Day 6: Dominican Mother’s Day

Well I didn´t get access to the magic missionary laptop with satellite Internet the past few days so I´m playing catchup. This past Sunday was the Dominican Mother´s Day so I preached a sermon at the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana in San Rafael about how motherhood is ultimately a call to be the “pastora” of the family. Admittedly it was pretty mischievous to preach this in a patriarchal cultural setting but I was also preaching in a church with a woman pastor so it felt like an appropriate affirmation of her calling and a way to celebrate and challenge the women of the congregation at the same time on their important holiday.

I´ll post my sermon as a separate blog entry but my basic thesis was that the qualities of being a good mother are described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, but these aren´t just qualities you learn how to have in a sort of pedagogical way like you would learn algebra. You are instilled with these qualities – patience, kindness, etc – by the Holy Spirit when you trust in Christ as both savior and Lord. These two words are often muddled together in a confused phrase that kids in high school evangelical parachurch organizations are given to harrass their heathen friends without understanding the meaning of what they’re saying: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior?”

Each of these two words actually has a real meaning. To accept Jesus as Savior is to know that I have nothing to prove to anybody, because his blood has sufficed to justify me. (As a side note, Dominicans tend to talk a lot about the sangre de cristo and practically everytime I said the phrase, which peppered my sermon, they gave me a loud amen. They live in a culture where blood is not hidden from view and taboo to talk about the same way it is in our world.) In any case, if If I really trust in the reality of Christ´s justification, it eliminates from my attitude all defensiveness, the need to keep track of other peoples’ mistakes, envy, etc, i.e. it makes it possible for me to be instilled with the beautiful qualities of love in 1 Cor 13:4-7.

So the other side is accepting Jesus as Lord. This means accepting not only the perdón but also the plan de Dios. When we´re patient, kind, merciful, etc, as part of God´s purpose for our family, it means that we’re not just being pushovers and doormats (as mothers in Latin American culture can sometimes be). You’re gentle but in a strategic way to win your family into the loving relationship with God that you have discovered. This kind of love is not irresponsible indulgence and enabling, but pastorally strategic evangelism.

I did a trial run of my sermon with Pastora Cari of Bani (not to be confused with Carolina of San Rafael). She told me that in the DR, women really do find themselves being the spiritual heads of many households because the men don´t have much interest in church. It´s been so cool to me here in the Dominican Republic to see a version of evangelicalism that is completely robust and evangelistic but without the accompanying Victorian social values (women stay in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant, etc) that some versions of American conservative evangelicalism wrapped themselves in during the last half of the 20th century as a counter-narrative to the social gospel of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements.

Pastoras Cari and Carolina both prove that you can be fired up about Jesus and want everybody else to know about it without accepting the oppressive gender hierarchies that some people embrace as being “Biblical” as a tactic for hiding their eyes from the parts of the Bible they don’t want to listen to. The women of the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana have really gotten me fired up. I told some of them last night that I hope to carry some of what they have taught me back to the United States. I pray that God will help me hold onto the passion that they have passed onto me.

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