Indiana Law and Holy Week

Indiana Law and Holy Week

Before heading to Palm Sunday service this past Sunday, I was listening to George Stephanopoulos interview the Governor of Indiana on “This Week” on ABC. Their discussion was centered on the heated reaction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  A pin-the-tail-on-the-governor game was underway. The goal of the game was to affix to the State of Indiana the culturally detestable label “DISCRIMINATION.” Of all the sins out there, this seems to be the unpardonable one.

So let’s look it up in the online dictionary.

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A Bloody Weekend Awaits Us

A Bloody Weekend Awaits Us

The beheading of Egyptian Christians is still bothering me. And the idea that their drained blood flows in a river toward those who are next is even more troubling.

I find myself on this weekend as I anticipate the events of the Holy Week to come, trying to place the bloody beheading tactics of radical Muslims alongside the crucifixion tactics of the early Romans. Both sent a message – we are in charge and you must submit to our ways, or pay a price. Both made it public – one by virtue of crosses lining well-traveled roads, the other by use of media. Both extracted blood – from necks and backs and heads and sides.

And neither has made the world new. Only more fearful, more angry, more sad.

As you experience the Maundy Thursday betrayal, the Good Friday crucifixion, the quiet Saturday Sabbath in the tomb, and the glorious Easter Sunday celebration, pause to ask a simple question – whose use of power makes the world new?

Is Sex a Private Matter Between Two Persons?

Is Sex a Private Matter Between Two Persons?

For the Christian, the distinction between a private life and a public life does not exist. Our thoughts, feelings, emotions, fantasies, and actions are a help or hindrance to the people we live among.

To say that sex is a private matter between two persons is a misunderstanding of Christianity. What we do is everybody’s business!

The health of our relationships depends largely on the way we live our most personal lives. As I understand scripture, God via the church has the responsibility to tell us what to do with our money, time, and genitals.

Most Christians have not yet comprehended this. Early in our walk with God, we assume there is an ethical difference between deeds done in public and private, and we place primary emphasis on public deeds while minimizing the impact of private deeds. But what a Christian does in private is everybody’s business. Now I am not making the case for total vulnerability to the paparazzi, removal of curtains and boundaries, or the tell-all rags that adorn the grocery store checkouts. Privacy is to be respected as an act of human decency. What I’m suggesting is that our private lives have public consequences.

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Male and Female He Created Them

Male and Female He Created Them

Of all that was created, there is only one unique creature into which God breathes his breath and declares that it is his own image and likeness.

The dignity and character of God are embodied in the human creature. No other created thing is given the relational and rational capacity to understand this or respond back to the creator.

The union of a fragile creature and a faithful creator is the intent of our making. We are fashioned for relationship with God. John Wesley said, “For what is the most perfect in heaven or earth in Thy presence but a void, capable of being filled with Thee by Thee” (from A Plain Account of Christian Perfection).

But it doesn’t end there. Our narrative also says that God created the human, male and female he created them. And it was not good that the male was alone. No other material being filled the ache of aloneness – not birds, trees, or rivers – though he was made of the same stuff as they. Only when presented with the woman, made of the same dust yet fully other, did the male find his aloneness addressed.

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Daffodils and Dead Jesus

Daffodils and Dead Jesus

I’m ready for spring. So ready that Denise and I took a few days off in the middle of a work trip and went to Florida. Mickey needed a visit. We needed some sunshine. I think I am solar powered.

Ice damming (a real thing, not a curse) did a number on our roof this winter. We lost a ceiling, three walls, and half of the wood floor in our master bedroom. Our home insurance company still hasn’t gotten here to survey the damage and write a check. Florida was good medicine.

When we got home, the daffodils were up, the ice was gone, and the grass was looking a little green. Spring always seems to arrive when we’ve had it with the cold stuff.

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What Paul Says About Women in The Church

What Paul Says About Women in The Church

In my last post, I began looking at the role of women in the church. I closed that post by introducing Paul’s writings that have bothered Christians when it comes to women in the church. Let’s look more closely now at these troublesome texts.

Christianity in Corinth

The issue in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (which speaks of women wearing veils and having long hair) is not male control of women but how a woman’s hair or uncovered head affected the understanding of Christianity in Corinth. Apparently, some of the women were bucking culture and letting their hair hang loose, just like the pagan priestesses who went into a prophetic frenzy at the local pagan temple. And they were also shaving their heads, reminiscent of the hairstyle of the city prostitutes. Whether pagan or prostitute, the hairstyles of these women sent a damaging signal to the people of Corinth about the nature of Christianity.

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Women in the Biblical Church

Women in the Biblical Church

Is it a man’s world? If you surveyed the leadership level of this country’s institutions—school boards, colleges, political parties, businesses, banks, executive boards, churches—men would dominate. Does this say something about male superiority or about culture or about God’s created order or about the curse of sin?

Women’s issues in America have a long history—education, the right to vote, equal pay, protection under the law from domestic violence, double standards in sexual behavior, economic exploitation, Title IX sports issues, political office, glass ceilings in corporate businesses, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, priesthood, ministry, and military. Lots of issues. And if you travel to other places in the world, the list gets longer: the right to go out in public, to show her face, to speak to a man, to learn to read, sterilization, the murder of female babies, rape, slavery, and forced prostitution. The way of women in this world has not been easy.

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Character Association

Character Association

My first car was a red Volkswagen Beetle. My cousin and I co-owned it. The carburetor did not function correctly, and one of us had to sit in the back with the seat removed and work the choke. The engine was in the trunk. We drove the “under repair” vehicle in our backyard, round and round and round, until we were old enough to get a driver’s license. By the time we hit the road, the grass in our backyard had an Indy track dug into it. We had also repaired the carburetor, making a backseat accelerator unnecessary. The little VW was a tough, durable car. I still see them on the road today. And every time my wife sees one, I get punched.

The game was called Punch Buggy. Spotting a VW gave you permission to slug the arm of the person you were with. I much preferred the other VW spotting game—Perdiddle. In this game, if you saw a VW with only one working headlight, you had permission to kiss your date. A VW today can get you kissed or punched. You’re never quite sure which one to expect.

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Scripture Quoting

Scripture Quoting

Mr. Everett, my air-conditioning opponent, quoted from the Bible that was in his head: “The morning air of the Lord will cool the sanctuary.” In his mind, God had said it, he believed it, and that settled it.

Others use quotes from more authentic biblical versions as the authoritative word to settle issues. And I do not dismiss the authority of the Scriptures as necessary for holy conversation. The revelation of God in Scripture is second only to the revelation of God in flesh. The Word written and the Word enfleshed bear faithful witness to the ways of God.

But I do not believe that Scripture was meant to be used as a conversation stopper. God seems to invite our questions, our doubts, and our wonderings.

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Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Mega-churches explode in overnight growth, build big, borrow big, and explode big as they collapse. Compassionate non-profit ministries, rich in compassion, often drown in red ink. Christian colleges groan and die under the weight of complexity in a competitive world.

Why is it that people who intend such good through the creation of non-profit organizations often close the doors of the same organizations in embarrassed shame?

The Americanization of Christianity has shaped a religion that is, if anything, nice. Offense is intended toward no one. Being liked is the quest. Overlooking incompetency, arrogance, or laziness is easier than confronting it. And the result is that such organizations spiritualize their problems rather than confront them. They form a culture in which sabotage works. And given the human propensity toward evil, organizations eat the fruit of the culture they nourish.

Edwin Friedman writes in A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix:

In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a middler, someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his disability seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like mustard gas – one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often nice, if not charming (pages  13-14).

Serving as president of a Christian university, I can testify to the gravitational pull of the niceness. Rather than making hard choices, leaders are asked to make people feel good. “Forgive the person; he meant well.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” “Don’t make waves.” “If you step out on a limb, the cost could be your job.” I’ve heard them all as excuses for not doing what is right for the organization.

The Americanized gospel has shaped us to expect the blessings we desire without any suffering en route. If we’re nice, we deserve to have it. A gospel that does not confront our selfishness, our narrowness, our incompetency, and our arrogance eventually forms us to be saboteurs of any leader who dares stand on conviction that disagrees with ours.

We have grown our own terrorists. Our institutions collapse, not from evil without, but from a cult of niceness within.