Sometime in the last couple of weeks, I got wind of the John Howard Yoder sex scandal. Yoder is a hero in the Christian pacifist community and a key influence on Stanley Hauerwas, one of my key theologians. Anyway, Yoder sexually assaulted, harassed, and/or had adulterous relationships with a lot of women. A Mennonite commission was just formed to investigate cover-ups that happened. A whole lot of radical Christians in our Despised Ones bloggers collective have been heavily influenced by Yoder’s teachings. And then somebody asked a question about the sex scandal and the fit hit the shan. So I wanted to offer some reflections on our messy conversation. I’m not sure how interesting this will be to people outside of our little club, but I’ll try to write it in such a way that you can get something from it.
I’m having a better day today. I went to the art and spirit cafe to write some poetry and make some prayer beads. I ate lunch with a really awesome community from Harrisonburg that rode bicycles from there to Wild Goose about 20-40 miles each day, camping and crashing with friends on the way over the course of 2 weeks. Then I got to chill and breathe kingdom with my friend Bec Cranford who is actually living the life that I theorize about on my blog with homeless people and the Church of the Misfits in Atlanta. After that, I heard a talk by Mark Von Steenwyck about his Mennonite Worker intentional community in Minneapolis. One thing that he said was really convicting; he talked about the importance of overcoming our need to be heroic prophets and instead see all of our work as an act of repentance. I think I’ve written about that before but man do I struggle with it and it occurred to me that today I had a better day because I didn’t need to be a hero.
I’ve been reading a very stimulating and provocative book by Pauline Biblical scholar Michael Gorman called Inhabiting the Cruciform God. Gorman argues that the central point Paul has to make is that Jesus’ cross reveals the nature of God and that the way we are justified and reconciled to God is by joining Him in His cruciform existence. Gorman claims that to Paul, God is not the triumphalist emperor/military hero that popular American evangelicalism wants Him to be, but rather someone whose nature is to continually empty Himself for the sake of others, the most perfect illustration being the cross itself. This got me thinking about heaven and hell in a very different way that is partly inspired by C.S. Lewis’s Great Divorce but in one way, the opposite of Lewis’s metaphor. Continue reading
I recently read a post by fellow Methodist blogger Talbot Davis critiquing the pursuit of “inclusivity” in United Methodism, which he interprets to be a strategy for church growth. Davis shares that his church has achieved a large, inclusively diverse population because of the exclusivity of their doctrine. Well I wanted to raise the ante on Davis’s claim. I don’t think churches should have inclusivity as a goal at all; I think faithful kingdom living requires that we exist exclusively for the excluded.
I just looked over an essay by Katie Mulligan that deals with the topic of redemptive suffering in the context of Tony Jones’ controversy/dialogue with feminists. Redemptive suffering is a very abused concept in Christian history. Many women in abusive marriages have been told to stay put and “bear their crosses” because their suffering somehow honors God. Enabling an abuser is not redemptive suffering; it’s allowing a lie to be treated as the truth. But Mulligan points out a different way that people in a position of privilege can allow for healing and redemption through a different kind of suffering in conversation with those who have been wounded. Continue reading
Two women appeared before the king. Both were wailing; one was holding a baby. The woman without the baby told the king that the baby was hers and that the other woman had stolen it after she had smothered her own baby in her sleep. They argued back and forth, screaming and cursing each other. The king said to bring a sword and cut the baby in half, but the first woman said, “No, let her keep the baby.” So the king said, “That was easy; go in peace.” The first woman lowered her head and walked out quietly weeping, while the second woman gave a victorious whoop of joy. That’s the way the famous story of Solomon’s wisdom from 1 Kings 3:16-28 would be told if it were a parable of the two kinds of church we have in America today and the gospel that has been smothered by the stampede of our culture wars. This Sunday offers Christians a Solomonic choice and a perfect contrast between two ways of being church in a tumultuous political season because it is both Pulpit Freedom Sunday (fighting the restraints against pastors endorsing political candidates from the pulpit) and World Communion Sunday (celebrating the way that the body of Christ is bigger than our political or national allegiances). Continue reading