Monthly Archives: October 2022

“Christianity has a masculine feel…”

Thus spake John Piper, the wise. It makes me sad. There is a new religion that has entered through the American revivalists over the decades, and it isn’t Christianity. It is a religion of power, authority, money, influence and control. Its ugly babies are abuse, rape, violence, racism, and oppression.

This “religion” has a “masculine feel” – which is now defined as Christians taking dominion, conquering wives, controlling children, taking over counties, states, and eventually countries. (I believe that masculinity is a gift of God that can be used for much good, but that is another subject.)

It snuck in stealthily and some of us didn’t really wake up to it recently. And many, like me, have asked since “What happened to Christianity? How did it turn in to power and politics and hatred and blustering. How did it turn into abuse and oppression and coverup? How did the dynamic of authority and submission come to take the place of the gospel? What happened to the good news that the church was commissioned to proclaim?”

How could we have gotten it so wrong? Many have written on it and have done well. Most of them have been cast out of their churches, received death threats and suffered all sorts of abuse. All that does is prove the validity of the question. “When did Christianity turn into something so unlike itself?”

This is a blog. It isn’t a book. It is a short commentary designed to encourage thought. So I would like to simply modify Piper’s statement to something a little more Biblical, and leave it at that. If you like, you can compare these statements to Piper’s statement and determine for yourself, if you are willing to do so. Perhaps the answer to the question, “How did we get here?” might spring up in your mind.

Instead of saying, “Christianity has a masculine feel”, look at these nine more biblical alternatives:

“Christianity has a lover’s embrace feel” (Song of Songs)

“Christianity has a mothering hen and sheltering chicks feel” (Matthew 23:37)

“Christianity has a begging widow feel” (Luke 18:1-8)

“Christianity has a dying beggar feel” (Luke 16:20-21)

“Christianity has a babies and nursing infants feel” (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 21:16)

“Christianity has a big, warm, lying in each other’s arms feel” (Luke 15:20; John 13:23)

“Christianity has a desperate, helpless sinner feel” (Luke 18:13)

“Christianity has a hopeless prisoner, outcast, despised, mourning, fringe kind of feel” (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19).

“Christianity has a safe, belonging, peaceful, nourishing, apron-wearing, serving one another kind of feel” (so, so, so many passages John 13; Romans 8; Revelation 20-21; Isaiah 2; Zephaniah 3)

There are probably many more, and the difference is crucial. There are those who have power, who are masculine in every cultural sense of the word; there are those who are in charge, who have money, who sit on thrones, who rule their houses, who have resources, time, authority and status…

But that isn’t Christianity. If you have those things, you must consider them all to be dung, be willing to give them all away, learn to wear an apron, become as a nursing child or begging widow, or you are, quite honestly, not worthy of Christ’s name. Nor are you worthy to use any of the power that God has given you until you first learn to lay it aside and take up an apron.

But on the other hand, those on the fringes, those who are unclean, those who are weak, beggars, cast-aways, despised, hated, thirsty, longing for love and for embrace and for belonging and safety, Jesus is speaking to YOU.

“Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

Not “and I will teach you to be manly”

Not “and I will teach you how to have power over people”

Not “and I will teach you what you have to do to earn favor with God”

But “I will give you rest.”

I have heard that according to Babylonian mythology, the gods created humans because they needed workers.

God did not create us because he needed workers in his kingdom. He created us to rest in his bosom. He created us free to create, to plant, to reap, to sing, to dance, to rejoice in the love of the Holy Trinity, into which we have been sweetly drawn in by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we turn it into a “masculine feel” of conquest, authority, power, control, we always end up in some truly ugly places.

Stop the idolatry of Babel, resurrected as Christian nationalism. Learn to rest in the bosom of the shepherd.

James 3:17–18 (NKJV)
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That can only happen when we learn how to rest in God’s love and stop trying to control everyone or make them our servants. Learn to wear the apron. Learn to rest in the embrace. Long for the lover’s voice. This is Christianity.

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Cancel Culture and Lessons from Assyria

Isaiah 8:6–8 (NKJV)
6 “Inasmuch as these people refused The waters of Shiloah that flow softly, And rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son;
7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them The waters of the River, strong and mighty— The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels And go over all his banks.
8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.

The nation of Judah was threatened by surrounding nations. They looked to make a treaty with Assyria to protect themselves and their way of life.

Isaiah was sent to warn them of the dangers of this path. This section begins in chapter 7, for the whole context.

But Judah’s king, Ahaz, did not believe Isaiah’s words. He would not trust in the Lord or the Lord’s covenant. He refused a sign, for his mind was already made up.

He would not rest in God’s promise and God’s provision. Instead, he would trust in human power, armies, wealth, kings and nations.

God’s promises and God’s instructions were like the gentle moving waters of Shiloah (later called “Siloam”, see John 9). Gentle water washes and refreshes. It quenches thirst and gives peace. Sitting quietly by a gentle spring of water calms the soul.

It is a beautiful metaphor for God’s promise of a redeemer. Immanuel, God with us! This promise cannot fail for who can stop the creator of heaven and earth from fulfilling his word?

If Ahaz had simply rested in God’s promise and learned to quiet his soul, he would not have sold himself and his nation into the hands of the Assyrian army. Assyria would not stop. They would destroy everything in their path and consume all who stood in their way.

They were like a huge, destructive flood, crushing everything in its path.

But Ahaz would not listen. From his day on, Israel would never be independent again. They would be subject to nation after nation up until Rome, when Jesus would set up his kingdom just as the prophets foretold.

But here is the point. When we refuse to listen to the gentle voice of the promise and the instructions of God, eventually God will use the Assyrian armies to get the attention of his people. God uses tyrants to call his people to repentance before it is too late.

When we refuse to heed the voice of the gentle waters, the waters of the destructive flood have their way of compelling us.

This brings me to another thing I’ve been thinking about. Cancel culture.

We used to call it “politically correct speech”. If you say the wrong words, the consequences can be dire. I just read of another minister kicked off Twitter because of his incorrect speech about gender dysphoria. He, of course, blames it on “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, but I think the cause is deeper.

For decades we have accepted reviling speech against anyone we deem “enemies”. Whether it is the LGBTQ community, or liberal theologians, or people who support the wrong candidate, or those who speak out for social justice, or promote CRT, we (as the church) use the most degrading and hateful speech imaginable.

I guess we consider it fair game, because the objects of our derision are so “objectionable”. We justify it to ourselves by saying that these sorts of people will rob us of our place and our nation and we have to put a stop to it.

As a sideline, I know that reviling speech is prevalent on every side of political debate. But my whole life I have been a member of the conservative church and I voted Republican until 2016, so my great love and my great concern are for my own tribe.

Who am I to call out those who are outside of my experience and my knowledge? I will leave that to others.

Another side note, I know that not EVERYONE uses reviling speech against “enemies”, but I know that mostpeople sit silently and say by their inaction that this sort of communication is acceptable.

They might not agree with revilers and the language that they use, but they listen to their radio broadcasts, give money to their ministries, buy their books, read their blogs, vote them into office, and smile quietly to themselves at their silly “antics”.

And it is easy to forget how much God HATES reviling speech, contemptuous mocking, ridicule, name-calling and the hatred that so easily fills the heart.

God has spoken quietly to us with faithful preaching, gentle rebukes from the pulpits, the reading of scripture, the outpouring of the Spirit (aptly described in scripture as cleansing water) – and the church mocked, scoffed, and justified their speech as necessary for “culture warriors” in dangerous times.

We looked the other way as “pastors” reviled women with revolting and hateful words. We held our tongues as they scoffed at their neighbors and insulted opponents. We voted for politicians who “own the libs”. And we stood silently by as the church forgot that the LGBTQ community is also made up of image bearers of God.

We called those “pastors” wordsmiths, culture warriors, and passed around their words and shared their blogs tearing fellow humans to shreds with the most degrading language possible, because – we said to ourselves – we are at war for our place and our nation.

And forgot that God hates it.

    22      “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
     For scorners delight in their scorning,
     And fools hate knowledge.

And we rejected the gentle waters of Shiloah.

So now we have the flood of Cancel Culture. God sends tyrants to gain the attention of those he loves, to bring them to repentance.

So I would make the following suggestion. Instead of railing against “cancel culture” as an enemy of righteousness, take it as an opportunity to correct your speech patterns.

Use words of life, and not death. Don’t join in angry scoffing and scorn against people you disagree with. Put off name-calling and ridicule. Learn to listen to others with an open mind.

View your neighbor with compassion instead of contempt. Turn off all who cause unrest and stir up strife. Pray for those who disagree with you. Look at your neighbors and coworkers NOT as commodities to be used to fill your empty places at church, but as human beings with their own thoughts, experiences, journeys, tragedies and pains that they carry with them.

And remember that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy and peace…and there aren’t any laws against those things, nor can there be.

And also, please note that I am NOT saying that our spirit of cancel culture is a good thing. In many ways, it is exactly like the tyranny of the Assyrian king, and great injustices have been done. We also should do what we can to have compassion on those who have been brutally “canceled” and refuse to play those wicked games ourselves.

My only suggestion is that perhaps we view it as an opportunity to learn better ways of communicating ourselves and repent of those times we have used words to hurt and cancel others.

This, I believe, is a more biblical approach to the cruelty of tyranny.

My two bits.

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Filed under Image of God, Love, Words

9 things (October 13)

Some beatings take longer to recover from. Beatings accompanied by ill-will administered by those one mistook for friends are the hardest ones.

I know it has been several months since I have written. The day may come when I can talk about it. Today isn’t that day.

I was looking for 4 gallon water jugs for my dispenser. They were not in their usual spot at Sam’s. I checked several other aisles. I found an employee and asked her. She said, “Did you check the furniture aisle?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Did you happen to notice if there were any there?” I gawped. Paused. I think she understood what she just asked. It will come to her in the middle of the night when the movie of her life runs through her head.

I sympathize with her. I often speak before I think. Maybe I want to be just as surprised as you are at what comes out of my mouth. I don’t know where I read that, but I felt it deeply.

The beatings mentioned above are even harder to recover from when they were administered for the sole purpose of hurting you.

They reviled Jesus by calling him scornfully a “friend of sinners”. We should ask ourselves how he conducted himself around sinners to keep getting invited to their feasts.

Normalize going a whole day without telling someone what you think is wrong with them.

How did we get here? How did the church devolve into this? We are suspicious of compassion, of joy, of rejoicing, of laughter, of love, of empathy, of tears, of emotions…the only thing we aren’t suspicious of is the false doctrine that takes away our humanity and the possibility of redemption. We’ve turned into cold slaves, offering our heartless service to an angry God, trying to convince him to get off our backs by rebuking everyone around us. It isn’t working.

When we think that the blessing of God is connected to how well other people are keeping the law, we become heartless, cruel, suspicious, restless, angry and vindictive. Maybe we should strive to be known as the friends of sinners, rather than the inquisitors of sinners.

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