Holistic sexuality, distorting pieties, and the pursuit of heaven

There’s been an outburst this past week from evangelical women bloggers against the idolatry of virginity. Three prominent posts have come from Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, and Emily Maynard. It’s been amazing to read in the comments about the toxic things that youth pastors and parents have said to conservative evangelical girls about sex (“No man will ever want you now,” etc). I grew up in a more moderate evangelical environment where I never encountered anything like purity balls or abstinence pledges. So I wanted to respond to Emily Maynard’s challenge to articulate a more holistic account of sexuality. Because I do believe that sex is a powerful force whose abuse can wreak havoc on our ability to worship God. And I also recognize that there are some very unhealthy distortions that have been at play in the evangelical consciousness. And I think that ultimately it all boils down to what we think heaven means. I’ll explain. Continue reading

Justice as a question of piety vs. holiness

With it being Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, we preached on justice as our sermon series topic this weekend. For my text, I used Isaiah 58, where Isaiah confronts the people of Israel for fasting without justice. God’s people have often pursued devotional practices that “honor” God not only to the exclusion of treating other people justly but as a means of legitimating their lack of justice. I often call this pitting love of God against love of neighbor. As I was contemplating Isaiah 58, it hit me that our sensibilities about justice are often derived in whether we are seeking piety or holiness in our religious life. Here is my sermon audio. Continue reading

The “Kantian” and “Nietzschean” threads of evangelical piety

There are certain rhetorical moves that evangelicals make in their arguments to “out-pious” their interlocutors. For example, if you can find a way to say that the other person is talking about everything except Jesus while all that you’re saying is “It’s all about Jesus,” then you win the argument. The evangelical market never runs out of room for books by celebrity pastors whose thesis is “Nobody has done this before, but I’m going to share with you a gospel that is 100% just about Jesus.” Another tactic evangelicals use to win arguments is to claim that the other person is being “anthropocentric” (man-centered) while you’re being “theocentric” (God-centered). I have been tickled to see Doug Campbell turn this tactic on its head in his take-down of “decision for Christ” soteriology in The Deliverance of God. But for this rough draft of a piece, I’m particularly interested in examining what I would call the “Kantian” and “Nietzschean” threads of evangelical piety about God’s nature. These aren’t threads which I could trace historically to the thoughts of Immanuel Kant or Friedrich Nietzsche, but they definitely echo instincts that are representative of their respective thoughts. Continue reading