Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trimming the Christmas Cactus

Rarely do we suffer the 3 hour plane ride to Phoenix from St. Louis, hometown to both hubby and myself. But family obligations require it, and so we schlep our kids luggage to the airport and go through the rigmarole to get us from here to there, little ones in tow.

When I'm home, I want to move home. I ask myself why I feel that way. The answer is pretty obvious: Phoenix is a consumer's paradise! And a darn convenient place to live, if you can afford it (we can't). After two years not visiting, I am amazed at the sheer growth of homes, skyrocketing housing prices, and shopping venues to suit every need and taste, all nearly a stone's throw away from anywhere you should stand in the Valley of the Sun. Sigh, I didn't know comfortable my life was until I moved away. :)

So what? I want to move home to be one of the millions of consumers of these bountiful commercial goods and services? I am so tempted. However, the yellow lights of caution tell me that a consumer's lifestyle is what has always contributed to the resistance to a Christianized culture here. Left and right, everywhere you go, evangelical churches are being built to house thousands of attenders. The signs of faith are everywhere, yet nowhere. Phoenix has always been, and remains, a culturally secular place (a far cry from St. Louis, where everyone and their brother is Roman Catholic).

I miss Phoenix, yet having been away for seven+ years, I barely recognize it. My heart goes out to this city, a beautiful, thriving, and woefully distracted city where Christmas is a commercial holiday more than an observance of Christ.

As you reflect on your hometown culture, please remember mine in prayers as well as your own. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Live with Darrin Patrick

That's pronounced LYV, not LIV (I love having Darrin for a pastor, but nooo thanks).

Tomorrow on Shapevine, there will be a live interview with Darrin on videocast at 2:30pm CST. Check it out!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Saga Continues...

and is only getting worse. Today, the blogging SBCland is again on fire about the unfurling of Monday's MO Southern Baptist Executive Board decision to give the Acts 29 Network the cold shoulder. Add in the media, and this thing is getting out of control.

Don Hinkle, as first respondent defending the EB vote, says

If a church wants to cooperate with Acts 29 in a church plant, go ahead, it
will just be without Cooperative Program dollars...Why? Because Missouri
Southern Baptist churches did not give their Cooperative Program gifts to fund
the church plants of another organization. Nor did they give to plant churches
who pledge to do one thing, then do another, often putting the church plant and
convention at doctrinal odds — and without accountability, something Acts 29
seems to be lacking.

The Empire Strikes Back. As a lifelong SB, I was always taught that no another authority exists besides Christ, the Bible, and our democratic votes in church. In fact, Baptists have frowned on by proxy decisions via small elites that seem to act too independently and without accountability. So why does Hinkle state just before this quote that the EB is the highest authority in MO SBCland after the Bible? (whoa!)

Is this only about alcohol? The Baptist Press today added its own article, interviewing David Tolliver:

Tolliver said the convention will have no working relationship with churches
"participating with alcohol," which specifically means that Cooperative Program
funds will not be used for "sinful outreach ministries."

Ouch. Sinful? But if alcohol were the only problem, then why not exempt only those churches who do not have abstention clauses in their statements of faith? I suspect that more than the alcohol issue is in play here; only my opinion: misunderstanding, ignorance, and just plain prejudice seem to be at the root of a hasty and ill-informed decision by the MBCEB against funding any A29 churches for being Emerging, which even Tolliver admits is not necessarily a cause for pulling away.

No one seems to be able to define the emerging church. If you cannot define it,
it’s hard to see how you can be for or against it.” (quoted from Mark DeVine's
Southern Baptists, Missouri Baptists, and the Emerging Church)

It certainly looks as though 28 people on the EB were determined to vote their way no matter what the facts say about A29 in particular.

Furthermore, the timing of this decision makes the hostile nature of the EB more prominent. No funding starting January 1, 2008? In two weeks? Pastors who have already established their budgets (both church and personal) with money promised to them from the MBC will never receive the financial help they were expecting. Not only has the MBC voted no-partnership, they have reneged on its own agreement to help pastors and their families in MO.

Add to that one more insult to injury: By Tolliver--
"We will continue to work with Acts 29 churches who choose to also be Missouri
Baptist Convention churches," Tolliver said. "The Executive Board decision
simply precludes us from funding those churches or church plants."

So, churches who are Acts 29 affiliated can still affiliate with MBC, but the money only flows one direction, which means buy your MBC affiliation with Cooperative Program donations, but don't expect anything back if you need it. What a deal.

Fortunately, the St. Louis Metro Association has started a fund to help the churches directly impacted by this recent decision. Please send contributions to

"Show Me Church Planting Fund"
St. Louis Metro Baptist. Assoc.
attn. Darren Casper
3859 Fee Fee Road
Bridgeton, Mo. 63044

I'm ending this post with two timely quotes I think pertain highly to this situation:

The MBC says nothing about MBC Churches that participate in Christian
Family Day at Busch Stadium, the Beer Temple of MO. (comment by Jim Shaver
following Don Hinckle's blog post)

Default capitulation to whoever is strictest or boasts the longest list of
litmus test issues where Christian fellowship is concerned is not only
unloving, but also unbiblical and unspiritual. Not every purity postured
willingness to divide the Body of Christ winsthe favor of our Lord! (Mark DeVine)


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Missouri SBC Bites Hands That Feed It

I can't stop shaking my head at this new development. Bloggers in Southern Baptistland have been all over this story since Tuesday, and it is indeed a sad reminder that all is not well with some of our Christian denominational leaders. Scott Lamb, who works at MO Pathways, writes:

Members of the Executive Board presented and passed a motion during the
miscellaneous business session that sets down a “no-partnership with Acts 29″
rule for MBC church plants. I have not received the exact wording of the motion
yet, but it is a confirmed piece of news from an EC board member.

Don’t misunderstand, this does not mean that churches cannot be in
partnership with Acts 29, just that if they are so aligned then they will not be
able to receive MBC church planting funds. Never mind the fact that Acts 29
church plants in Missouri are thriving.

As part of the church (The Journey) and ministry (Midrash) that apparently tipped off this hostile bridge-burning, let me give readers an insider's look at what all the fuss is about. Midrash began as a movie night about four years ago as a way of encouraging thoughtful discussion about cultural issue touched on in particular movies. Features included films such as Gattaca, Bruce Almighty, and Million Dollar Baby.

Midrash added coffeehouse/bookstore discussion groups about viewpoint issues, such as the Terri Schiavo case, poverty, and the procreative mandate in marriage. The point of these discussions was to create an inviting atmosphere and gather Christians and non-Christians together and raise the level of thought and reflection on what these issues ultimately have to do with a Biblical worldview.

This gave rise to Theology at the Bottleworks (TATB), which would tackle bigger topics and should include more participants. The aim was a casual environment that encouraged the average non-churchgoer to attend. The local Schlafly Bottleworks (a brewpub) provided us with an accomodating space and food service that added incentive for people to come. Yes, that includes alcohol--afterall, it is a bar. Here is where the you hear the record needle scratch and stop.

Now, why my title is what it is: The Journey is A29 planted but also technically an SBC church, which means it donates money to the Cooperative Program, which funds the MBC. The Journey helps pay the salaries of the Executive Board that has just excommunicated it. I am most dismayed that MBC has decided to turn its back on fruitful ministry with all of Acts 29 over our TATB. Unless I miss my guess, this decision affects three other standing churches that share similar A29/SBC affiliation in the Metro area and a handful more in the process of gathering resources to plant all over the state.

Other bloggers have raised a relevant followup question: who's next? If they repudiate A29 over alcohol, is Reformed Theology next on the chopping block? Will other state conventions follow MO's example and give A29 the cold shoulder too? Will this literal brewhaha spill over into the national convention and result in a resolution vote there as well and possibly affect A29 plants everywhere?

I once had high hopes for much cooperation between the SBC and A29. I can only pray that this turns out to be a minor issue in the months/years to come.

Read Scott Thomas' response to the MBC decision. Thomas is director of the Acts 29 Network.

Thanks to Timmy Brister's blog for bringing this to my attention.

2007: The Year of the Unfriendly Atheist

In the late 1970's, philosopher William Rowe termed himself a "friendly atheist" after assessing the Christian theist position as rational, even though he believes that God does not, in fact, exist. Former atheist Antony Flew, although not a Christian, has become a theist after his assessment of arguments for the existence of God as well. From the mid-1990s through today, Christian philosophers have been making great strides in all areas of philosophy and have gained much respect for their academic prowess.

But just when Christian/theist philosophers seemed to have finally gained a measure of respect from their atheist philosopher counterparts, 2007 has seen a retroaction in attitude toward all things God. Correction--all things Christian. This year, more than any in our decade so far, has seen the prominence of the unfriendly atheist. I refer to this year's popularized books, including Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great, and Sam Harris' Letters To a Christian Nation. Add in the just-released movie The Golden Compass, based on one novel in a trilogy by Phillip Pullman intended to "kill God," atheists have been quite active in 2007 making their case that all Christians are idiots for believing in God.

But what are they saying? I admit, I haven't had time to read the books from cover to cover (but I'll get there eventually), so the reviews and/or exerpts from will have to do. Here's the breakdown:

Richard Dawkins - the core of his argument (found in Chapter 3) goes something like God isn't necessary to explain the existence of the universe; the existence of the universe can be explained without the need for a God; therefore, God does not exist. (The God Delusion)

For further detailed analysis of Dawkins' book, please read Alvin Plantinga's rebuttal at

Sam Harris - kind, virtuous, and patriotic is one who does NOT earnestly believe in God and the Christian faith. His intro states “Thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.”

So begins Letter to a Christian Nation…"

Christopher Hitchens - Despite my take that his disbelief is rooted in silly Christians saying silly things to him as a child, he contends that "There still remain four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ulimately grounded on wish-thinking." (God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, p. 4)

In the end, their arguments are the same tired rantings of bitter aging men who act as though they've been deprived of something over which the Christian church needs dismantling. I've heard many such complaints in my short life, so nothing they've said comes as much surprise. My best guess is that they are still pouting over having been subject to "dangerous sexual repression" in being told to wait until marriage to have sex, or something similarly as grievous. Oh, the humanity. This is the commmon thread among our above authors: it's not the academic arguments on the existence of God, the teachings of Jesus about himself, nor the historical evidence supporting Jesus' resurrection that they spend the most time railing against. Their incessant jabs at the Christian faith center by far on the behavior and attitudes of Christians they have experienced. How interesting...and concerning at the same time.

On one level, I look at their collective attacks on the Christian faith and think, "how obnoxious! If I'm not allowed to be unPC and insult the faith of others, why should these snobs get away with publishing their offensive whining?" On another level, I'm reminded how much our words and deeds as Christians can have enormous impact on even school-aged children (as in Hitchens' case). As Michael Newdow marches his way to the U.S. Supreme Court again trying to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, Christians should keep in mind that we walk a fine, perilous road that demands a higher standard of behavior and conduct. We have to be the best of everything: integrity, kindness, intelligence and wit. It is unfair, but what about the Atonement is fair?

Atheists have banked atheism on sneering Christianity to death (really, is that all they have?). They should be met with the deflating of all their stereotypes of Christians by Christians. Three of my favorite Christians who do this well are Francis Beckwith, Alvin Plantinga, and William Lane Craig. In my opinion, every believer should become familiar with their books and papers and learn how to effectively think about the Christian/atheist/agnostic debate.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Chinese Take-Out -3-

2. Pastors and leaders need to lead with stronger examples in their own lives.

The office of pastor is a bear, and those who pursue it are brave, brave men. I have great respect for pastors who are trying to fulfill God's calling to lead and juggle church, family, and larger Christian committments. Brave pastors have congregations who will imitate them, don't they?

a. Remind us you're human. Congregations can easily relegate the pastor to some category where they exist as pure pastor (whatever that is), disembodied from normal life and experiences, as some kind of church hunchback, emerging to preach in Christianese on Sundays and have no real needs outside those of the church's. Bah. I appreciate it when Darrin uses examples in his own life to talk about real life and struggles and humbling experiences. Tell us
your opinions and when you repent of those opinions, if needed. All of this can be quite freeing and humorous at the same time.

Live a real life. You still have one, don't you? So tell us about it. I can't dictate parameters for any individual, but I know that churchgoers need to know that you are still attached to reality and that you know how to talk to non-Christians about matters of faith without sounding weird. We need to know that so we can do the same.

b. Find accountability in good, trustworthy people. No one likes it on any level (myself included--I avoid accountability whenever I can). For so many reasons, pastors cannot be alone in their duties. They need someone(s) on their side to both an objective voice and admonishment when necessary. In my own life, I've seen several pastors who have not had accountability, and the results are dismal for anyone in contact with these men.

c. Do something outside the church, and bring others with you. I love it when pastors attend conferences, connect with people from other places, gain outside perspectives on Christ's church, and reflect on what it all means to their own local churches. I really love it when they tell the congregation all about it. Pastors are the church's eyes and ears to Christendom, and we need badly to know where we stand.

Maybe people are nosey, and maybe they just want to be more involved. Pastors are in the unique position of showing people the right doors to open to work their spiritual gifts and abilities. Many churchgoers lack spiritual direction and want someone to point them in the right way. someone once told me that leaders should always be looking and preparing their replacements.

d. Show us what shepherding really looks like. Until I attended the Journey, I honestly didn't know anything about what pastoral care was, because it was by and large absent throughout my life. One evening, my husband and I met one of our pastors to talk about ministry stuff, and in the car we had a typical married argument. As we walked inside, there was no real hiding it, although I tried. After obligatory "how are yous," our pastor picked up on it and I admitted we had a fight. I expected him to brush it off as one of those things married people do, but instead he helped us deal with a relationship issue that was a source of disagreement between us. That's just one example. I have others.

e. Give us a passion. This is probably the most important point. A Christian's passion should be to see the world saved. Unfortunately, this passion is rarely ever realized in the life of the church. I'd love to see a pastor in the Asian community exhibit this passion and fervently seek to impart it to others, like it's job #1 (it is, isn't it?). This might require a lot of one-on-one dialoguing as well as preaching in sermons. This is one point that needs constant attention, so I hope pastors don't get tired of reminding people all the time. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. -6-

Sudan's President Pardons Gillian Gibbons

Read this story at

To go along with this, feminist and former N.O.W. chapter president, Tammy Bruce, recently went on Fox News to give her take on N.O.W.'s silence over Ms. Gibbons' case. She says that N.O.W. should have come to Ms. Gibbon's defense as an obvious no-brainer. What prevented them from making any statement is their current left-leaning politics and their shared disdain for the Bush administration with other leftist groups. So strong is their committment to the left that they are willing to "throw women under the bus" for the sake of maintaining liberal politics.

Read more in her online article.

In this case, Ms. Gibbons was falsely accused of insulting Islam. Rather than rallying behind her and demanding her release from a Muslim government, they turned a blind eye because, apparently, being negative toward a Islamic government that jails and beats women for no good reason is politically incorrect. What if the Sudanese government were Christian instead, and some parents got upset over a teddy bear named John the Baptist, or even Jesus? I assure you, the world would hear outrage coming out of N.O.W. spokeswomen everywhere.

Some say that feminism can be redeemed to again promote the social welfare of women everywhere. That would depend on how one defines feminism. As far as the current definition goes, one of women married to liberal politics, I disagree. Feminism doesn't need redemption, but feminists do.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Religio-blogging Catches Newspaper's Eye

On Tuesday, USA Today featured a look at Christian blogging in the Life section of the paper. The article highlights blogging activity for Southern Baptists, Catholics, and Episcopalians. Overall, the article is neutral on reporting the hot topics among each denomination, though of course, the clashing in cyberspace is what gets printed. Frank Page, SBC President, is quoted twice for exclaiming "For Christ's sake, stop!" in referring to the heated disagreements over SBC matters.

Page fretted in a Baptist Press column that battling bloggers frighten off
"lost souls and new believers." He wrote, "Lost people are seeing the deep
division and sometimes hatred that is flowing froth among churches and among those who are involved in convention discussions. For Christ's sake, stop!"
The article similarly points out vociferous disagreement over the gay issue among Episcopalians and the larger Anglican church. It runs aground when it comes to Catholics, as it seems the author couldn't find anything more controversial than the Pope's decision about accessibility of the Catholic mass.

My curiosity is piqued. Why quote Frank Page thus? Why point out the war of words occurring in cyberspace to the largely uninterested public? I think the media is again doing what it does best when it handles the religious sector in any way, and that is to mess up the story or make one out of nothing. It seems to be playing the latter this time. Whatever.

But, a few people are getting their 15 minutes out of this. Two bloggers in each denomination have mentions as representatives of the fray. They are:

Southern Baptist
1. Ben Cole --,
2. Wes Kenney --,

1. John Zuhlsdorf
2. Rocco Palmo

1. David Virtue
2. Louie Crew

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. -5-

N.O.W. Silent on Inhumane Treatment of Women

Chalk another one up for N.O.W.'s failures to stand up for better treatment of women everywhere. This morning, news broke that British teacher in Sudan, Gilliam Gibbons, has been arrested and faces 40 lashes and possible jail time for allowing a teddy bear to be named Muhammed in a classroom activity. The charge: insulting Islam.

I'm not going to run the gamut of how ridiculous this situation in Sudan is; there are too many obvious points about how wrong the authorities in Sudan are. They should release Ms. Gibbons and apologize for threatening to give her 40 lashes (which is potentially fatal).

At any rate, the real beef on this end is that N.O.W. again has failed to even make a statement criticizing this arrest and potential inhumane treatment of an innocent women. It is a no-brainer that N.O.W. should defend Ms. Gibbons. According to Fox News,

A spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women said the situation
"is definintely on the radar, and N.O.W. is not ignoring it. But she added that
the U.S.-based organization is "not putting out a statement or taking a

Well, if they bothered to say anything at all, why not make a statement? Unless, of course, they aren't really about the business of helping women out after all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Last Thing You'd Never Talk About

to Mom and Dad...

Pastor and blogger, Peter Ong, has spoken exceptionally candidly about sex in his latest post, a hail-back to a recent conference session. Here is an exerpt:

On our college campuses we have young people who raise their hands as they
worship God in the felly halls but in their dorms they are using their hands in
other ways, we have leaders who are continuing to lead without a mention of what
their private worlds are like (once again, they are simply a function for us as
ministry workers), we have pastors who are left unchecked when they are
“prepping” their sermons, and we have so many of our married couples who still
don’t know how to have sex in a Godly healthy manner.

Our silence has murdered our call to purity. It has been this sin of
omission that we are so afraid to ask and be asked of this area of our lives
that has been a ground zero for so many of us.

I think he has hit the nail on the head with the attitudes about sex common to Asian churches. Churches have mostly employed the "don't ask, don't tell" method of dealing with the issue or attempted to cover the topic with weak presentations aimed at encouraging youth not to ask any followup questions.

So that I don't appear too critical, I believe that it might be too difficult for our typical Asian churches to deal with the subject of sex in this generation (so we should consider cutting them some slack). First generation immigrants will likely balk, and our curious youth might be better served in a more non-Asian environment to talk about sexual issues.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stem Cell Breakthrough Avoids Embryo Destruction

The news is all abuzz with the announcement that scientists have successfully turned skin cells into pluripotent stem cells, the kind sought after in embryonic stem cell research, only without creating and destroying embryos in the process.

On Tuesday, ScienceNOW Daily News reports that

"Scientists have managed to reprogram human skin cells directly into cells
that look and act like embryonic stem (ES) cells. The technique makes it
possible to generate patient-specific stem cells to study or treat disease
without using embryos or oocytes--and therefore could bypass the ethical debates that have plagued the field. "This is like an earthquake for both the science
and politics of stem cell research," says Jesse Reynolds, policy analyst for the
Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, California."
(ScienceNOW Daily News, 20 November 2007)

Not only this science journal, but Cell, the AP, Reuters, the LA Times, and various bioethics blogs and websites are bubbling over with talk about this latest breakthrough.

This is good news for the ethics-minded. Up until now, many proponents of ESCR have insisted on continuing their research over non-ESCR methods, citing the pluripotency of cells found in abunant supply in human embryos. Now, scientists can make stem cells from skin cells and avoid having to clone and farm human embryos to obtain similar results.

And I do mean similar. The ScienceNOW article, for all it's positive tone, inserts a caveat as to the abilities of the newly made cells, that they possibly could turn tumorous. Well, what's new about that? Embryonic stem cells have long exhibited tumorous tendencies and have failed to treat even one disease. Only try getting a news story to point that out!

For better blogging about this issue, please check out Secondhand Smoke, Wesley J. Smith's blog, as he has been keeping up with this issue closer than anyone else I can think of.

Making Feminsts Cringe. Oh Well. -4-

How to Shut Feminists Up: show them the news

This news story about a woman being gang-raped in Saudi Arabia and then sentenced to 90 lashes, which then was upgraded to 200 lashes plus six months prison time is just one horrific example in a mountainside of incidents of women across the globe suffering abuse, torture, and inhumane treatment. And few people are doing anything about it, least of all feminists in America.

The above story is over a year old, and not a single feminist organization has spoken out, condemned, nor called any body of government to intervene on the behalf of this victim. Why not?

Most spokeswomen hem and hah, but the real reason is that they don't really care all that much, even though they are supposedly for women. The liberal feminists in this country concern themselves only about liberal policies of America: maintaining legal abortions and keeping liberal politicians in office, even if that means abandoning women in other countries to the savageries of men.

Thanks ladies. Oops, women. If this poor Saudi woman makes it out of this ordeal alive, she'll have plenty of thanks for you, too.

(photo credit: photo taken by Luis E. Cerezo and is unrelated to the accompanying news story.)

Chinese Take-Out -2-

During college, I left my Chinese church congregation, but not for the reasons I have posted (at least not primarily). A longtime family friend and member of another Chinese church asked me sometime later where I attended church afterwards. I hesitated to say, because I knew what was coming. Her surprised look and slow reply said it all, "Oh, a lo-fahn [white] like that kind of thing?"

1. Christians must love others. Sounds like a benign altruism become cliche. But in trying to answer the question for myself "what's missing in the Asian church?," it just came to my mind that there is a profound lack of the love of Christ to underpin the church. I am not saying that love is entirely absent. I am saying that the overall sentiment is that the Asian church loves too little.

Before I get into that, Asians do have something that resembles love though. Asians have a lot of loyalty. Asians respect establishment and are loyal to the good intentions of a church and to its attenders. Loyalty is a postitive characteristic, but it is no substitute for the unconditional love of Christ.

The difference? For the most part, loyalty seeks the good of an image to maintain or portray, not necessarily the good of the person or entity receiving loyaly. Loyalty can have many motivations, both selfless and selfish. Love, on the other hand, seeks the best for others for their sakes and, ultimately, for the Lord's sake. As it says in 1 Cor. 13:3-7, real love cannot be selfish.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NKJV)
As I mentioned before, Asian churches give generously and make efforts to meet many needs in the Asian community, which I applaud. I'd like to go even beyond that to personal needs in addition. Among churchgoers, I'd like to see more interpersonal intimacy, sharing and wrestling with sensitive and emotional issues, which include spiritual doubt, character flaws, marriage difficulties, and sex. (SEX?!)

I can hear one objection now, shooting up to my ears from my Chinese roots and more than faintly resembles my mother's voice. It is just not the Asian way (!) to express one's vulnerabilities and uncertainties let alone ask for another Asian to do likewise. It is uncomfortable and embarrassing to share one's innermost thoughts, especially the unpleasant ones. We are culturally not intimate like that and ardently avoid conversations of this nature.

Perhaps we should be--maybe a little more than presently. Perhaps, for our sakes, God asks us to love each other in this way, to find Him through our doubts, to put away pretense, to have godly and fulfilling marriages, and over everything, to experience Him and truly feel safe both inwardly and outwardly.

We can also better express outward love for our sons and daughters. Not just the babies and little ones--our teens and college students desperately need acceptance at their major formative ages in personal growth. As a matter of personal experience, sometimes I felt as if my worth was linked to meeting expectations in the face of my parents (though mine were never as severe as parents of other kids I knew), and the culture of performance pervades most, if not all, Asian families. We have to perform the best at school, on achievement tests, in music, in conforming to social restrictions, in maintaining family duties, and in never being tempted to act contrary to the Asian norm. That's a lot of pressure that easily eclipses the love of Christ. We might consider that many an Asian youth have abandoned the Christian faith for lack of this love amongst other things.

Lastly, I'd love to see increased love for people of other races. I don't suggest this with total naievete. I realize that many Asians are wary of getting close to other major ethnic minorities for fear of prejudice (on both sides), misunderstanding, and for perhaps past unfriendly encounters. I share those same concerns. At this point, though, my theology kicks in and says to me that among Christians, if we truly have the love of Christ, then all we should see is Jesus instead of racial misgivings.

I realize that it not the Asian way to be open or allow inner change. It is not the Asian way to admit vulnerability instead of staunchly holding onto pride, even if we hold it wrongly. It is not the Asian way to tell people they are valuable instead of telling them they have done something valuable. It is not the Asian way, because to do otherwise would involve risk, which makes us a little afraid. My pastor once said in one of his sermons, that the opposite of love is not hate; it is fear. If thinking about all these above things causes us to fear, then how small are we keeping God and His love compared to our collective fear?

What would happen if we made a committment to love a little more like Christ?

o we would prioritize spiritual formation in our families over academic and financial gain. In other words, stop being materialistic. Starting with ourselves, we would care more about knowing God than knowing our business. We would show more care for our children's views of God and Christ than their grades in school. Overall, we would protect ourselves less from foreign influences (God's job, not ours) and more about how to influence others for the sake of the gospel.

o we would confront racial prejudices against non-Asian races and see them as people God created. No longer would we tag the word gwai (for the Chinese-speaking) onto references to someone's color. No longer would we express negativity about another ethnicity's culture and way of life as inferior to our own. Instead, we would take the initiative to build bridges at the risk of personal discomfort and possible rejection all in the name of love and charity. Then, we might truly love our neighbor as ourselves.

In conclusion, only the church can accomplish these things. No other body has the power of Christ to move this mountain. I know the difficulties in overturning those aspects of Asian culture that do not rest on Christ and trade them in for biblical foundations. But this is exactly what the very essence of Christianity is--being the new creature, loving and being loved more than what is even possible without the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One final word on this post (promise!): we can't expect that when the church starts loving in this fashion not to experience repercussions. Those coming to church not willing to trade material safety for the deep love of Jesus (which is very unsafe for the human ego) will be quite upset and likely to either leave or even seek to take it out on the pastor (sorry, pastors!). But, the ones who stay and are receptive will know God and be much healthier as Christians than they ever were before. What would you prefer?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chinese Take-Out: Commentary on how Asian Christians have espressed faith, both good and bad (1)

I am one in a category of people with very very few inhabitants. I am a/n:
Christian (evangelical) who is
Reformed theologically,
American-born Chinese,
Theologian wanna-be,
Church reformer,
Attending an emerging-style interdenominational church (Acts 29 Network planted) and,
Politically conservative.

In fact, as far as this category goes, most of the time I'm fairly sure I'm the only one in it.

And I have to ask how I got here from where I started. The local Chinese community is a fairly small world. I get this from the fact that my mother knows just about everyone who's in it from the 1960's on up. There are lots of people in it with growing numbers, yet she still keeps up with who's who. Amazing.

Add to it the smaller community of Chinese churches in which my family has spent decades. I cannot underscore the benefit this community has had on me personally. Growing up in a time when racial insensitivity was still a public norm, I needed a place among other Chinese to feel like a just a girl, not the ching-chong like I was at school everyday. (Not that the kids could have missed a glaring target like myself. My wildly out-of-date clothing, diminutive height, nerdy dispostition, and athletic shortcomings bred no small measure of disdain among classmates. Tell me if this isn't your story, too.) I had friends at church, happiness, and a sense of belonging. Coupled with the gospel presentation of a God who knows me and loves me anyway, I am blessed to have my experiences. But yes, there is a darker side to all of this.

The outward goal of Christian faith as expressed by Chinese Christians can be summed up in one word: safety. Just to compare, the Puritans' outward goal was material wealth. Both groups believe that faith in God and pleasing Him well result in achieving these things as a sign of His blessings. Because of the turmoil that besieged the Chinese of my parents' generation overseas, the appeal of Christianity to many Chinese lies in Matt. 11:28-30, from where most relate to Jesus as a gentle, soothing God who loves and provides safety instead of the abuse they are used to seeing from the world. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

As a result, most Chinese Christians emphasize the language of God as a refuge of security and peace in their theology, which, as a positive, helps many Chinese to heal from their experiences. As a negative, it explains much of the reluctance to balance their churches with the more complete picture of Christ in the Bible.

As I grew into my teens and twenties, I could see where the theological and practical shortcomings of this community had larger ramifications, ones that sent me down a road of disenchantment with the entire Chinese church establishment, on top of personal bad experiences. I could speak volumes about the negative things I see in Chinese churches, but that wouldn't be fair. So I challenged myself. How do I push aside the pile of criticism and come up with due compliments?

I have compiled lists according to characteristics common in most Chinese/Asian churches below.

Expressions of faith:

  • accept propositional truth claims about the Bible with little outward debate
  • adapt well to the dominant western forms of worship
  • enthusiastic acceptance of anyone willing to join church
  • establishment of routines is sign of security/blessings
  • sincere desire and prayers for the spread of Christianity

The good:

  • do not stray from orthodoxy easily if established with good doctrine
  • maintain a high level of 'wholesomeness' that is reinforced with the Asian subculture
  • make evangelizing immigrants and non-english speaking Chinese a priority (that is, among the Chinese-speaking population)
  • pay adequate attention to the elderly Chinese in the community
  • give generously to meet a church-related need, both monetarily and personally
  • give generously to meet physical needs of church members and/or family of church members
  • highly supportive of missions (mostly international)

The not-so-good:

  • members live highly compartmentalized lives
  • Asian values and expectations often trump Christian values (wealth, material possessions, ambitions)
  • lack of reality in gospel living
  • little pastoral challenge to conversion
  • lack of vision and visionary leadership
  • lay leaders not adequately educated to teach
  • lack of spriritual accountability on all levels
  • shallow emphasis on Bible understanding and theological truths
  • lack of body cohesiveness
  • lack of sprititual and cultural engagement, little connection to the community at large
  • emphasis at church is on getting along and social fulfillment
  • rampant consumerism, which is emphasized to unbelieving Chinese
  • low valuation of creativity and innovation; very protective of traditions/routines
  • racial prejudices largely ignored
  • people feel like it's not their place to make or suggest changes

  • lack of Christian worldview: members unable to make sense of how Jesus should impact their academic, professional, or daily lives, which leads to a low level of actual conversion and changed lives
  • members are biblically illiterate and lack spiritual discernment
  • unwillingness to confront sin, both corporately and personally, especially to church disagreements
  • spiritual laziness, unwilling to raise level of biblical understanding of theological truths
  • low committment to evangelism
  • high level of apathy
  • members feel isolated from sharing personal struggles with each other and suffer from low level of trust, even with close friends
  • low ability to communicate faith and gospel to children growing up in church
  • familial relationships remain strained and dysfunctional
  • cultural isolation, unable to relate to non-asian churches, do not cooperate with churches of other ethnicities much or community at large
  • poor leadership sometimes leading to abuse and injury to the church
  • low initiative to enact change
For Asian Christians, do we recognize this state of affairs, or should we ignore it for the sake of not appearing to criticize our elders? That has been the dilemma for many a decade now. I know that a small but influential group of Asian pastors have sought to turn the Asian-American mentality around to engage our culture, rather than to compartmentalize it. I believe their leadership, and how well they execute it in their own congregations, is the key to bringing Asian churches into better health and effectiveness.

There are four important things that need to happen in Asian churches in the upcoming years if they are to live out Kindgom values:
1. Christians must love others.
2. Pastors and leaders need to lead with stronger examples in their own lives.
3. English and non-English speaking parts of the congregation must define and live out their purposes.
4. Christians must comprehend the differences between what is biblical and what is cultural in their lives.

These four things deserve separate attention, which I will get into shortly. I do hope people recognize, though, that these four principles are not specific just to the Asian subculture in America, but to all Christian churches throughout the world.

I am keenly interested in others' experiences of church in the Asian culture. It has been a while since I last lived neck-deep in this particular milieu, so my exposure has been a little dated. How have things changed in the last decade in Asian churches? What is the third generation experiencing in the Asian church subculture? What issues are at the forefront of Asian churchgoers now? What are the current attitudes of congregations nowadays? What is the message being sent to Asians outside the church community? What is the future of the Asian ethnic church? Give me your thoughts.

(bad blogging note: I realize this post is too long for a main page. Unfortunately, I tried and failed at truncating my text. Attempts at finding code I could use resulted in frustration, so I said the heck with it.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. -3-

Men, Men, Men, Men, Part 3

I (that's me)
take the bull (that's you)
by the horns (leaving that up to your imagination).

This might be my last installment of rant-on-men, but I won't promise. I specifically want a word out on marrieds.

I found the following essay by Judy (Syfers) Brady (pictured above), referenced on Mary Anne Joy's feminist blog. Though the essay was written over 30 years ago, much of it is still relevant to the lives of typical American wives.

I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother. Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife? I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school.

And while I am going to school, I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children's doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eatproperly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children's clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife's income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.

I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school.

I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene. I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife's duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.

I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the baby-sitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d'oeuvres, that they are offered a second helping of the food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it.

And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.

I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.

If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free. When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife's duties.

My God, who wouldn't want a wife?

Poignant. I'm having trouble following that up with anything equally as poignant. In this, I don't blame feminists for feeling the way they do. I'm strongly inclined to feel the same way. I believe things would change, however, if husbands would stop being the jerks feminists think is an endemic disease of the y chromosome.

Husbands have no problem focusing on their selfs. I hope I've made it evident that husbands should think more of their wives' selfs a little more often (if not first, if not sacrificially for those of you calling yourselves Christians).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. -2-

Men, Men, Men, Men, Part 2


Remember this tagline? Er, for those of you who live in Hardees states, otherwise they might be known as Carl Jr.'s. The TV commercial featuring this tagline shows a man in a grocery store staring up a wall of bread, paralyzed by the choices and unable to pick a loaf to avoid starvation. Thank goodness for Hardees, the commercial flaunts. Although amusing, this commercial betrays something about men that we find typical in American life, that men are often inept to care for themselves or anyone else in a basic area such as food, unless food is prepackaged and ready to eat and served to one's face. Women fear that children, left to the care of men, will eat nothing but fries, chips, and ice cream forever. We also fear for our men's own health. Although this might seem an exaggeration, experienced wives like myself know that this is indeed a reality. The wiser among us will also know that this state of being has serious repercussions for society.

So now I continue my previous discussion on feminism, beginning with the things men need to face. Wanted or not, here are my suggestions for men:

1. Get yourself under control before anything else. If you have unhealthy, immoral obsessions and habits that you are making excuses for, no woman in her right mind would want to put up with you; you will always end up ruining any relationship as long as you're out of control. This also goes for men who want to remain single. If you are a Christian, you can't expect to be an effective in church or in life if your sin is producing a double life for you.

2. Get some ed. Formally or informally, men should know about life, the home, women, and kids.
Life - many men only do two things: work and recreate; seek to do more than gaming, sports, hobbies or work (for some men, their work is hobby). Pay attention to your views of life and faith--are you even conscious of them? Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living." How much of your own life do you examine? More importantly, what are the ramifications of your own thoughts and actions, for your future, for others?

The home - Find out how to live like a family man, even if you're single (most men have their own families, right?). Many men will keep their sports equipment or cars lovin' fresh to the neglect of everything else. Pick up some life skills: learn how a mortgage works, keep a bathroom clean, pick up a couple plumbing know-hows. Can you cook anything, or do you only reheat?

Women - Learn how to treat the opposite sex properly. Ask a woman to help you--she'll probably tell you more than you wanted to know! Hang around mature married couples and find out what husbands have learned about how to relate to their wives. For men who want to be married one day, you need this.

Kids - It's not enough to know how to make 'em. Men suffer a huge social disconnect when they don't know how to relate to children, and it's usually the kids to do the suffering for it. The number of kids who do not have the benefit of a good father figure has been high for decades and is still rising. Even if you don't have kids of your own, learn how to be a father figure to someone who needs one.

3. Find a dad. If your own dad isn't a good choice for whatever reason, then find a dad--a mentor. Most guys need the voice of wisdom, yet actively seek to avoid it, choosing the comfort of ignorance . More importantly, most guys need male accountability. Yo mama simply won't do.

4. Be honest with yourself and with others. Most people in general think of themselves more highly than they deserve. Women know that most men parade themselves about with exaggerated opinions of their own abilities as well as display false humility to maintain their flimsy but idolized egos. We can see through that. We really can.

5. Be a leader. I don't mean running for prez. I mean seek responsibility instead of avoiding it altogether. A leader considers how his actions will affect himself and others later on and takes steps to steer away from foolish decisions. If men took more of a stand for longer-range thinking and stood by wiser actions, they might well pull a whole community to live wiser as well, and some people might even have respect for them. How about that?

6. Find a vision for yourself. Where do you see yourself, and what are you doing in five years? In 10? More importantly, what will your attitudes and understanding of yourself be then? I have male friends who have no vision. They are in their 30's and still live with their parents playing video games like perpetual teenagers. Such men are squandering away their youth on trivial pursuits, simply getting older and never having accomplished anything respectable.

In other words, grow up. A couple of years ago, I heard that sociologists are lamenting the ever lengthening period of adolescence in young men, lasting into the mid twenties (and perhaps beyond). If you are at least 20 years old, our communities and families need men, not boys.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Summary of Francis A. Schaeffer Lecture Series -2-

The Emerging Church: Discerning a Missional Milieu
Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri
Friday and Saturday, October 19-20, 2007

Short Summary

I attended the series beginning Friday evening. In the History and Streams of the Emerging Church, Pas. Patrick first recounted his personal story of conversion and call to ministry. He then outlined the key leaders in the Emerging Church Movement, highlighting a timeline that began in the mid-1990's. Most of these key players were back then a number of mostly youth pastors and seminary students.

Pas. Patrick then moved to talking about the influential entities of Emerging that exist today, represented by Acts 29 and Emergent Village. He clarified that there are three underlying categories of any Emerging-style church: Emerging Conversational, Emerging Attractional, and Emerging Incarnational. Each catetory has its leaders who challenge evangelical Christianity in their own way.

Lastly, Pas. Patrick explored some often used vocabulary of Emerging churches, including "missional," "authenticity," and "narrative." He followed these terms by showing a series of Pomotivator posters that brought a level of amusement to the audience.

The evening sessions ended with formal Q & A.

Summary of Francis A. Schaeffer Lecture Series -1-

The Emerging Church: Discerning a Missional Milieu
Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri
Friday and Saturday, October 19-20, 2007

Since Covenant students could attend this lecture for credit, I have included relevant portions of the syllabus and schedule of the lectures.

Schedule for Friday
10:00am -- Chapel - An Interview with Darrin Patrick
7:00 - 9:45pm -- The History and Streams of the Emerging Church; Popular Terms of The Emerging Church (featuring TeamPyro's Emergent-see Pomotivators); Q & A with Darrin Patrick

Schedule for Saturday
8:30am -- An Emerging Church worship experience
10:30am -- Emerging Church: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good
12:00pm -- Lecture Series concludes for general public
12:15pm -- Lunch and Q & A session with Darrin Patrick (limited only to students taking course for academic credit)

Required readings:
Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Churches (Robert Webber)
Velvet Elvis (Rob Bell)

Recommended reading:
Sex God (Rob Bell)
Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Gibbs and Bolger)

In addition to attending the lectures, students are required to complete a four-part project which includes the following:
1. Attend a worship service at The Journey and complete evaluation questions.
2. Evaluate the two books required for this course.
3. Complete lecture evaluations.
4. Make suggestions about how the emerging church conversation could contribute to local church/denomination to be more missional.

Friday, October 19, 2007

5 Lies the Church Tells Women

Thanks to Sarah Flashing who has linked up the following on her blog . I thought it was well-worth reading. It is an article written by Sue Bohlin titled 5 Lies the Church Tells Women.

In a nutshell, here they are:

Lie #1: God Created Women as Inferior Beings, Destined to Serve Their Husbands.
Lie #2: A Man Needs to "Cover" a Woman in Her Ministry Activities.

Lie #3: Women Can't be Fulfilled or Spiritually Effective Without a Husband or Children.

Lie #4: Women Should Never Work Outside the Home.

Lie #5: Women Must Obediently Submit to Their Husbands in All Situations.

I find the last one the most problematic for a couple of reasons.

First, the wording that women must obediently submit is curious. The word "obediently" is either reduntant or meant to change the word "submission" to mean something that it does not. Bohlin doesn't adress this, but the phraseology of this sentence, if accurate, belies a misunderstanding of submission in our churches on the whole. In scripture, submission is a call to respectful and humble unity, before other connotations. In light of Paul's directive in 1 Peter 5:5 (Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility.--NKJV), 'to submit' does not mean 'to do whatever your husband says,' which is basically what Lie #5 advocates.

The second point springboards from the first. Lie #5 adds "in all situations" pointing to when wives should do what their husbands say, which, in this case, is all the time. Clearly, this is unscriptural. The Bible commands women to sumbit to their husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22). One can interpret this verse in different ways, though I would clarify wifely submission to apply as long as her husband is behaving as the Lord. No woman should accept demands from her husband that lead to sin, which include demands that serve no leadership or edifying purpose in the kingdom of God (other than to indulge the husband in some sinful stroke of the ego or something related). To submit in this way would clearly violate a woman's first submission to God, and the woman is not obliged to accept his demands.

Having said all that, I would follow it with the caution that if a husband is acting in accordance with the scriptures and asks his wife to submit in some necessary action either in will or deed (or both), God has not given her the option to refuse.

Of course, I am completely aware that Lie #5 may be phrased in exaggeration, in which case I'd like to add "Whether Waking or Sleeping" to the end. Exactly to how many churches or individuals does this really apply, I wonder?

Walking the narrow path is hard, and this issue is about as narrow and hard as it gets.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekend Lecture on the Emerging Church Movement

The Emerging Church: Discerning a Missional Milieu
Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series at Covenant Seminary
St. Louis, Missouri
October 19-20, 2007

This coming Friday and Saturday, my pastor, Darrin Patrick, will be the keynote speaker at Covenant Seminary on the topic of the Emerging Church. The event fee is $25 and is open to Covenant students and the public. Pastor Darrin is lead pastor at The Journey church in St. Louis, MO and also Vice President of the Acts 29 Network.

The past couple of years has seen a sharp interest in the Emergent Church Movement, many times also called the Emerging Church Movement. Questions about the rise of Emergent/Emerging church types center around orthodox beliefs and attitudes toward cultural and societal norms and trends. In this weekend seminar, Pastor Darrin will speak about the nature of the movement and many particulars within churches that exist within it.

I have it from his own mouth that he will be using some of TeamPyro's Emergent-see Pomotivator posters as a part of his presentations. Congratulations, TeamPyro, for going cross-country.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Food On the Nude (Yes, ON)

Talk about losing one's appetite...

The movie Kill Bill introduced me to "naked sushi" for the first time. I naively thought, "well, they sure were creative to think of that for the movie, however nauseating it is. Barf." That is, I didn't realize that they actually do this naked sushi thing in Japanese sushi restaurants. Now, some sushi bars on the west coast are featuring naked sushi as well. Mercy.

I cannot think of a finer example of the objectifying of women than to use them as plates.

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. -1-

Men, Men, Men, Men, Part 1

I'll start off by stating that I'm not a feminist. But, I don't wear a *bonnet either, and I don't believe that the only stick a woman should drive is a broom or a butter churn.

With that out of the way, I'd like to thank Mark Driscoll for his stance on what men should be and how they should behave, especially when it concerns the Church, marriage, and family. In what some feminists see as an affront, I react with "Dang! That's good stuff!" See what I mean:
(it's a long clip, but well worth it to get the context)

As far as character goes, I agree with Driscoll--men have become wimps in society. I'm not talking about the macho ego that many men throw around as a substitute for real manliness; I'm talking about the selfish withdrawal from upholding order and morality in civilization that has occurred over the past couple of generations. Men have, on the whole, become qualitatively (and physically in many cases) weak, flabby, self-focused amoebas who want to retain arrogance and the right to feel sexually fulfilled. Yeah, jerks.

K-Fed, anyone?

What about the other side? Many men complain that women berate them incessantly about their shortcomings and simply want them to step off. It's true--women do that. But for women to step off, men must first step up.

*disclaimer: this statement is not meant to offend or malign anyone who wears a bonnet.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. (Intro)

I just love the idea of making this category a running series. I find feminism an intriguing topic, badly in need of critique and pushback as much as understanding.

This series is aimed at recovering womanhood, specifically Biblical Womanhood, first in the mind and will, and then into practice. I join the many voices out in the blogosphere already discussing this topic, I know. And the term "Biblical Womanhood" almost seems cliche. I am convinced, though, that unless we increase the volume of discussion everywhere, the stream of access, and thus, importance of Biblical Womanhood will remain narrow and confined, leaving it an issue visited only by those who are really looking for thoughtfulness on this subject and not by the Christian populace at large.

In these three-plus decades since women's lib, feminism has taken the modern and postmodern American society by storm (in waves, as it is officially called). Extreme feminism characterizes a big chunk of feminism in general (the man-hating, pro-abortion, double standard, raunchy, lesbianism promoting feminism). It's fair to say that conservative women like myself pass on donning the cloak of feminism due to the prominent extremism.

There is a woman in nearly every household (many more than men). Of those, every Christian woman desires how to live and love according to God's will, whether she is a feminist or not.

I'd like to do several things with this series. Oddly enough, it doesn't start with women. I'd like to discuss men's roles in our culture, church, and family; I'd like to discuss women in dating and marriage relationships; I'd like to tread on the ground of being, so to speak, where women find the wholeness that seems to elude us; I'd like to challenge feminist ideals (good and bad) and bring their ramifications to light. It'll be fun.

I want people to realize that this topic doesn't concern only women. Much to feminists' chagrin, women need the involvement of men to achieve biblical womanhood. Likewise, men need women to achieve biblical manhood as well (more about that later!). So, I need thoughtful men to share their comments and personal struggles with this issue, in keeping with good netiquette, and no trolling. Welcome to another thing!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why I'm the Damsel

At one time
Dead dogs and dead women
Pearls worth more than girls
Someone extended a hand
To give Life
"Talitha, koum..."
And now
Pry the tail out
From the viper's own jaws
This time
Still needs Someone
"Talitha, koum..."
Little girl, arise

I'm no poet. This art was lost on me after studying free verse poetry in high school, which came after the understandable iambic pentameter and the haiku. If there is no form, no necessary rhythm, no need for rhyme, no nothing, then what makes a poem a poem? Can't anyone be a poet if they scribble out some words in short little nonsentences? Maybe I'm a poet afterall.

I'm that girl, if born 2,000 years ago, who probably would have died young, perhaps mourned, but easily forgotten. Body burned in a trash heap. I'm that girl, born today, bombarded with ideals of false rights and false liberation. I'm lucky to be alive. I could have still ended up in a trash heap, only in much smaller pieces.

Who bothered to give me worth? Who bothered to raise me from radical death? Not your average man (or woman) on the street. A Divine Man, an oxymoron. Jesus. He's given radical life to women throughout time. That is why my blog is called, "Talitha, koum."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Teri Rhodes Multiple Choice; "D," None of the Above

After this news story, I scoured blogs for commentaries on the following:

August 12, 2007: Teri Rhodes, 18, college student at Mercyhurst College in PA, gave birth to a baby girl in her bathroom and used a plastic bag to suffocate her while taking a shower in the bathtub where she laid the baby. The baby literally died at Rhodes' feet. Rhodes is now charged with murder and conspiracy to hide a death of a baby. The handful of blogs that have written about this incident have been disapproving of Rhodes committing murder, but not one blogger has placed the final blame on this woman for the death of her newborn baby.

Instead, I perused blogs and comments about that poor girl needing psychotherapy, education, yada yada, and how poverty increases the infanticide rate. I also read blogs that chastised society for not providing better prenatal and postnatal care with counseling, chastised pharmacists for refusing to dispense morning after pills, and even suggested that Rhodes should have had gotten an abortion, as if that were a more preferable method of disposing of her daughter. I also caught comments that the physicians in charge of Rhodes care were incompetent to diagnose her pregancy (this deserves a "no duh!"), and thus absolving Rhodes of some of the blame.

Excuse A: Infanticide is common among young, poor, uneducated females anywhere in the world. We might consider Rhodes young for being an American, but at 18, she's legally an adult and way older than what's considered young by the world's stats. Poor and uneducated at a private Catholic college majoring in Biology and Medical Technology? Hardly.

Excuse B: Pregnant women need care and counseling and sex ed to make rational decisions about pregancy and birth and...I guess murder as well. Last time I checked, there are pregnancy resources everywhere, especially on the internet, where Rhodes spent lots of time net searching for ways to kill her unborn baby in the months leading up to birth. Rhodes had ready access to all of the above, so her actions seem perfectly rational to me. Placing additional blame on the incompetence of the college's sports physician for not detecting what should have been an obvious pregancy does get a nod (Rhodes received a physical two days before giving birth in which he did ask her about, and she denied, pregancy). The doctor may have dropped the ball, but it doesn't remove any blame from Rhodes.

Excuse C: Rhodes could have gotten an abortion or taken the morning after pill. Granted, those options are legal and would have spared Rhodes a murder charge. Even if she opted for either alternative, however, the result would still have been the same: death.

I have a deep compassion for Rhodes being alone in her ordeal and for what her emotional states must have been throughout her pregancy. She does need counseling, and lots of it...while she's in jail. She's a rebellious, irresponsible, lying murderer.

She's rebellious for thinking that having sex before marriage is a good idea (against her Catholic upbringing);

Irresponsible if she thinks that sex doesn't produce a baby that she has obligations to;

Lying for denying her pregancy and any help related to pregancy;

And murder, for all the obvious reasons.

Legally and morally, Rhodes is a mess, and because she chose to go it alone, she alone should bear the blame, not all the other people above who might have somehow changed her circumstances for her. That is the point, missed and ignored as it is.

In case you're wondering, this hits home for me. I have a daughter who one day might get pregnant before marriage, God forbid. I pray for Rhodes, that the severity of her actions impacts her, that she realizes some truths about herself, and finally, that she learns of redemption in the person of Christ. There's more to this story that I have to express...I'll have to put in another post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Should You Do It, IVF You Want?

I have had so many questions for the longest time about Christian couples who choose to undergo IVF and how they have come to grips with what they believe God wants for them. Have we considered these questions?

In our Western Christian-influenced society, we have come to view medicine and treatments/procedures as blessings and/or gifts from God. Afterall, God created the man/woman, bestowed the intellect, ordained the circumstances, and nurtured the drive that produced a doctor that heals the disease. We appreciate that.

And so, we are inclined to view infertility and its alternatives in the same fashion. Is IVF the same as helping the paraplegic to walk again? In the latter, we are restoring a function, a physical ability. In the former, we are circumventing, not restoring, reproductive disabilities. We are making babies. Lots of them. And, unlike helping someone to walk, numerous embryos that are created inevitably meet a fatal end. It's expected. These two things don't sound the same after all.

A couple pursuing IVF really only wants one child (at a time). IVF creates dozens of embryos; doesn't that make them instantly parents of twelve or more offspring?

When they are asked how many to implant, why do most choose to implant more than one? If the number is high (8 or more), what do they do when embryos don't "take" (in other words, miscarry)?

What do they do when their doctor approaches them about a "reduction" (that is, abortion) from, say, 6 to 3, the intentional death of 3 of their unborn?

How does the couple regard any remaining unimplanted embryos? Are they viewed as their children the same as the ones that are implanted and brought to birth?

How does all of this square with the prominent view in Christianity that personhood and humanity exist with someone from the time of conception, or, as in this instance, creation?

These are weighty questions for all Christians, and not meant to wag a finger at couples who have undergone IVF. An infertile couple should feel a certain entitlement to having children; it is the natural course of God's created order for marriage under normal circumstances. Under infertility circumstances, however, how far should a Christian couple go to remedy childlessness? Where, if any, is the line that we should not cross?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What Ever Happened to the New Age Movement?

Does anyone remember this?

"The New Age Movement consists of an incredibly huge and well organized network consisting of thousands of groups, trusts, foundations, clubs, lodges, and religious groups whose goal and purpose is to prepare the world to enter the coming "Age Of Aquarius." " (full article)

Some time ago, many avid Christian watchdogs considered the New Age Movement (NAM) to be the biggest threat to Christianity in America. Many feared that "New Agery" had infiltrated its views into all that seemed innocent and straightforward, from Barney to the Bibles in church pews. I sought out the most extreme example I could find, with little difficulty. The caption under the book Ravaged by the New Age by Texe Marrs, published in 1989, contains the following sensational remarks:
"... a shocking expose of the New Age occultism that is...snatching up our innocent children in its rotten net....It also reveals the hidden plan of New Age leaders to bring our teenagers into hideous bondage through Satan worship and witchcraft. Texe Marrs....thoroughly documents the dangerous, secret messages in kid's TV shows, cartoons, movies, comic books, fantasy games, toys and even coloring books. You'll also discover the demonic designs behind Rock and Roll and the hidden, subliminal messages in Satan's New Age "mood" music".
At the height of Christian hype against the NAM in the late '80s, some Christians had even gone so far as to accuse certain Bible translations of being tainted by New Age language and thus spurred on the oh-so-riveting King James only debate.

But it's been a while since anyone was last caught lambasting the NAM. When did the alarms go silent? And why?

First, in 1991, Saddam Hussein at last revealed himself as the long awaited Antichrist he is (pardon, was) that would rebuild Babylon and initiate Armageddon. Of course, the Antichrist wasn't supposed to die already, but Saddam did invade a tiny oil-rich country which tipped off the new era of war in the middle east and terrorism. Suddenly, the NAM, a.k.a. "Satan's Plan to Destroy Our Kids" (subtitle to Marrs' book), took a seat at the back of the church van. Ken Starr and a blue dress also provided added distraction, but who finally pushed NAM out the back doors of the church van was not-such-a-New Ager named Osama bin Laden.

Second, postmodernism has literally eaten the life out of any NAM conspiracy that Christian watchdogs previously hyped over. I find it interesting that at the height of the NAM-versy, Christians focused so much on the NAM and so little on postmodern thinking, particularly since postmodernism had a heavy hand in New Age acceptance in the 1970's. Now--stick with me here--while the two may have been friends in the past, they're not as close anymore, and postmodernism might just be starting to bite the hand it previously held.

How? While many Christians think the New Age mentality as relativistic, it does have a codifiable set of doctrines and prides itself on principled living. And wherever one of those exists, postmodernism will bleed it out sooner or later.

Last, we live in an age of Halo, American Idol, and dog fighting football stars. We want to win; we want singers that are really good; we want to tsk-tsk what Whoopi says they do there in the South. In particular, our age shows that we may think postmodernly now, but we sure don't live it.

Consider super-rage contests shows such as American Idol and America's Got Talent. They're hot hot hot, and everyone loves to evaluate the poor souls on stage pining for fame and a million dollars. Similar to "The Family" TV show in the book Fahrenheit 451, the audience, everyday Americans, is thrust into the judgment seat. The results? When we are put into the position of judge, we do become remarkably judgmental. So long, practical postmodernism.

Bottom line: aura cleansing and blathering about the astral plane used to be, and still is, activity for whom the majority of Americans find just a little nutty. Even some New Agers themselves admit to a decline in NAM popularity, as evidenced by this quote by a New Age guy named Michael (no other identification found on his website):

"New Age has not traveled to the end of the road yet. It is reaching a stage of maturity in which wheat is being separated from the corn. Yet, it still comprises a broad spectrum of activities from the commercial rip-off to unselfish dedication to serve mankind spiritually. Many do not wish to be associated with the name because it reminds them of the turbulence associated with the uprising of the younger generation in the late sixties and the lamentable drug excrescences [sic]. One may pray that the movement will sustain its original purity and raise high the spirit of new generations, giving it an immense vista of life and a purpose to live for."

Oh, I can't wait.

But why point this out, you may ask. Simply, I wish to send a tidbit reminder that, just like weight loss fads, the New Age Movement is another fad of spiritual expression that has come and is now all but forgotten as many others in the history of mankind. Oh, it may come back, like the Atkins Diet. But did churchgoers in America deserve the Christian freak out it received over the NAM? Maybe not so much.

Let me put it this way. Hardly a day goes by that we aren't losing sleep over what "New Age Bible translations" are doing to our kids, right?


Friday, August 24, 2007

The Damsel's Virgin Blog Entry

(That's right...this is my first blog entry ever.)

I hate blogging, I really do. It's a tedious, time consuming way to ignore the demands of my young family and keep me glued to an expensive plastic box. But, I love theology and the world of ideas. I also love to stick my nose in controversy, and the internet doesn't lack for any. So, I feel compelled to blog, not out of ego but just wanting to crack some brain cells over what interests me. I know that blogs are great communication tools, either for sharing one's genius or to lay bare one's ignorance for all the world to see. Any Tom, Dick, or Sally can make a name for him/herself and be heard with a blog--that's good and bad...which leads me to why I feel compelled to blog: balance. There is no shortage of bloggers dishing out daily doses of spiritual error, deceit, and Christianity bashing. Conversely, too few can or do articulate matters of Christian faith and theology in a visible and effective manner. So, I'm here to try and join them. Will I succeed or will I be scraping myself off the pavement from a painful crash and burn? We will see.

How I plan to run this blog:
1. I will only blog about things I'm interested in. This is not a political, news, or entertainment blog, though if something catches my interest, I might blog about it.
2. I will not blog daily. Daily (or even more frequent) posts will be RARE and should be viewed as a sign of some divine compulsion. Look for entries on a much less frequent basis. How infrequent? Good question.
3. I will allow PG language only. That goes for anyone leaving comments as well. I will make anyone violating literary civility a victim of my own brand of oppression by deleting offensive comments and banishing the author if need be.
4. I will reply to comments left on my blog if I care to.
5. This will be an evolving blog directly related to my ability to use its features, so please pardon any cheesy-ness. I am still learning.

With that get-to-know-ya out of the way, I leave you to wait with baited breath for my next entry. Enjoy.