There are few things that make my blood boil more than to see someone take a mean-spirited, unfair swipe against someone else in a public forum like twitter. When this happens, it needs to be named and addressed, especially when the instigator is a popular Christian writer who I’ve promoted on my blog. Rachel Held Evans had expressed support for the student newspaper at Calvin College running a feature piece on LGBT students, which is pretty bold for an evangelical college. And James K.A. Smith, a professor at Calvin and writer of many books that I’ve blogged about, decided that he needed to “humble” Rachel for voicing her support when it’s none of her damn business. Continue reading
I figured I would start doing a weekly post on things I’ve read during the week that you should check out because they made me think. I’m not good at ranking things so this list is purely in the random order that they came to mind.
To paraphrase that annoying hit dance song “Party Rock,” everyday we’re posturing. What I mean by “posturing” is that our conversations are constant performances of self-definition, at least those that happen in cyberspace where words are all that we are. Because conversation itself has turned into a primary object of our analysis, we do a lot of meta-conversation, talking about talking about things. The Christian blogosphere talks a lot about talking about sin, which is different than talking directly about sin. It is in these meta-conversations that a tired debate cycles endlessly: “Why do we need to talk about talking about sin all the time? Jesus ate and drink with sinners.” “Ah… but he would always tell them to go and sin no more.” Understanding the distinction between talking about sin and talking about talking about sin is critical if we are to avoid talking past each other as seems to have occurred in a recent sin meta-conversation between Rachel Held Evans and Kevin Watson. Continue reading
Should Christians “stay angry” at the injustice in our world? That’s a question raised in two different blog posts this week. Rachel Held Evans says she “can’t stay angry” even while she stays committed to her prophetic witness while my friend Rod the blerd (black nerd) theologian explains why he does “stay angry,” particularly at patronizing white moderates who presume to tell black people when to “just let it go.” I don’t see these two pieces as point and counter-point, nor do I interpret Rod’s piece as a dig on Rachel since she wasn’t telling black people what to do. Reading the way that Rachel and Rod accent and nuance the issue differently has forced me to really wrestle with what it means to be a genuine ally to people of color and others who have been marginalized in our battles against injustice.
It doesn’t matter whether Rachel Held Evans took John Piper’s tweet about the Oklahoma tornadoes “out of context.” It doesn’t matter whether she used the incident as a springboard to talk about other problematic things that Piper has said in the past and polemicize against the underlying theology that she considers to be the source of such statements. The fact remains that tweeting Bible verses about houses falling down on children and killing them after that happens to someone in real life is bad pastoral care. Always. Period. No matter what you write before or after. I’m not trying to be a jerk; I know he took the tweets down and apologized. But I still feel like the zealous self-assurance of his disciples who tore into Rachel so ferociously requires a reality check. I don’t have much to add to what I’ve already said about this, except to relate some comments from Chaplain Mike at InternetMonk and Stephen Smith at Liberty for Captives.
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
Since it’s the last day of 2012, I have to cover three months in this final post of looking back so I’m going to give myself 12 posts from the past three months instead of just 10. This fall, we experienced two alternatives for responding to an election season: preachers endorsing political candidates from the pulpit or Christians coming together across the political spectrum to celebrate communion. Jerry Sandusky got convicted for his crimes, so I asked what would need to happen for him to enter into God’s kingdom and feast at the heavenly banquet with the boys he molested. I watched with anguish and tried to be fair in what I wrote as Israel and Gaza went to war. And Rachel Held Evans became this year’s Rob Bell after her Year of Biblical Womanhood drew a furious reaction from the evangelical establishment. So here are 12 from October to December. Continue reading
I’m not sure how long the manilla package sat in the bin beside my desk. It was postmarked September 14th. I noticed the package yesterday a few days after I had written a blog post speculating about the postmodern language barrier that may have caused Al Mohler’s misunderstanding of Rachel Held Evans’ new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Inside the package was the book that had served as the excuse for my tangential theorizing. I opened it and dove in yesterday, heart-sick about all the online gloating I had encountered over Kathy Keller’s “hard-hitting” review of Rachel’s book (Kathy is the wife of famous reformed pastor and author Tim Keller who has been a huge theological influence on me). What is clear from the way that Keller framed her critique is that she decided ahead of time to interpret everything about the book as an attack on her own beliefs. She must have kept her arms folded pretty tightly to defend herself against the disarming self-deprecating genuineness that oozed out of the story of a year that a Southern Christian woman took to learn about Judaism, the Amish, contemplative prayer, babies, Martha Stewart-style homemaking, and a whole lot of Bible. Perhaps Keller was using Rachel’s book as a point of departure for building her own brand like I did with my silly theorizing. Having read the book, I realize how ridiculous my speculation was. Rachel is not a postmodern hipster like me; she’s way too earnest. The main problem with what Kathy Keller and I both tried to do is this: Biblical Womanhood is too much of a story to be treated like an argument. Continue reading
So Rachel Held Evans is apparently becoming this year’s Rob Bell. She’s written a book called A Year of Biblical Womanhood in which she documents a year of taking absolutely literally a bunch of things that the Bible tells ancient Israelite and 1st century Palestinian women to do. I haven’t yet received my review copy, but from what I hear, it’s mischievous in a Tina Fey kind of way, which has predictably rankled the Southern Baptist “bishop” Al Mohler and his crew who made a video about Biblical inerrancy in which they called Rachel’s book a “mockery” of the Bible among other things. I think the reason Al Mohler and people of his mold don’t get Christians like Rachel is because they don’t speak irony, which is the first language of a large chunk of my generation and younger who inhabit the postmodern world outside the gated communities of suburban megachurchianity. Christians today who want to share the gospel with any credibility in postmodern culture must learn how to talk like Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, et all. Otherwise our evangelism is about as effective as a black and white Reefer Madness video in a junior high health class. Continue reading
I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Ever since the Episcopal convention last week, all the Christians bloggers are talking about whether or not the liberal church will survive. The conversation thread that I’ve followed has included John Meunier, Ross Douthat, Diana Butler Bass, and Rachel Held Evans. I spent my twenties in struggling mainline liberal churches that were very active in social justice causes in their community and painfully empty on Sunday mornings. Since I feel like my own observations and convictions are inadequate to explain the sociological shifts that are occurring in American Christianity, I’m not going to present this as any sort of coherent theory, but rather a series of points that respond to what I’ve read in no particular order.