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Done.

Last Wednesday, when I heard that World Vision had reversed its decision on gay employees, I was extremely angry for an hour.  After that, it felt more like someone had died.  I spent dinner feeling distracted and confused.  When Jeremiah went out to do school work at a coffee shop, I sat in our black leather recliner, ate gelato, mindlessly surfing the web and feeling simultaneously heartbroken and numb.  Finally, after the coffee shop closed, Jeremiah was back trying to do more work while I loaded the dishwasher.  As I finished up and thought I was on my way to bed, we returned to our piecemeal dinner conversation (the only sort of conversation you have with a toddler competing for your attention).  Soon what was supposed to be another fives minutes dissecting what had happened and feeling frustrated together turned into at least a half hour—I honestly lost track—of impassioned sharing and unavoidable tears.

There was something especially powerful about having shared something of my personal struggles with InterVarsity on our blog just a few days before.  I had only so recently gathered the courage to openly express some of the pain and confusion I already felt regarding my place in evangelicalism.  When World Vision first announced their new policy, it felt almost providential in timing.  I don’t really believe God influences the decisions of billion dollar charities so that they might coincide with my personal reflections, but that doesn’t change my perception of some special ray of hope meant for me.  As I told Jeremiah, I had been encouraged that “maybe the world isn’t such a terrible place after all.”  And since World Vision even took the specific position on homosexuality that I tried to take a little over a year ago—that ecumenical organizations should let this be something up churches and individuals to figure out for themselves—I felt like all of a sudden I had a friend on my team.

All of this personal significance did not vanish when their decision was reversed but merely took on new meaning.  I was right the first time.  I was alone in my crazy desire to be ecumenical, and the world—at least the evangelical world—was as shitty a place as it had been feeling recently.  Finally, after Jeremiah and I went back and forth, expressing our thoughts and feelings about the happenings of the last couple days, I felt safe enough to express what seemed like a rather scary thought: I didn’t think I could do “this” anymore.  I didn’t think I could hold out hope for evangelicalism any longer.  I thought I might be done.  The truth was, I told him, “Evangelicalism is killing my faith.”

I’ve never been a “good” evangelical.  I was not really exposed to evangelical culture until junior high when some family friends introduced us to the Newsboys, Point of Grace, Adventures in Oddessey, and Brio magazine.  At that point in my life, I had attended Catholic, public, and fundamentalist Baptist schools (as well as a year of homeschooling) and had spent most of my time in Missouri Synod Lutheran and PC(USA) churches.  The language of my KJV-only, skirt-wearing, alcohol-condemning middle school was foreign to me.  I hadn’t grown up in churches which emphasized conversion, I knew a different set of hymns, and I wasn’t used to all of this talk of “witnessing” or daily devotions.  However, my parents discovered theological disagreements with fellow Presbyterian congregants, and then we moved.  My adolescence ended up revolving around churches and schools somewhere in the middle between the PC(USA) and General Association of Regular Baptists.  I embraced that culture for about half of high school, and then I tired of it.

By the time I went to college, I had become an egalitarian, had grown impatient with the way rich people ran our non-denominational mega-church, and was sick  of evangelical anti-intellectualism.  I started calling myself an “evangelical who doesn’t like other evangelicals.”  I agreed with most major theological points, but I had a few significant disagreements on certain issues, as well as a lot of frustration with the subculture.  In college, I was not told I had to love cheesey Christian bookstores or give up my feminism, but I was strongly encouraged not to give up on evangelicalism, especially when I began to also explore other social justice issues and grew increasingly impatient with white evangelicals.   I set aside my differences and was incredibly involved with InterVarsity during college, where I met a few students with whom I shared much common ground but a lot more with whom I didn’t.  Still, I knew there were evangelicals who cared about the things I cared about—that’s why InterVarsity encouraged students to read and think, why we did urban ministry, why organizations like Christians for Biblical Equality and Evangelicals for Social Action existed.

When I went to Fuller Seminary, Richard Mouw (then President) encouraged students to see the word as redeemable, and at Fuller I saw what I still consider to be the best of evangelicalism.  It is ethnically diverse, fully supportive of women, ecumenical, and decidedly not inerrantist.  It is perhaps the best embodiment of the “postconservative” movement.  And like many postconservatives, it still identifies as evangelical.  So I could, too, right?  Maybe I was no longer a foundationalist or a Platonic dualist.  Maybe I was an annihilationist, an inclusivist, an evolutionist… but plenty of people were at Fuller, as were other postconservative evangelical scholars, so it would be premature and unnecessary to reject the evangelical label.

Several things have transpired since then which have caused me to wrestle with that label anyway, and I hope to explore several of them here during the coming days and weeks.

For now, it will suffice to say that I’m done.  I am fluctuating between feeling giddily free, in mourning, relieved, and scared, but I don’t think there is realistically any going back at this point.  I am done with calling myself an evangelical, not due to a single event or how anyone else is responding to it, but rather because I have finally been pushed over the edge.  This was not a sudden death.  Rather, I think my evangelical identity has been on life support for some time.  The World Vision fiasco finally made me brave enough to pull the plug and face this loss.

Stunned

Two days ago I felt hopeful for evangelicalism for the first time in over a year.  Today, I was truly incredulous to hear that World Vision had reversed its decision to hire married gay Christians.

What I find particularly frustrating is the fact that in their original announcement, CEO Richards Stearns said that government money would never be the deciding factor in these sorts of decisions:

“If the U.S. government ever requires us to give up our religious hiring rights in exchange for grants, we would walk away from U.S. grants. World Vision’s ministry is not for sale.” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/world-vision-why-hiring-gay-christians-same-sex-marriage.html?paging=off)

But World Vision apparently is for sale to the right buyer.  And when conservatives started to pull their money, World Vision backpedaled.

Now they’re asking for “forgiveness” and implying their original decision was sinful:

“Yes, we will certainly defer on many issues that are not so central to our understanding of the Christian faith,” he said. “But on the authority of Scripture in our organization’s work [and employee conduct] … and on marriage as an institution ordained by God between a man and a woman—those are age-old and fundamental Christian beliefs. We cannot defer on things that are that central to the faith.” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/world-vision-reverses-decision-gay-same-sex-marriage.html)

Central to the faith?  Overnight you changed your mind from thinking this was a nonessential issue on which Christians disagree to something “central to the faith”?

And here’s an apology to conservatives.  What about an apology to all of the progressive Christians who felt happy to be included two days ago and now feel cast out?  What about all of the gay Christians who are once again having to go through a painful rejection?  Any word to them?  Any sorrow about their pain?

I don’t think those who oppose this reversal should withdraw their support from World Vision, but I’m incredibly disappointed.

Gay Marriage and Consistent Ecumenism

When I was in college, I had a chat with the Blue Ridge Regional Director for InterVarsity—a man I like and respect a great deal—about the differences between InterVarsity’s stance on racial issues and stance on women.  InterVarsity likes to present itself as being pro-social-justice, so at points during my time on InterVarsity leadership, I felt disappointed by InterVarsity’s wishy-washiness over women in ministry.

InterVarsity does a lot for women.  At the 2006 Urbana I attended, participants all received a copy of the TNIV so that everyone would be able to use the same version of the Bible in discussions at the conference—a version which just happened to be controversially “gender-neutral”/”gender accurate” (depending on who you talk to) in its language.  Christians for Biblical Equality hosted seminars.  Women were featured as plenary speakers and worship leaders.  And in local chapters, female students and staff lead ministry without gender-based restrictions, all over the country.  I know the effect one many (though certainly not all) students is to normalize women’s presence in ministry.  But it still did not feel like enough.  I wholeheartedly supported InterVarsity’s enthusiasm about multiethnicity, fighting poverty, and opposing injustices like modern-day slavery.  But I still wondered, why are my issues not important?

The argument I heard from our regional director, however, was that InterVarsity was a parachurch ministry, not a church.  It wanted to leave controversial issues like gender roles to churches to decide.  While the regional director himself was very involved in supporting the cause of women in his local church, he did not think it was InterVarsity’s place to take a stand on this issue.  And yet InterVarsity has been taking a progressively louder and firmer stand on against gay marriage over the past several years.  I thought we left those sorts of things up to churches to decide?

That’s why I’m very proud of World Vision today.  In order to maintain an open door towards those from more progressive Christian denominations which are celebrating gay unions (many now legal in their respective states), World Vision is ending discrimination toward individuals in same-sex marriages.  Nobody is saying anybody has to accept more liberal views of gay marriage—but World Vision is also no longer stating via their policies that one cannot be Christian and hold such views.  There is nothing illegitimate about a non-profit taking stances on more “minor” issues, of course—but as a self-identified ecumenical organization, they have decided including members of churches like the PCUSA, ELCA, and the Episcopal Church is important.  Just as they don’t take a stand on baptism, women in ministry, or a host of other theological issues, they are leaving this matter up to individuals in their local churches and denominations.

And you know what?  I could complain about World Vision’s lack of a formal stance in favor of women in ministry, much as I did InterVarsity’s.  But I really don’t find myself caring.  Because this is consistent.  And there is something very admirable about that.  I would like to challenge other organizations—including InterVarsity—to reconsider their stance.  Are you a smaller interest-based organization (like Christians for Biblical Equality, for ex.)?  Or are you trying to include Christians in all their diversity?  If you want to be ecumenical, why is gay marriage the one thing you can’t get over?  I hope others will soon be following World Vision’s lead.

Ironic Quote of the Day: Dinesh D’Souza

The following quotation comes from D’Souza’s website in response to an article in World magazine which has revealed sexual impropriety on the part of D’Souza.

 Ultimately this is not just about Olasky or even World magazine. It is also about how we Christians are supposed to behave with one another. And the secular world is watching. Is this how we love and treat fellow believers? If my conduct was improper, wouldn’t it be the decent and charitable thing to approach me about it? Instead, here is a clear attempt to destroy my career and my ministry. This is viciousness masquerading as righteousness. And this is the behavior that is truly worthy of Christian condemnation.

It is incredible that a depraved propagandist would whine about not being treated with brotherly love. I doubt D’Souza agonized over his decision to make things up about his brother in Christ Barack Obama. “Viciousness masquerading as righteousness” is an apt description of D’Souza’s whole “ministry.”

Second Verse Same as the First

The other day I came across this loony video where a Muslim cleric accuses the Jews of mixing in human blood to make their matzos.

I was instantly reminded of the false accusations made against the early church by pagans who apparently misunderstood the nature of communion which they took to involve cannibalism (Thyestean feasts). Athenagoras in his Embassy for the Christians complains:

Three things are alleged against us: atheism, Thyestean feasts, Œdipodean intercourse. But if these charges are true, spare no class: proceed at once against our crimes; destroy us root and branch, with our wives and children, if any Christian is found to live like the brutes. And yet even the brutes do not touch the flesh of their own kind; and they pair by a law of nature, and only at the regular season, not from simple wantonness; they also recognise those from whom they receive benefits. If any one, therefore, is more savage than the brutes, what punishment that he can endure shall be deemed adequate to such offences? But, if these things are only idle tales and empty slanders, originating in the fact that virtue is opposed by its very nature to vice, and that contraries war against one another by a divine law (and you are yourselves witnesses that no such iniquities are committed by us, for you forbid informations to be laid against us), it remains for you to make inquiry concerning our life, our opinions, our loyalty and obedience to you and your house and government, and thus at length to grant to us the same rights (we ask nothing more) as to those who persecute us. For we shall then conquer them, unhesitatingly surrendering, as we now do, our very lives for the truth’s sake.

It is interesting to me that the feeble mind of hatred should produce such similar lies in such disparate times. It just goes to show you how powerful a tool cultural taboos can be in the process of “othering” your enemies.

Haiku: Blue and White

Arab red flows free
We will trust in David’s star
Now God will love us

Chick-fil-A Hymnal

Here is the corresponding hymnal.

Chick-fil-A Bible

I received a couple of requests to post my twitter mockery in one place for easy consumption. Click to embiggen.

Ken Ham Opens New Interactive Exhibit At Creation Museum

Digital Potpourri 6-2-12

Published on June 2, 2012, by in In the News.
© Jeremiah and Ashleigh Bailey 2012