is captivating the mood of the current discourse, Harrison writes;

The problem with “woke theology” is it emphasizes a teleology of Christianity that is one-dimensional. It does this by reducing Christianity to what Cone described as “worldly theology”. In other words, a theology whose primary raison d’etre has less to do with the spiritual redemption of a sinful people, that is, the world entire, and more with the corporeal redemption of a particular ethnic people, to whom salvation is viewed in terms of, as Cone stated, “the affirmation of black community that emancipates black people from white racism.”

A recurring thought in the black theology of James Cone is Jesus as the divine “liberator” of black people from the scourge of white oppression. It is a view which, in my mind, begs the question: why does Cone see the God of Christianity – Jesus Christ – as this great liberator and not Allah? Or the Hindu triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva? Or the Buddha? Or any other religious deity? The answer is simple, really. It is because only the gospel of Christ deals with that which gives rise to oppression to begin with – our sin.

I’ve observed that a common retort to present day social justice efforts is describing it’s adherents as embracing a social gospel and liberation theology, not holding to biblical theology or maybe not even real Christians. In other words, it’s easy to reject efforts as simply being a social gospel. To some extent, this can be true. But this low hanging fruit can become a much too easy way of dismissing sincere Christians who are looking to live out the gospel in their lives. Here is where I would caution haste assessments of what’s actually going on with the present day movement and those who espouse it, less we unjustly accuse brothers and sisters of Christ of being heretics. Continue reading

The church in the age of MLK: the culture and us

mlk_giving-speechThanks to the memory section on Facebook, an article written by Dr. Anthony Bradley popped up from two years that I shared titled The KKK, Selma, and Southern Christianity. It was a raw reflection from seeing the movie Selma but also being from the South, he knew all too well the realities that existed for black citizens especially having parents that lived through Jim Crow.

But he makes a specific point regarding the church;

As a theologian, this is where the movie became really interesting. Those who joined King were mainly Jewish, Protestant mainliners from the North, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox. Conspicuously absent were conservative Protestant evangelicals, especially those from the South. In fact, Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was the highest ranking non-black religious figure in America to join King in the Selma march. This raised several questions for me: What was different about Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions that allowed them to freely join the fight for voting rights while evangelicals chose to do nothing or join the cause to support Jim Crow? Where were the Calvinists who believed in total depravity? Where were the evangelicals? Where was Billy Graham? Where were the Jonathan Edwards fans? Where were the Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Methodists, and so on? I am asking because I do not understand.

What is it about southern evangelicalism that prevented those churches historically from seeing the plight of blacks as connected to the Gospel and the command to love God and neighbor? Maybe there is a real deep theological flaw in what is known as “evangelical theology?” Maybe the evangelicalism of the 1940s, 50s and 60s did not really understand the Gospel as clearly as many are lead to believe. I honestly do not have the answers to these questions but if evangelicals were so blinded by these issues during the Civil Rights Movement it makes me wonder what evangelicals might be missing today.

These are great questions, especially considering the fiercest defenders of segregation were evangelical Christians. A common retort that I’ve heard is that people weren’t really Christians. I think that’s a cop out. But perhaps the answers are probably more obvious and sobering than we might think. I believe the cultural forces that saw black citizens as inherently undeserving of equal rights and treatment were so permanently entrenched in the church, that Bible reading and believing folks accepted this premise without batting an eye. How else do you explain the cognitive dissonance? Continue reading

How dare those Christians use their gifts on worldly platforms

scared-crowdAfter all, we need to be salt and light. Reminds me of this submission I made to the Babylon Bee.

Church expresses growing concerns of woman entering secular accounting profession

Members of Greater Cornerstone Independent Bible Fellowship Church commit to keeping careful watch of one of the beloved members as she accepts a job in a secular firm specializing in accounting. Having long prided themselves on not watering down their Christian witness in the secular work world, some members are noticing a growing trend of Christians abandoning their beloved Christian environments to participate in works of work that doesn’t preach the gospel specifically.

“It isn’t safe,” said Bill Pederman, head deacon. “Interacting with all those numbers are bound to muddle up the faith and lure Christians into a secular mindset. What if a column of entries adds up to 16.3 instead of 3.16?” gasped Pederman weary that when specific Bible references are not made, people are likely to forget they are representing the King of Kings. Long time member, Barbara Menke added that this has a bearing on the Christian witness. “By engaging with spreadsheets that secular people make, the Christian witness can be compromised because you end up turning out a product that looks like the world.” She gasped at the prospect of losing salt with pollution of the world.   “God didn’t call us to be pepper,” she firmly insisted.

GCIBFC is assembling a committee to investigate these matters further so that the Christian witness is preserved.

I think you know what I getting at. By the way, this article Are You the Manure of the Earth from Dr. Anthony Bradley on being salt and light is a wonderful read.

On conservatives and race: do black lives really matter to the right?

black-lives-matter-super-169In my last post, I addressed an issue of priorities that drives politically conservative Christians to not only be drawn to the GOP but also feel compelled to endorse it’s candidate to uphold priorities. Specifically, I noted issues of life and traditional values and expressed the following.

These concerns are quite legitimate. We care about the rights of the unborn. And we care about the liberties granted us under the founding principles of this nation, that are to ensure freedom of worship. And so the typical response at elections is who will align with these values.

I confess that I had a particular audience in mind when penning that post, those who insist that the GOP platform is the most compatible with Christian values regardless of who their spokesperson is. For this crowd, these are concerns that are most directly linked to issues of life and morality. It is not lost on me that these priorities draw the conclusion that other concerns Christians care about don’t matter. These would be issues that have been under the lens, particularly with with the emergence of Black Lives Matter–issues of racism, policing, criminal justice, education, and poverty. These are issues of life and morality as well, which weigh heavier on people of color. For this reason, a major criticism of the right, and primarily Republicans, is that there is a disinterest and disregard for the concerns of minorities. Some will even label the Republican Party racist.

I do think there is some validity to this criticism. The elevation of abortion, religious freedom, and same-sex marriage has been a traditional platform of the Christian Right, made prominent in the 1980s with the so-called moral majority. Let’s be honest about who this movement represented: white Protestant America. Continue reading