Women Against Feminism

So Women Against Feminism is trending on social media. Not too long ago there was a group on Facebook for Nurses Against Vaccines. During World War II, there were Jews that supported Hitler. After the Israelites escaped Egypt, there was a movement to go back to Egyptian slavery. There is always a movement some where on Earth that wants to go back to slavery, because it is familiar to those that promote it. You can always find those that are so scared of redefining social norms that they would rather stick with slavery because they know what to expect. Even if those expectations are of oppression.

ecclesia-extraneus-avatarSo, yeah I could care less who you get to support your cause. The bigger question is: do they actually know what on earth they are doing and saying? Because the whole #WomenAgainstFeminism thing is full of such bad logic and misunderstandings of what feminism is that I am almost convinced that The Onion is behind the whole thing. If you are going to stand against something, at least know it well enough to not become a parody.

At Least I am Not as Bad as This Illegal Alien

So illegal aliens are bad people because they broke the law intentionally. Or so we are told by people that break speed limits, watch porn at work, and download songs without paying for them online.

And what happens when these people get caught breaking the law in any way? They feel their reason for breaking these laws are justified. Police officers should let them off with a warning, their boss should give them a second chance, and the greedy music business is ripping artists off… so these people are justified in breaking the law and aren’t criminals at all.

Of course, who cares that these illegal immigrants thought they had a good reason for sneaking into the country. Who cares that they don’t feel they are criminals at all. White Christian Americans are usually the ones speaking out the most about illegal immigration, usually with the harshest rhetoric. And usually on Facebook or Twitter or other online sites, meaning they have Internet access and therefore will probably make more money than any illegal immigrant ever will.

Sure, its easy to point fingers at illegal immigrants when, as an American, you can move almost anywhere in the world with no problem at all. Who is going to turn away an American? Almost no country will. As an American, you can find the resources to look for a job anywhere in the world, and probably get a credit card or moving expenses to move where ever you want. Because most countries don’t have restrictions on how many Americans can move and work there.

But when the country you live in is falling apart and the one country you can move to that isn’t falling apart is closed to you – what choice do you think they have?

Now, I’m not trying to gloss over illegal immigration. It causes serious problems. People are breaking the law. But for us to be so calloused, so hard, so flat out cruel in our response to illegal immigrants… I don’t get that. These are real people that just want a chance to make a better life for themselves. If it is okay for you to break the speed limit and still be treated with some human dignity, then maybe you should turn around and have some compassion for others.

ecclesia-extraneus-avatarMost of the responses I am seeing from the extreme right on this issue shows that they have no compassion for illegal aliens as people. I’m not even sure they really see them as full people. Thankfully God does. Do you realize that God sees no difference between anyone reading this and anyone sneaking across the border now? Think about that a bit before you post that meme about how evil illegals are.

God Will Not Be Mocked

You have probably heard this statement (or one like it) end many a religious debate on social media, usually spoken by a conservative evangelical fundamentalist to a liberal or progressive Christian they have been disagreeing with: “God will not be mocked, and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.”

Other versions of this statement also include people being accused of being everything from a heretic to a false convert.

The biggest problem with this statement is that is true for both conservatives and liberals. Both sides do not want to mock God by misrepresenting His Words with their felt desires. The difference is not is dedication to Truth or honesty, but in what counts as “felt desires” and what counts as “unchangeable Truth.”

Whether the topic is marriage or Science or modesty or guns or abortion or you name it, both sides are intensely concerned with accurately representing Truth on the matter in a way that does not make a mockery of God. However, both sides have reached different conclusions as to what that accurate representation is.

ecclesia-extraneus-avatarAnd that is the crux of the problem. We are not Truth. God is Truth. Our words are not Truth. His words are Truth. And even when we are quoting the red letters of the Bible, we are often still quoting words that are translated imperfectly from older languages that are sometimes difficult to translate into modern languages. So the next time you pick up the stones of “false convert” or “heretic” or “mocking God” or “giving in to felt desires”…. try to remember God’s position on those that pick up stones to use against others that they don’t agree with. And then take a good dose of humbling reality when realizing that Jesus defended the theologically incorrect person in that story.

When Your Gospel is Technically Warlike Propaganda for Klingon Christians

I’ll be honest… I’m not sure what to think about the concept of #anothergospel. I have great respect for those that do believe in it and are promoting it and I get where they come from. I often look at the words of some people and smack my forehead and wonder “are they reading the same words of Jesus that I am?”

But if I draw a line between others and myself and say “you believe another gospel”… then do I lose any right to tell them that they are wrong? Is it then akin to me telling a Muslim that they are living their gospel wrong? Its a different one, so I can’t say much since I am an outsider. I’m not sure, because I am wrestling with one aspect.

I want to be at a place where I can say “no, that is not what we should be doing or saying if we call ourselves a Christian.” A lot of that has to do with my social constructivist ontology, where I believe that many truths are determined by social discourse. This kind of discourse involved people proposing ideas and then all interested parties get to express agreement and disagreement and various sides are debated and revised until consensus is reached. For example, it is absolutely true that the Bible teaches us that God is Love and to take a stand for Truth no matter the cost. However, how that works out in daily life is the realm of social constructivism.

So, when someone says that you have to do or believe ____ in order to follow a God of love, I bristle up a little bit if that blank contains anything that is not a basic scriptural quote. To add standards to the words of God that were never spoken by God can completely demean other people by reducing them to “others” who have to live up to those other standards or else.

One group that I have extreme concerns about are the Southern Baptists. Any time the issue of gay marraige is brought up, they resort to warlike imagery. Just look at the words used in this article: retreat, condemn, revolt, stories from the Old Testament about kings determining whether to go to war or not, you name it. These kinds of stances have led many to adopt the term Klingon Christian for these types of views that focus on war and protecting honor at all costs. There is a difference between standing for truth and drawing up dividing lines.

“Standing for Truth” recognizes that translating centuries-old words in ancient languages requires a huge dose of humility and willingness to accept other translations as valid.

“Drawing dividing lines” accuses people of taking a “surgeon’s scalpel to the Word of God” (when that very process had to happen just to get an English translation period).

“Standing for Truth” means truly understanding everyone’s viewpoint before even attempting to criticize.

“Drawing dividing lines” promotes misunderstandings of any opposing side by conflating issues (for example, those that support gay marriage also deny the virgin birth – often not true)

“Standing for Truth” means being careful to not take scripture out of context.

“Drawing dividing lines” will only quote the part of scripture that is convenient for the point and forgetting the rest. For example, accusing liberal Christians of saying “Has God really said?” about certain issues, but forgetting that this quote in Genesis was followed by a completely twisted false statement by the serpent and not an honest question by someone that really wanted to know what the Truth.

But I do agree with Russel Moore on one point: “quite frankly, we have no one to blame but ourselves since, for too long, too many of us have tolerated among us those who have substituted a cheap and easy false gospel for the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Unfortunately, I don’t think Moore gets that he is the one that has substituted a cheap and easy Gospel for the real one, that he is the one that is denying that there is judgement coming for those that incorrectly translated God’s words and shames those who want an honest dialogue about it, that he is driving as many people away from the Church as he accuses liberalism of doing (if you read studies that are based on unbiased observers and not the inflated numbers reported by most churches). I just wouldn’t use the term “false” in front of Gospel in this case because it too often becomes a straw man argument when the issue being labeled “false gospel” is technically part of the gospel at all.

ecclesia-extraneus-avatarSo is that another gospel? I don’t know if it is “gospel” at all as much as it is propaganda. So I guess at another level I am struggling with the concern that it gives these ideas too much gravity by referring to them as a gospel at all. “Another gospel” might imply that it is a “different but equal” gospel. But if “another” to you means “substitute”, then I can see that. For me, I want to call it what it is: “warlike propaganda for Klingon Christians.”

Lines, Labels, Signs, and Wonders

As an educator, I realize that we need labels. We can’t understand new ideas or concepts until we can label them and connect them with knowledge we already have. That’s kind of the basis for the idea of constructivism – a school of thought that examines how knowledge is constructed rather than downloaded.

The problem is, these labels are meant to be the beginning of knowledge, so you have a way to start organizing the chaos of the world around you.

The problem with our society is that we are creating a backwards culture that sees these labels as the end, final descriptor rather than the beginning. We ask questions not to further understand and refine, but to classify which predetermined box we want to put people in once and for all.

So these labels that we should use as a starting point for understanding become an ending point of division. We know this is wrong and that we should rage against these divisions, but we often don’t know why.

Maybe it is because we are devolving, walking backwards into something as if it should be a final destination, when it really should just be a beginning… cementing labels as facts when they really should be launch pads that are quickly discarded?

So really its not the labels that are wrong, but the backwards way we utilize them in society.

And I get how annoying these lines and labels can be, especially when used cruelly or with weird intentions. But to sit back and say “if you believe this, then you are different from me” just gives in and strengthens this backwards system. The more we point out how different or other we are from each other, the more we cause our world to shatter and divide. Labels are supposed to be a way to build bridges, not divide our selves into “my” camp and “another” camp.

ecclesia-extraneus-avatarSo I guess what I am getting at is that there are ways to point out differences in ways that build bridges and understanding and community, and there are ways to label and draw battle lines and separate ourselves from those we call “another.” Left, right, conservative, progressive – we all do both and have a choice to stop doing one while focusing on the other. Which direction will you choose to go with your differences?

Why Are So Many Evangelical Leaders Clueless?

You might have noticed a post called “Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins” by Jonathan Parnell making the rounds today. This post is the latest in what I call the “Piper Pattern” that almost all writers associated with Desiring God blog or the Gospel Coalition unfortunately fall in to: create false black and white sides to an issue, take down both of these straw-man arguments, and then argue that you have the first true “third way” (all the while ignoring that viable third, fourth, tenth, even twentieth and fiftieth ways already exist).

Parnell starts right off the bat by saying that “homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.” Of course, ignoring all of the mountains of research that prove that people who are of any sort of LGBT persuasion face more bullying, more discrimination, and more rejection than any other group. Apparently, moderate displays of decent LGBT characters on a few semi-popular TV shows now counts as “larger society.”

Next, Parnell decides to speak for all Christians – a task that even Paul was not willing to do (see Romans 14) when the church was in its infancy and it might have been possible to do so: “As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God.” The problem is, there are many gay Christians that have been advancing the Kingdom of God, even leading many, many people back to Christianity (just read the comments section on anything associated with the Gay Christian Network).

Then Parnell says “The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against.” This is very true…. but it is also true of the Christians that believe that homosexuality is not a sin. Most of them are not walking around going “I know its a sin but I don’t care.” They believe so deeply in the problem of sin that they don’t want to call something a sin that isn’t. People like Parnell might not agree with that, but they at least need to be honest about what the issue really is.

So then Parnell starts to create his false black and white straw man sides. “There are the growing numbers, under great societal pressure, who praise homosexuality. We might call them the left.” Here’s the crazy thing about “societal pressure”: most people related to this issue don’t have to deal with it, if the numbers of people who are LGBT are true. Most people, like me, don’t really know that many people that are gay or transgendered or bisexual or anywhere else on the spectrum. Therefore, there is no one in our face trying to make us change our mind (and I am sorry, but intense media coverage or constant postings and arguments on Facebook do not qualify as societal pressure since most people don’t change their minds due to any of it). No one has ever pressured me on this issue. Most people I know who are LGBT never speak up about the issue. Those that do now live in states where they have marriage equality. No one has been in my face about the issue. I could easily just think “homosexuality is a sin” and keep it to myself and there would be no problems in my life. However, I have this nagging issue of respecting any written word enough to be completely honest with what it says, regardless of whether or not I agree with it or if it fits my personal outlook on life.

The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate.” Has Parnell actually been following the debate? Its never binary. What rock does this statement come from under? Technically, it is usually those on the “right” (as Parnell describes it) that bring the concept of “hate” into the conversation. Many times when they get accused of doing something “unloving”, they are the ones that say “how dare you accuse me of hate!” I see it happen all the time. For example, I could point out how it is not loving to mis-characterize and oversimplify the two sides in this debate. That is not saying it is hate. That is just saying that Parnell’s approach is not loving. If I were to say that exact statement, many of my right-side friends would scream :how dare you accuse me of hate!” How do I know this? Because it has happened many, many times. I’m not throwing out a theory here. I am recounting actual events.

Where is Parnell not being loving? With statements like this: “Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate homosexual practice, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure.”  You see, many of us have so much respect for the Bible that we are not collapsing under societal pressure, but rather investigating for ourselves and finding that it is in no way clear about this issue. There have been thousands of blog posts, comments, and books written about this very respect, yet Parnell chooses to either be ignorant of all of that or just wants to flat out misrepresent a side that he doesn’t agree with. That may or not be hate in your book, but it is not loving.

But Parnell is right in saying that homosexuality is not like other sins. Interesting tidbit about the word “homosexual” from Wikipedia:

“The first known appearance of homosexual in print is found in an 1869 German pamphlet by the Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny, published anonymously,[29] arguing against a Prussian anti-sodomy law.[29][30] In 1886, Richard von Krafft-Ebing used the terms homosexual and heterosexual in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. Krafft-Ebing’s book was so popular among both laymen and doctors that the terms “heterosexual” and “homosexual” became the most widely accepted terms for sexual orientation.[31][32] As such, the current use of the term has its roots in the broader 19th-century tradition of personality taxonomy.”

So how did the word jump from the first century writings of Paul over 1800 years of society to never again be used until 1869? Well, that’s because it was never in the Bible in the first place. Where you see it used in the Bible currently is problematic. Paul was using some Greek words that are difficult to translate, with one even being a word he might have made up. The words that he does use are much more complex and sinister than our modern day word “homosexual”. You can read this post for a more detailed look at the difficulty many scholars have had in translating those words. Unfortunately, most translators caved to societal pressures themselves and used the word “homosexual” because they didn’t want to rock the boat in their own church circles. Either that, or their bias was so great that it blinded them to the inherent problems in the original Greek in the first place.

ecclesia-extraneus-avatarNone of this necessarily has to change your views on what the Bible calls sin, but it should at least show you that those who use the word “clear” to describe this topic do not respect the Bible enough to be honest about the complexities of the issue and therefore should not be writing about the debate. And that those of us that say that a Christian can be gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual are not necessarily caving to social pressure in any way. We are just trying to take Romans 14 seriously.