Stay with me Jesus

The husband sent me this video for Guster’s “Stay with me Jesus.” It’s hilarious and really captures so much of what bothers me about prayer and divine providence as I was raised to understand them – so self-focused, grounded in the absolute conviction that everything that happens is God doing something just for me, as part of a divine plan, that it can make people insensitive and even callous to other people’s suffering.

Appropriate for April Fool’s Day, given some of the comments on Youtube from Christians who don’t seem to understand that the song is satirical…

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Mark Driscoll is not God

Trigger warning for the video in particular – emotional/psychological abuse.

Mark Driscoll is at it again, making pronouncements from on high about who’s going to be damned to hell.

There’s a lot that’s wrong here. He’s claiming yet again that a version of Christianity that teaches that the vast majority of the world will be tortured for eternity is “good news.” He continues to use manipulative and abusive tactics as tools of control. Many people who have been abused in one way or another by someone close to us will recognize “just because I’m yelling at you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” and “I’m yelling at you because I love you” as classic lines from abusers. It’s chilling. Once again he’s asserting his superior and exclusive access to truth and salvation over the rest of the world and everyone who disagrees with him.

As for his tears of gratitude – I’m sorry, I haven’t seen a crying act that transparent or unconvincing in a long time, and I have a toddler. I don’t believe for a second that he accepts that he’s just as deserving of God’s wrath as anyone else. Not when he’s just spent most of his time in this clip loudly damning all but a tiny portion of humanity to hell (does he realize how much of the world is Buddhist or Hindu? I don’t know that he cares).

But the point is so much bigger than Driscoll’s arrogance and bigotry. It’s important to debunk this dehumanizing theology and point out its dangers, and that’s a huge reason why I started blogging. But it’s also important to offer alternatives for people who feel trapped in a hostile and damaging faith, because they’ve been misled into believing that it’s the only way they can be good Christians, the only way God will accept them.

This is a lie. I know it can feel so true. But it’s a huge, audacious, breathaking lie.

Here’s the truth:

– Mark Driscoll is not God.
– Mark Driscoll has no idea who is going to heaven or hell, or even if any such places exist.
– If there is a God who decides our eternal fates, it’s not taking orders from Mark Driscoll. Whatever happens to us after we die has nothing whatsoever to do with Driscoll thinks, says, or does.

– Being a Christian doesn’t mean whatever Mark Driscoll says it means.
– Christianity is far, far bigger than reformed evangelicalism. Reformed evangelicalism is a tiny branch of Protestant Christianity and an even smaller fraction of all Christian traditions.
– The vast majority of Christians churches do not share reformed evangelical beliefs on hell or salvation.
A loving God is not going to punish everyone who “fails” to find – or find a home in – some random niche version of Christianity.

– It is not a sin to disagree with Mark Driscoll’s interpretation of the Bible.
– The Bible has very little to say about hell. What it does say has nothing to do with our image of hell and everything to do with ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman beliefs about the afterlife.
– The Bible is a set of disparate documents created for many different purposes, produced in a wide variety of contexts, and written in ancient and difficult languages. It’s a complicated document that calls for careful, attentive reading. It can be read in many ways.

– No matter what Mark Driscoll says, there’s nothing incompatible about faith and “philosophical speculation” or “mental investigation.”
– It’s ok to have questions about faith and the Bible. It’s ok to ask those questions and to pursue rigorous, intellectually sound answers to those questions.
– People who reject scientific and historical inquiry as dangerous to faith and are opposed to or threatened by facts and research do not have strong faith. They have weak faith.

– No matter what Mark Driscoll says, there’s nothing wrong with kind, humane theology that upholds the dignity and worth of all people as sacred.
– There’s nothing sinful about believing in a God who loves everyone, without conditions or qualifiers.
– And there’s no reason to believe that belief in the Bible is incompatible with belief in such a God. Many, many Christians believe in a God who loves.

What about all of the verses within scripture that seem to imply a truly irresistible grace?John 17:2: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Luke 2:10: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
In John 1:9, the gospel’s author writes: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Romans 5:18: Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
Romans 8:20, 21: For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Acts 3:21: For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets….

And I could go on and on. But my point in listing those verses isn’t to argue theology, it’s only to point out that there IS indeed biblical support for Jesus-centered redemption that is bigger and more merciful and gracious than what most evangelical theologies proclaim.

Do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who ask him into his heart?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who follow some sort of evangelical equation that proclaims (in an earthly sense) that he’s a follower of Jesus?

Who are we to put limitations around the words “all men” or “all people”…

I’ve said this before, but I think sometimes the “evangelical God” we boast about is quite small. Or at least… how we talk about him is small.

Of course, Mark could be right. The God that we boast about, that we love, that we worship could be ready and willing to send BILLIONS and BILLIONS of people to the flames of hell. All in the name of justice baby! But then why does God ask us to care for the sick, the weak, the hungry? Why does he tell us to love one another? Why does he care about the relationships we pursue and value? How can we boast about a God who values unborn life but is fully willing to send 11-year-olds from India to eternal torment?….

I believe in a God who makes things right. I believe in a God who will leave the 99 to find 1 lost soul. I believe in a God who is my shepherd. I believe in a God who manifested himself through Christ to bring redemption to the world. (Jesus Needs New PR)

– You don’t need abusive theology or an abusive God to be a Christian.
– You don’t need fear, hatred, contempt, or bigotry to be a Christian.
– It’s a lie that making people live in constant fear is an act of love. Even the Bible says so: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”

Mark Driscoll is one person, with one interpretation of the Bible, one version of a huge, old, complicated, diverse religion. Taking his teachings as gospel is nothing more than making God in Driscoll’s image. Mark Driscoll is not God. Thank God for that.


Shut up and smile

Via Jesus Needs New PR, a video from a Baptist marriage retreat originally posted at Christian Nightmares:

Notice how only the husbands are interviewed about the retreat, while the wives say not a word? And that none of the women even have microphones on, kind of like it never even occurred to the powers that be that wives might have opinions on a marriage retreat, and/or that they might be interesting or relevant? And that every single married woman just stands by as smiling support? It’s a little creepy.

Of course, we can’t know what these couples’ marriages are like just from a few seconds of video. But I think this clip – with the each husband speaking exclusively for each couple, each wife standing in silent agreement with and adoration of her husband – illustrates attitudes and expectations about gender roles in marriage that I’ve seen so often in evangelical complementarian marriages.

When Mr. G and I were engaged, we had premarital counseling with a couple from my family’s SGM church. And by “counseling with a couple,” I mean counseling with a guy whose wife would say nothing until the very end of our meetings, when the husband would turn to her and ask if she had anything to add. She never did. Her husband had said it all, apparently. At our first meeting, she deliberately avoided shaking Mr. G’s hand until he had shaken her husband’s hand first.

At the time I was totally oblivious to what was going on – her husband was closest to me, so I naturally I shook his hand first, unaware of the maneuverings going on behind me. This was one of her ways, I guess, of respecting her husband’s authority over her; the chain of command had to be upheld by having our male leaders acknowledge each other first, before the ladies could be involved or acknowledged. I realized later that she probably considered me to be wildly insubordinate, or some such nonsense, because I had the audacity to shake her husband’s hand without waiting for my fiancé’s go-ahead, without acknowledging him as my “head” and above me.

And then there’s the fact that I’m much more talkative than my husband in unfamiliar company, which meant that I did the vast majority of the talking during our counseling meetings. We both noticed that counselor dude was irritated and offended by the fact that Mr. G wasn’t more forthcoming. I eventually pieced together that our counselor’s problem wasn’t simply that Mr. G didn’t say very much, it was also that I said so much more than he did. I wasn’t being properly submissive and letting my future husband take the lead that was rightfully his.

It perhaps doesn’t need to be said that our counseling meetings weren’t terribly useful or pleasant for anyone involved.

Bizarre as her behavior was, our counselor’s wife was just trying to show respect to her husband (whose behavior, it must be added, was no less strange – a story for another day). And of course, respect between partners is a vital part of a healthy relationship. But in complementarianism, respect is understood as being primarily the wife’s responsibility. This is based on gender essentialist assumptions that men need respect while women need love, and that women find it easy to love but difficult to show respect, especially to men, while men have an easy time treating people with respect but a hard time showing love, especially in the way women need (this is code for “men should treat women as delicate, hyper-emotional creatures incapable of logic and reason”). The complementarian notion of respect is perverted at its root by an insistence that only one gender needs respect in a relationship.

What respect is supposed to look like for a married woman is also quite strange. As our counselor told us, being a respectful, properly submissive wife means “affirming” the husband’s leadership in every. single. aspect. of the marriage. Naturally that includes conversations in public. For a lot of married women I knew at church, that meant they were expected to never contradict their husbands in public, much less argue with them; to never interrupt; to let them “take the lead” in mixed conversation, which meant speaking a good deal less than their husbands, often not until their husbands spoke to them first.

It also meant that women were expected to never complain about their husbands – and more than that, to constantly talk up their husbands as the best and most considerate spouses ever, no matter what. I can begin to count how many times I’ve heard women from church effusively praising their husbands for doing things that should have just been routine. For “releasing” them to go on a trip with friends. For maybe making one measly meal every few months, when their wives are expected to have homemade food on the table for their husbands and many children every night. For “letting” them sleep in or giving them the “morning off” from domestic and childcare duties (even when the reason for this is that the wife is laid up with an illness, or dealing with pregnancy nausea, or has a small infant).

I’ve seen women berate themselves for being justifiably angry with their husbands – for example, for putting their family in danger by repeatedly delaying getting a failing car checked out  – because well, nothing serious happened and a wife should focus on their husbands’ strengths and her own sin, not his failings. And if there are few or no good things they can think of, it’s because they, the wives, have a sinful attitude, never because the husband might have any real failings. They are the ones who need adjustment; it could never be that a husband is neglecting or mistreating his wife so much that little positive can be said about his behavior or attributes.

Watching the clip above gave me same tight, sinking feeling I always get when I think about the girls I grew up with in church who are now married. It’s so emblematic of how so many complementarian women experience marriage: as cheerleaders expected to hang on their husband’s arms and words, silencing themselves and suppressing all authentic expression of emotions. When I think of people I used to be friends with living a life like that, so completely muzzled, I feel sick with worry and despair for them.


Sunday roundup

Some of this week’s religion, gender, and sexuality news, starting with some international news:

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to be executed for allegedly committing adultery, has “confessed” to being an accomplice in her late husband’s death.  The likely coerced confession has led Human Rights Watch to sound the alarm that Iran may be planning to execute her shortly.  An interview with Ashtiani’s former lawyer, now seeking asylum in Norway, is here.  A petition to free Ashtiani can be found here. (Via Elizabeth Esther.)

Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld Mexico City laws allowing gay marriages and adoptions by gay and lesbian couples.  Gay marriages and adoptions are legal only in Mexico City, but must be recognized throughout the country.  Mexico mayor Marcelo Ebrard has filed a lawsuit claiming defamation against Guadalajara Cardinal Juan Sandoval refused to retract accusations that Mexican Supreme court took bribes to make these rulings.  Sandoval is also under fire for using the Spanish equivalent of “fa**ot” in decrying the Court’s decision to uphold the adoption law.  Meanwhile, an archdiocesan spokesman claims the mayor has caused harm to Mexico City than the drug cartels and has compared him to Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet in being a “fascist . . . [with] an undeniable desire to persecute the church.”  Unsurprisingly, he is also being sued for defamation by the mayor.  Good heavens.  Stay classy, Mexican Catholic officials!

Closer to home, 10 year old Will Phillips is putting marriage equality opponents on notice.  This kid must scare the pants off the NOM crowd.

Laura at The Redheaded Skeptic has a great four-post series on how Focus on the Family ruins families, starting with a post on Dobson’s book The Strong Willed Child.

Vyckie at No Longer Quivering on how women get lured into and stuck in the patriarchy trap: Husbands love your wives: the peanut butter in the patriarchy trap.

Excellent post by Rita Nakashima Brock on marriage in the Bible that carefully picks apart marriage equality opponents’ claims that the Bible unanimously supports their definition of “traditional marriage”:

The Bible presents multiple views of marriage, and most actual marriages it depicts are terrible by modern standards. “Traditional marriages” in ancient biblical times were arranged as transfers of the ownership of daughters. The tenth commandment lists wives among properties like houses and slaves: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17, also found in Deuteronomy 5:21). Marriages occurred via deception, kidnapping, adulterous seductions, theft, rape, and murder, and were often in multiples so that the pater familias could amass land, flocks, and progeny and cement political alliances. Abraham, David, and Solomon had marriages that would be illegal today. The book of Hosea likens the mercy of God to a husband who has the right to beat or kill his adulterous wife, but spares her — for this, she was supposed to be grateful. When women seek marriages, such as Naomi arranged for Ruth, it was to avoid an even worse fate such as destitution.

GLAAD also has a great weekly LGBT religion news roundup.