I Dare you.

Osama bin Laden is dead; New York celebrates a...
Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via Flickr

Why not love if you have the option between that and hate?  Why does hate come so easily?  Why judge? Or condemn?  Why is it that Christians so often are known for how they judge others?

Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers.

But we don’t bring peace.  We rejoice in someone’s suffering.  Bin Laden is dead!

We wish for more for us which means less for them, who ever they are.

We can only think of our own needs.  We groan about the price of gas and our grocery bill, when others have to take public transport and go to bed hungry.  Often living with fear and financial insecurity.  Have no home.  Have nothing.

Why can’t we love more tenderly?  I dare you.  I dare you to love today.  Be a peacemaker. Hold your tongue.

The world is waiting for us to love, in Jesus’ name.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate.  In fact, violence merely increases hate….Returning violence for violence multiples violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Just love.

Why not?

I dare you.

Not everyone is a white male, with all access!

A friend sent me this article in Christianity Today, because of what I wrote yesterday, mentioning Rob Bell.  Upfront, it asked:

“Do you think it is wrong for Rob Bell to question traditional views of heaven and hell? Answer: I don’t care. Do you think it is wrong for traditionalist writers to label Rob Bell a universalist? Answer: I don’t care.
Do you think it is wrong for every Christian with an iPhone to tweet their answers to the above questions from restaurant bathrooms and then go home and blog about it? Answer: Now there’s an interesting question.

Of course, we care about the doctrines of heaven and hell.  As Bell reminds when I heard him interviewed on Good Morning America what we think about heaven and hell informs what we believe about God and how we understand what it means to respond to the suffering around us, here and now.  Informs how we live out heaven and hell right now.  And it informs what to think about injustice here and now.  And that I agree with.

Oh, a controversy was stirred and it will sell a bunch of books and Rob Bell will survive to preach another Sunday.  But I don’t really care.  In How social media changed theological debate, the author John Dyer goes on to say something MORE IMPORTANT.   In fact the more I think about it, it is critical to this conversation.

But my response is different than Dyer’s.

Dyer says:

“Throughout the history of public theological debate, there was one constant—those debates only took place between a few select people—Moses, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and so on—who gained respect through a lifetime of scholarship….In pre-2004 Christianity (that is, Christianity before Facebook was invented), only a small group of Christian leaders and teachers had access to the printing press—but today everyone has WordPress. In pre-2004 Christianity it was difficult to become a published author, but today everyone is surrounded by dozens of “Publish” buttons.”

He is gravely concerned with the quality of the debate.  The quality of the conversation, teaching and writing on-line because with the advent of WordPress any ol’ person can express themselves.  And I would never argue against a need for quality conversation or scholarship! But that doesn’t answer a more important question of who is writing and teaching?

The culture is changing rapidly.  Books are becoming less relevant, though I for one will always buy and read books printed on paper.  Even so, yesterday I found myself longing for a Kindle because there was a book I wanted to read immediately!  The church needs to catch up to the immediacy of our culture and how it communicates.

Many pastors still do not Tweet or have a Facebook account.  Mine does not and I am sure it is not just because it is too hot — unpredictable — with much opportunity for people to misinterpret.  It’s also time consuming.  And mentally degrading to clarity of thought. If you are working all week to compose your thoughts on a particular topic for a sermon, it can’t be helpful to constantly be distracted by multiple media.  And yet, hipster pastors are online frequently and do these things.  As do many of the younger pastors in my church.  I am sure they spend much more time and energy than they would like thinking about what’s wise to say or not say.

The fact is one thing hasn’t changed, even as the culture does, our need to use restraint, to respond with maturity and self-control .  These are things that one would wish Piper and others had, even when tweeting.  Our words still matter!  Our heart, mind and soul — even more so than in the pre-Facebook age — is out there for the world to scour over!

Here’s what is most important to me about this conversation.

This new social media gives power to people of color and women — to those that have traditionally had less access to theological education, opportunities for preaching, teaching, and writing and getting published. (Even the homeless.)

So while I applaud Dyer’s thoughts about who should speak, teach and write in the specific situation, one must remember that not everyone is a white, male with all access to publishers, to power and to influence.  Yes, everyone needs to exercise restraint when it comes to social media.  But the new social frontier gives a voice to those of us who have traditionally been kept out of the conversation, the board room, seminaries, and these voices and viewpoints need to be heard in these critical times.

Why is it that each book suggested at church for extra reading in the last year was written by a white man?  Or that almost every song sung on Christian radio, and thus in churches, has a man singing or writing it?  Or that all the elders at my church are men?  And the teaching team is all men? Why are conferences full of Godly Christian men, with perhaps one female or person of color, MAYBE?  Why?

So, my response to John Dyer is “You may knock blogs because the level of thinking isn’t on the level of Moses and Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and so on … well, have patience!

  • Until the brick and mortar institutions change for women and people of color, we need places like the internet in order to be heard.
  • Until you or I can name a Latino or Latina or African-American or female theologian or two, as quickly as you can think of NT Wright or J.I. Packer or John Piper we need the internet in order to be heard.
  • Until my pastor can name an up and coming female pastor or theologian, as readily as whatever man is on the tip of his lips, we still need this medium to bring change
  • I believe until it is just as commonplace to hear the perspective of a woman or a person of color in your life we need the internet in order to bring change. It is messy, and imperfect, but it gives access. 
I would not have my story published if it were not for connections made on-line. 

Shalom!

Melody

Here’s what I said yesterday.

—————–

In Defense of Women.  This was interesting and not just because he mentioned me.  It relates to not having women’s voices as a part of “the conversation.

I think I’ve got March Madness!

I think I’ve got March madness, and it isn’t about basketball.

It’s been such a strange week already.  I feel exhausted and I can’t identify exactly why.  It cannot simply be the time loss or the season changing.  It’s March and so for Wisconsin that means lots of sunshine.  Lots of slush.  There is an anticipation in the air but there is still snow on the ground.   I went for a walk earlier today in shorts and snow boots!

The highs and lows of late are stunning and I do not mean the weather.  It’s international woman’s week and I was going to write about that.  Perhaps I still will.  I’ve stopped and started several posts.  Taken lots of photographs.  Thought, prayed and dreamed about the future.

Here are few things I’ve been thinking about — being an artist & a Christian, politics in Madison, Rob Bell and what that has to do with the future of women in ministry in the evangelical church, my baby turning ten, and getting a job.  And lent.

Artist Showcase @ Blackhawk

Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed participating in a showcase of artists at our church. We, along with more than fifty other artists,  expressed how we love and are loved in the context of the community of Blackhawk Church and beyond into our Madison community.  It was so rich with the many expressions of God at work in people’s lives in song, spoken word and visual art including a dance!  It was a very powerful time for me.  I’m glad artists have a platform in the body of Christ for their gifts to be used.   I think many times artists do not know exactly what our place in the church is or might be.

by Kortney Kaiser

Politics in Madison

The whole political shenanigans in Wisconsin is exhausting.  So many folk are pitted against one another, the national media is saying strange and untruthful things.  The demonstrations have been peaceful while the rhetoric is grinding and vitriolic.  It’s troubling.  Hard to know how to be loving in the midst of what feels like grave injustice and oppression of the poor.  I have a lot of images here.

I want to lead a book group at my church for people interested reading and talking about women’s roles in ministry, but I was turned down.

I understand.  How can you read books about women in ministry without it becoming theological?  And well, as I don’t speak for my church and this isn’t something they want to get into “right now.”  So therefore, I can’t do the group.   I was choosing the wrong format for what I wanted to do anyway which though Tom says is “nurture a small revolution” that is not completely true.  Yes and no.  But yes, kind of.

So Iwill keep praying about how to move the titanic of conservative belief along.

I’ve started to think there’s little hope for women to preach, teach and lead within evangelical church denominations.

This last week it was as I learned about the controversy with Rob Bell. If you don’t know about him, and I didn’t until a few months ago, he’s what the New York Times calls “one of the country’s most influential evangelical pastors” and he comes highly recommended by a few people in my church.  He pastors Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., with 10,000 members.  If he sounds like a Christian celebrity, it’s because he is.  I watched him online.  He is a hipster with groovy dark glasses and a lanky look.  They say hundreds of thousands follow him online.

Anyway. Bell’s new book, Love Wins, looks at the doctrines of salvation, heaven and hell.  He may have said something about Gandhi and hell inferring that a loving God wouldn’t send Gandhi to hell, or something.  Prominent Christians that you would know by name have denounced him with the double criticism of universalist and unbiblical. Here’s the crazy part — no one had read the book.  It came out on Monday.   And yet conservative authorities like John Piper, wrote, “Farewell Rob Bell.” on Twitter.

As one blogger said:

“These knee-jerk reactions, at least to my mind, are unhelpful and reveal just how narrow many people’s understanding of Christianity really is. It is amazing to me that people will hold so tenaciously to their own particular Christian tradition of understanding that when they encounter ideas that fall outside it they are viewed as non-Christian or threatening. The truth is that Christian “tradition” is a much wider river than many people are willing to acknowledge they are swimming in.”  (Emphasis mine.)

There are so many variety of Christians.  I know, the word of God says what it does.  But we all read it within a context, coming from different cultures and well, he goes on.

Are you a mystic?  Try reading John’s gospel, the book of Ephesians, Julian of Norwich,  Meister Eckhart or Bernard of Clairvaux’s commentary on the Song of Solomon.  Are you concerned with social justice?  Try Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Luke’s gospel, John Chrysostom, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Theresa.  Do you have a penchant for ritual and structure? Look at the book of Hebrews, the Didache, the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, and large portions of the Orthodox and Catholic traditions.  Are you philosophically minded?  So were Paul, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Gregory of Nyssa, Thomas Aquinas, and Alvin Plantinga (to name a few).  Do you have existentialist leanings?  Try Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky and maybe even Augustine.  Do you struggle with the concept of hell?  So did the early Christian writers Origen and Evagrius (among others up to the present).  Are you a pacifist?  So was Menno Simons…and Jesus.  All of these writers and thinkers considered themselves Christians. All of them were “biblical” insofar as they read the Bible and used it as the foundation for their theology, philosophy and lives. All of them came to different conclusions on many issues.”

Okay Jesus and Paul didn’t read the Bible, but the greater point I’ve thought is, if a Christian celebrity and pastor, clear leader of a new generation of believers, can’t express his thoughts on a controversial topic without being branded unbiblical, what hope is there for women?

For Christian feminist thinkers.  For theologins who are outside the mainstream? Who is speaking, teaching, studying, influencing, changing minds about women in such a way that mainstream evangelicalism responds?  Just wondering.

If you wonder what I’m talking about?  See this from John Piper on women.  It’s stunning in its subtlety about the role of women in the church.

I applied for a job today.

And after ten years out of the workplace that’s revolutionary on many levels no matter if I get it or not.   It is with a Christian organization so I was asked to share my faith journey and this is what I wrote.

“My parents were missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators and later with InterVarsity.  As Christ followers they raised me with Christian values and as much as I understood it, I committed my life to Christ in high school and was baptized.   In my twenties and thirties I was doing and serving – willingly and happily – but it was not until my forties that I faced that I had not received God’s grace fully nor allowed it to transform me.

This may be because my home life was extremely dysfunctional with a rigid, angry, controlling father.  A series of things converged including hard work in therapy, my father dying, leaving full-time ministry and the recovery work of alcohol addiction.  Over a period of ten years God pried open my heart and began to teach me about his incredible life altering grace.  It was through these experiences, as difficult and mortifying as they were, that I have come to recognize that I had to face my disappointment with my parents — and forgive.  Gratefully, I can say that all of this, including the addiction to alcohol drove me to my knees, to the cross.  At one time, I was puffed up with my own importance but through this learned and gained a real understanding Christ’s broken body.

I believe we must trust while serving, not knowing the future.  Trust that we have a contribution to make.  Today I am grateful and full of hope that I am becoming a person useful to God again.  I am humbled by how my story and my experiences sometimes minister to others, as I am willing to be open.

Today, my faith is grounded in the grace of God.  I do have daily disciplines of study, prayer, and constant seeking, but I rest in the knowledge of Jesus and what he did for me — Yes giving his life so that I may also live.  I am no longer a slave to doing, but rather serve out of joy and passion for telling others what Christ has done for me.

Moving into the Lenten season it is good to remember what’s truly important.  What was it again?  Kidding.  Read the prayer I sent out a few days ago.  That’ll prioritize your heart, and mine.

Other things in March.  My baby turned ten. 

A few misc. images from March.


Be well,

Melody

“Your words were found and I ate them,
And your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”

Jeremiah 15:16

Kathleen Falsani in the Huff Post on Rob Bell.