Posts Tagged ‘gender’

It’s all to common with a liberal arts education: my degree has about as much economic application as horseshoeing on a spaceship.  I’m reminded of this monthly, when I write those checks to loan companies.  There’s an extra reminder now.  The Alma Mater, Azusa Pacific, has hired students to call me up.  Yes, we all know why.

With some exaggeration, it is easy to feel like this when you get calls from a private educational institution.

"but we gave you 10k in scholarships!!"

“but we gave you 10k in scholarships!!”

Every single alum has at least one reason not to donate.  Additionally, there is a second.  Specifically, many alums are disgusted about the public, and dramatic issue regarding Adam (formally Heather) Ackley the transgender theology PhD who was dismissed (as graciously as possible?) from APU.  Whatever an outsider’s perception of this event, many from the APU community are not in agreement with this dismissal.  A number of students on campus have come out with the supportive slogan “we stand with Adam.”  They may speak for others; students and alum at APU are perhaps more free to speak their minds about human sexuality and Christianity than the people on the campus payroll.  While equally LBGT supportive alums appreciate this, we still know our alma mater has embarrassed itself by doing something we find morally objectionable.  All of this leaves us with a feeling of disgust, frustration, irritation.  No matter how sweet the other person sounds on those cold calls, these feelings aren’t going to go away.

I suggest that these feelings are reasons for alums to donate, rather than an additional reason to shun our alma mater’s inconvenient phone calls.

First, APU’s dismissal of Adam Ackley is horrible mark, but it does not invalidate everything else the school does well.  I regret that I will not be able to attend APU’s celebrate Christmas choral and musical performances this year.  A few weeks ago, several other alums and held a fantastic night of singing, dancing, and improvised comedy.  These nights could never have happened without our APU connection.  There are more altruistic causes too.  One of my former classmates is finishing  up Psy D program with the express purpose to help women pro bono.  Another friend has worked for a children’s non-profit for years.

Second, I think it behooves recent alum (and by that I mean anyone who is between 24-30ish) to consider why APU bit the bullet and dismissed a transgender individual.  It can be only in part because of “Christian Values.”  Whether we like it or not, the older generation has the deep pockets.  These people make up the donation base.  They’re also more conservative on issues of gender and sexuality.  Do other APU hold these views that strongly? I have a hard time believing that any the intellectuals at the campus actually wanted to see their colleague go.  Enough students on campus have shown support for Adam.  As blunt as it is, a transgender professor is probably more offensive to donors than to students or scholars.

I think this is where a humble, and slightly more than symbolic, contributions from recent alums come in.  The silver lining of entire Ackley fiasco is that the university (and anyone connected with it) has to confront this issue of gender identity and Christianity.  We all already know what the result will be in twenty years.  Transgender individuals will become more and more accepted.  Eventually too the broader Christian community will wonder why we thought that dismissing a transgender individual made any kind of sense.  Most of the younger than 30 Christians I know aren’t particularly bothered by LGBT acceptance.  Even those who disagree with things like gay marriage aren’t the type who are pro-actively opposing it.  Eventually, the views of the younger generation will supplant the views of the older.

Therefore, I’d like to put a little money to demonstrate this to University.  I want APU to know that I support my Alma Mater.  I want them to know that I believe in its mission and goals.  I want them to know that my time at APU is still a time I remember well.

Furthermore, I want them to know that I’m sympathetic to LGBT causes.  I believe that “Christian Values” do not demand exclusion on this basis.  Finally, at some point in the future, I want APU to make decisions on LGBT based on purely on conscience, not on donation ledgers.  The only way APU can be freed from the fear of offending a donation base, is if enough of their donation base is demonstrably supportive of LGBT issues.

It might be a drop in the bucket, but I like to show support with my wallet.

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Sometimes, you have to smash a few Icons and overturn a few tables.

Bear with this technical introduction a moment. In undergraduate, we were taught to think about our opinions, beliefs, and practices according this list, commonly called the Wesleyan quadrilateral. This is common among many Evangelical institutions:

  • 1. Scripture
  • 2. Tradition
  • 3. Reason
  • 4. Experience

It is number four that is important here.

Experience can be narrow or broad. In the broader sense, experience means culture. If you think of it narrowly, think of it as a pastoral principle: diagnose before you prescribe. A pastor or church leader may be mentoring a new member. Appropriately, that leader first asks the new member about their relationship with God, encourages them to be open about their spiritual struggles, shares in the triumphs and so on. In addiction recovery, for instance, a person who is taking the twelve steps also explores their family history. How they play out those twelve steps will depend on their own experiences.

Experience, however, is also used to prescribe. Here’s how: A popular, and effective, method of teaching and preaching is telling stories. If you listen to any popular Evangelical preacher, you can probably think of dozens of stories they tell. I remember a church leader sharing about a time he had to ask forgiveness for how he treated his sister in law. Greg Boyd, in God of the Possible, shared a story about a divorced woman. Mosaic Church, in LA, publishes a magazine dedicated to sharing stories about what God does in their individual lives. Old-fashioned evangelicalism still encourages people to tell their personal testimonies about what God has done in their lives.

There’s nothing wrong with stories or testimonies. In fact, they’re good teaching tools. They’re so effective that the officially endorsed stories -that is, the ones that Evangelicalism approves of and repeats via blogs, sermons etc.- are sometimes more important or just as important as the Bible.

No where are the official stories more important than when it comes to sex. The official stories go something like this (this is a summary from a meagchurch podcast): Boy is virgin. Girl is not. Girl feels “damaged” and is hesitant to marry boy. Boy says he’s ready to be “damaged.” They have sex. Girl feels used, and they break up. Here is another official story (summarized from a chapel speaker): Football was my high school idol. Sex was my college idol. I had really bad, empty sex. It took me years to recover. Save yourselves for marriage. Finally, there are the inspiring stories: We met in college. When we was 21 and I was 19 we got married. The sex was great. Get married young. It’s worth the struggle. Think about all the testimonies about sex that you have heard from pulpits, speakers, and popular Evangelical media. What do they sound like most of the time?

Now, let’s turn to what don’t hear. Here are the unofficial testimonies of romance, sexuality, and marriage that are not given their due attention:

  • Our relationship began with a romp in bed. He wasn’t my first, I wasn’t his. It’s amazing, though, that we found each other when we did! We’ve been married six years now.
  • I got married when I was 21. It was the worst mistake of my life. Neither of us was emotionally or financially prepared, and we divorced. I am glad that we didn’t make babies, but I know many people who did.
  • Years of religious sexual repression caused me to fear sex. When I got married, I was unable to reach orgasm or even enjoy it. This damaged the spiritual, emotional, and sexual connection with my husband.
  • I am not able to interact romantically with the opposite sex because I cannot tell what is physical attraction and what is lust.
  • The “duck tape parable” made me afraid to be vulnerable with anyone. Then I entered into a sexual relationship. Somehow, that gave me confidence.
  • My family refused to attend my wedding because I married a divorced woman. This hurt both of us deeply.
  • I am gay, and in a happy monogamous relationship.
  • Lot’s of Christian couples wait until marriage before first penetration. They also do everything else before marriage.

Can you imagine these spoken from a pulpit or published by a focus-on-the family webzine? Some of the stories here will actually get you removed from a church, or at least marginalized while you attend. That’s because these testimonies violate the official moral paradigm of Evangelicalism. It’s a kind of spiritual censorship, which makes the goal of “authenticity” impossible. Does that seem right to you?

Despite the dogmatics that come down from Colorado Springs, the spot-light pulpits, and the megachurches, most young evangelicals aren’t buying the official stories or at least aren’t following its subsequent moral prescription. This means that the value-makers and leaders of Evangelicalism are out of touch with reality. If any of us presume to use the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” we have to be candid about what the collective experience is.

It’s for these two reasons that I will donate to this cause:

Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex.

I hope that you will too because their deadline is less than two weeks away. The website is here, at kickstarter.com and they accept pledges from one dollar to a thousand. No one knows what the result of this documentary will be when it is completed, but I think it will do justice to many people who felt the power of religious censor. At the same time, it will help any minister or pastor to take hard look at their congregations, espeically their college ministries.

And it wouldn’t hurt to promote the cause via twitter, reddit, Facebook, or similar means. That’s what the buttons below are for.

I hope though, that we can all be kind when we pick up the hammers and shatter the stained glass.

 

“Where ya gonna live?…The best thing you can do is buy a home. From an investment standpoint, from a tax standpoint, from a security standpoint, particularly you single guys…” -Mark Driscoll 18 Oct 2008

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” -Luke 9:58 NASB

I have long hesitated to this blog. This is mostly because I try not be totally negative. It’s also because the podcast that motivates this blogs annoyed me. There was so much fail in it that I didn’t know where to start. Then again, I might just be being hissy. I digress a bit.

Anyway, it was very strange when Christianity Today included Mark Driscoll in their list of hipster, cutting edge, pastors. Every time I listen to the guy, he sounds like a stick-in-the-mud conservative. Nowhere was this more evident that his Biblical Man Sermon. This teaching starts with a few verses from proverbs, and then continues with practical advice for about an hour. This “Biblical” teaching is so deeply seated in cultural assumptions, self-help wisdom, and patron-saints of middle class that it raises the question: what does “Biblical” even mean?

When I ask that question, it is not for you to think it is a joke. This is serious. What do you think of when you attach the word “Biblical” to a term? What synonyms would you use? How do you define that adjective as you understand it? Maybe you would agree that it means something like “from the Bible” or maybe “in adherence to the Bible”? Whatever it means when said in the evangelical vernacular, I think we can all agree that it recognizes the Bible in some sense because of its very spelling.

In listening to this sermon, it is hard to understand how Driscoll can mean Biblical in that sense. Now, the sermon is not bad rhetorically. It is sprinkled with stimulating, engaging, questions. The problem is with the answers. The idea is that we need to set goals, and make plans to achieve those goals. We need to think about what lives we want in the future and “reverse engineer” it so that we will arrive. For instance, in planning our lives we must understand what is urgent and important. We must get the job and own the home. We must also make a list of appliances, furniture, and other such things that we will have in our home. In that home we must also be prepared to add equity and value to it so we can buy a bigger home, so as to make our wife and children happy. Sound good?

The problem with all of this is that it it is not “from the Bible.” The first chunk of advice seems to come from an amalgamation of books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and probably a dozen other books of the same genre. He even cited Stephan Covey at the end of the sermon, who by the way, is a Mormon! The other huge chunk are anecdotes of Driscoll’s own success. It probably does not count as bragging, but Mark Driscoll did not write an Epistle. So do not think this is biblical.

Now, understandably, some might think that I’m endorsing laziness, sloth, or perpetuated adolescence. You might be thinking, “so you don’t think setting goals is good? Do you believe that developing plans is bad? Setting yourself up to build wealth or provide for yourself and others is evil?” To all this I answer an emphatic, “no of course not.” I think a books like 7 Habits or Getting Things Done, are great reads. Rich Dad/Poor Dad gave me a lot to think about. Of course all these things are good, but they are not biblical.

So why bother writing this blog? Well, because it is important -for Christians- to know where their values come from because God might challenge them. Some of the things we hold as Biblical might not be so Biblical after all. Take the whole home-ownership issue. Does owning a home, building equity in the home, and buying a better home make you a Biblical man? Is it a necessary goal for the Biblical man? Well, interestingly enough I know lots of men in the Bible who had no homes. Most of the patriarchs were nomads, and Jesus as cited above, warned those who sought to follow him that “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Let’s not forget that he was born in a stable.)

It seems that Jesus is not a Biblical man. Furthermore, he seems to caution would-be disciples that if the follow him, they may not have homes either! I can imagine that many missionary families understand what this means. So what about the denizens of Seattle?

But maybe I am being harsh? It wasn’t as if Driscoll didn’t use some distinctive Christian topics in his sermon. Driscoll did, after all, talk about God as a gracious God. He also encouraged men to “walk with God” in this sermon. Yes he did. God is so gracious, that he might get you into the home of dreams (complete with white picket fence!). “Walking with God” means prayerfully setting up your plans. If you think this is hyperbole, listen to the sermon yourself.

It seems so blindingly obvious that the pervading culture, not an exegesis of scripture, is what is authoritative here. It leads to the bizarre conclusion in which Jesus wouldn’t live up to Driscoll’s standards. I am not the first blogger to notice this either. If hipster Christianity is the liberal-arts student, who smokes clove cigarettes while reading “the Imitation of Christ” at an indie coffee shop, than Mark Driscoll is the transparent poser wearing his high-school letterman jacket over a Radiohead t-shirt. According to Christianity Today, the Christian hipsters want a faith that distinguishable from the values of suburbs. They probably need to look outside of Mars Hill.

So what does the word “Biblical [man]” mean? As far as I can tell, it is nothing more than a synonym for “upright middle class [man]” or “socially and fiscally, conservative [man]” or maybe just simply “right.” It is nothing here than a staple phrase for the American Civic Religion. And you know what? Let’s go for it. I am not against the nuclear family, setting goals, or steadily building financial success. There’s nothing wrong with finding the right career and being nice to your neighbors. I wish that all guys reading this would pick up 7 Habits and all those other great books to enhance their relationships, careers, and share such guidance with others. We can all be on the suburban band wagon and our kids can play little league together.

But when we do, let’s drop the pretense. Let’s remember that the civic religion is nothing more than that. Let’s discard the illusions that it is “from the Bible” and remember it has but a thin connection to the Christian faith.

Thanks for reading, and your comments are always welcome here.