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 was surprised to see President Obama take a public stand supporting gay marriage this week immediately after the North Carolina landslide referendum against it. I don’t question Obama’s sincerity, but politicians never make public pronouncements without a cost/benefit analysis, which leads me to wonder whether Obama’s campaign is taking a calculated risk to bait the culture warriors into unleashing an unprecedented fury that will alienate the independent voters they have already terrified by gobbling up Obama’s bait in the contraception battle. As an evangelical Christian, my focus in all circumstances is on building the kingdom of God and sharing the gospel with everyone I encounter. Any political stances I take are strategically driven by this primary focus. So I am very worried that my fellow evangelicals are going to lunge after Obama’s latest bait and cause tremendous collateral damage to our Christian witness. As Rachel Held Evans wrote on Wednesday, if Christians get swept up again into culture wars leading up to this election, then we will continue to poison our witness and lose young Americans to the gospel. We cannot keep absolving ourselves of responsibility for our witness by blaming the “liberal media.” I’m not at all saying that we need to conform our values to whatever the secular consensus degenerates into, but the Bible is not silent about how we should conduct ourselves in the world in which our primary investment should always be our witness. And many Christians have failed to exude a Christlike spirit in our contributions to public discourse. Continue reading
“The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). We read this verse at the retreat I took with my fellow Virginia Conference provisional elders. What really struck me is how the characteristics of this heavenly wisdom are so much the opposite of the imperious knowledge that so many Christian pursue with the goal of winning arguments with other people. In our maniacally modernist age, the idea that wisdom could be “submissive” is inconceivable. If you have the truth, you’re not supposed to submit to falsehood! That’s a crazy betrayal of truth! You’re supposed to besiege your opponents until they cry uncle and only stop when they have satisfactorily acknowledged their error and your correctness. But if James is right, then this wisdom is indeed a rare find in our ideological age. Incidentally I think I found an example of it today in a piece written by a gay Christian North Carolina man trying to explain to his allies why the supporters of Amendment One are not bigots, but sincere, religiously committed people. I don’t think you have to endorse his lifestyle to appreciate a gracious dignity I would not be able to muster if I were in his position.