Friday Challenge — Dealing with Breasts

god-nursing and gender shaming

God made Breasts

Unfortunately, I can’t claim originality for the ‘God made Breasts’ thing since it was David Hayward’s title for a post over at Naked Pastor.

I’m no woman, so I can’t answer this; but I wonder if IFB women ever tire of hearing about woman things. Their pastors seldom tire of speaking about them. You’d think woman parts corrupt more men than the Devil himself. What’s worst — half the people on the planet are women! So there’s really no avoiding them. For many, that’s a non-issue; but not in IFBdom! When preparation time runs low, sermons can always distract attention from the lack of homiletic content by taking a swipe at women.

I’ve seen women look highly livid as they were shamed for being women. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve wondered what those women were thinking. Sending hymnbooks flying at the pulpit, perhaps? Not undeserved.

David’s cartoon might remind us that we’re actually discussing God’s creation. And while God pronounced all of creation good, that hardly means that the preacher’s opinions should count for nothing.

Friday Challenge

Today’s challenge doesn’t ask for a gender-shaming story, although that is certainly allowed if one needs to vent. Today’s challenge is to relate a gender-shaming story after which a woman or women put a pastor, deacon, elder or member in his place, and what was the outcome.

If such stories were heard, other women might find strength to stand that their dignity be respected. Small, little, suited men in pulpits shouldn’t get to shame half the human population because they don’t know what to make of their differing parts.

Preaching and Discovering Incarnation

us-russia-syria
National Flags of Russia and United States. Superimposed over them is the National Flag of Syria in the form of a map of Syria. For those aware of current political dynamics, this image is potent and full of meaning.

If the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement ranked claims that ‘validate’ its interpretation of the Christian faith, strong preaching would be one of the top two. Yet the movement itself would never endure pointed preaching. If exceptions exist, IFBs have little patience for in-depth exploration of Scripture. Thoughtful questions little interest them, and those who want depth will find their way out of the IFB movement.

Over the years, I’ve practiced a self-made spiritual discipline that places highly disparate perspectives beside Scripture, and then teases out a kind of dialogue between them. The extra-biblical texts intentionally contain deep social antagonisms.

The intent in doing this is not to create a simplistic parody. That is not right, desirable, honest or even possible. Rather, the intent is to think about the text and social conditions creatively, deeply and incarnationally. Often, more questions than answers result. But the questions generated in this way can broaden and deepen our understanding of faith and life.

Social Antagonism:

As the Presidential election spectacle unfolds, the unmentionable reality is that US/Russian relations are quickly metastasizing with substantial risk of direct military confrontation with Russia. This means a new world war.

This also explains why Clinton’s campaign attacks Donald the Despicable from the right as being soft on Russia/Putin. A Clinton victory can then be twisted to infer that the election was a referendum on war on Russia.

The Disparate Reading:

‘With boundless hypocrisy, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that Russia had failed to maintain its end of the bargain…’

‘Moscow has instead made increasingly clear that it is unwilling to back down in the face of US threats to encourage Islamist terrorists to direct their attacks against Russia. After Kirby menacingly declared last week that extremists could attack “Russian interests” and even Russian cities, an ominous pronouncement given Washington’s long-standing collaboration with Jihadi terrorists, Russia shot back that any US escalation in Syria would lead to “total war” and cause “tectonic shifts” throughout the Middle East.’

— Jordan Shilton, Oct 4, 2016 in US Suspends Talks with Russia

Terrorism, Patriotism, Nationalism, Preaching

US citizens know that they are often held in contempt. But they might be surprised to learn that in part, this is because we are sometimes seen as a supporter of terrorism. Seems absurd, right? Yet it does no violence to read John Kirby’s words to mean, ‘do as we say about Syria, or we’ll introduce terrorists into Russian cities and destabilize your country.

The point here is not to debate ‘facts,’ premises or politics, or to decide who to blame. Instead, this is held up as a kind of ‘still picture’ in which the spiritual dynamics at work in the cited commentary are studied.

The Biblical Reading:

‘While He was on the way to Jerusalem, he was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine– where are they? “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well”‘ [Lu 17:11-19].

— Revised Common Lectionary, Gospel lesson for Oct 9, ’16.

Beginning Dialogue:

What are God’s kingdom interests in the John Shilton quote? How might the antagonisms of the Shilton quote inform our reading of Lu 17:11-19?

How do we understand ‘disease’ in the Biblical text? We know Hansen’s Disease [leprosy] results from bacteria; and we cannot endow bacteria with personality. But in the Biblical world, leprosy was understood to have a spiritual and religious dimension, not so unlike demonic personalities. What, if anything, might this suggest about the Shilton quote and how we understand the demonic potentialities of US/Russian relations?

How might the symbols/imagery of the story connect these two readings? If only in an ‘hypothetical’ sense, can we ‘see’ disease as spiritual power? Is it possible for us to ‘see through the eyes’ of disease? Or is it possible to see political relations as ‘diseased’ or through the eyes of disease? Can we relate the antagonisms between Jews and Samaritans to relations between the US, Russia, Syria, Israel, the Occupied Territories, Iraq, Iran, China and others? If so, what does Lu 17 suggest about these relations?

What are the worst effects of disease? Do we desire to be rid of them? Or do we cling to disease as a weapon to be used? What would it mean if the ten lepers refused to keep their distance? In today’s world, what does ‘showing yourself to the priest [i.e., to be ‘clean’] mean? Is this like transparency? Is this revealing ourselves? In what ways might threats of war or of unleashing terror relate to possession/ownership of disease?

What is revealed about spiritual pathology in ‘keeping one’s distance?’ What do alienation and reconciliation mean in the Biblical reading? What do alienation and reconciliation mean in Shilton’s quote? What is revealed about Dread and Death as demonic powers of this age? What does it mean that Christ overcame all earthly powers? How do the healed lepers in general, and the Samaritan leper in particular say about preaching Christ and praising Christ in our world?

In such a world, what does it mean to ‘turn back,’ prostrate one’s self, give thanks, praise, or be made whole? What does ‘faith’ mean in such a world? Understanding ‘prostration’ as a relinquishing of power/will, at whose feet have we ever prostrated ourselves — as a people, a nation, a church or as individuals? Will we ever do this? What might that suggest about our relationship with God as alienation or reconciliation? What does this say about our faith and wholeness and wellness?

The first question asked in this ‘Beginning Dialogue’ section was, ‘what are God’s kingdom interests in the John Shilton quote.’ If we can find no indication of God’s kingdom interests in that quote, how might that relate to the nine whose praise to God is absented from the picture? And if we can find nothing to say about God’s kingdom interests and praise in our world, what does this reveal about our church/nation grasp of the gospel?

Concluding Question:

Suppose that after prayer, a pastor’s next step in sermon writing was to prepare a list such questions for their text, and keep that before her/him as [s]he brokered issues of disease/alienation/faith/reconciliation in the life of members, the church, nation and world with the Biblical text.

What difference would that make for preaching?

Discovering Preaching:

Those who embrace what that means will never be IFBs. And we DO need that list. Whether the story is a young, unarmed man shot in the back by police, the breakdown of a cease-fire, or a story of rescue or perhaps of deep reconciliation at great, personal cost — it is simply imperative that preachers incarnationally connect faith to life. And that means that one seeks out points where life and the cross intersect.

Where life and the cross intersect, they interpret each other. And at that point, incarnational preaching happens.

Your Faith Has Made You Well!

Separated Faith Made You Well

Independent Fundamental Baptist preaching has an astonishing ability to take a text into so many odd directions. Take the ten cleansed lepers. One returns to give Jesus thanks. Clearly, it’s a message about soul-winning. On the other hand, this can be a message about the ten converts, only one of which joins the church and becomes a good tither. Or, perhaps this is a message about the ten people whose lives are changed, but whereas nine become critical of the pastor’s failings, only one supports him as he ought.

It occurs to me that the ten healed lepers account holds insight to how Independent Fundamental Baptist preachers handle the canonical text. From Lu 17:11-19, we find the following themes [Large, bold text].

Keeping their Distance:

And so they should! No one actually wants Hansen’s Disease. Separation is always in order! And keeping their distance obeys Is 65:5 which says:

‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’

Is it just me, or does this sound much like IFB ‘separation’? Of course in Is 65:5, the separated, ‘holier than thou’ ones are described as a stench in God’s nostrils. In fact, Is 65 says a number of less than flattering things about people who have been compared to IFBs. But this sermon concerns Luke 17, not Isaiah 65. So Is 65 doesn’t matter this morning…

Show yourself to the Priest:

Because this recognizes the pastor’s authority and wisdom. The pastor is the one who knows and must therefore be heard on all matters of faith and practice. Pastor is the decider. Don’t you forget it!

Turned Back:

This one is good because it gets you coming and going. You can ‘turn back’ TO the pastor. You can also turn back AWAY FROM the pastor. Of course it is always best if you return TO the pastor. But it’s good to know that the pastor has you covered either way.

Prostrated Himself:

No arguments. No exemptions. No excuses. No explanations. No conditions or strings. This establishes a right relationship WITH the pastor. And a right relationship with the pastor becomes a picture of your right relationship with God. The reason your pastor looks so much like God is because your pastor is so much like God.

Get up and Go:

It’s time to win the other nine! Somebody must have counted those ten lepers. They noted the one who returned. And they noted the nine who went blithely on their way, without a word of gratitude [or offering] for the pastor. Since God counts numbers, so do we.

Now go and tell them that your faith has made you well.

Lord, Increase our Faith!

increase-faith

Dear Friends:

I planned to have this post up last week. As it was, the ‘puter choked on a windoze update [thank-you Bill Gates] and landed a few days in the shop. Sorry, but these things can’t be helped. This won’t be the last time.


‘The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink ‘? “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” [Lu 17:5-10].

The ‘about‘ section in Darrell’s original Stuff Fundies Like blog says that the ‘five most commonly held fundamentals of the faith have been:’

The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture a a result of this.
The virgin birth of Christ.
The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin.
The bodily resurrection of Christ.
The historical reality of Christ’s miracles.

Affirmed ubiquitously in IFB ‘what we believe’ documents in sects and websites, ‘Articles of Faith’ type ‘faith’ differ greatly from the meaning of faith in the sense that we trust Christ as our only comfort in life and in death. That ‘faith’ as ‘what we say we believe’ and ‘faith’ as a lifelong walk with Christ matters for this post.

In IFBdom, ‘faith’ tends to mean ‘converted.’ ‘Increasing in faith’ likely means bigger ‘faith-promise’ pledges. Or, you trust God to strengthen you to take on more ‘church jobs.’ Or you must stop questioning the pastor’s twist on some passage. It may mean that you should alter your preferred future to gain a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology to be a stay-at-home wife of an immature, self-centered, egotistic, narcissistic pastor’s son.

Beyond platitudes to ‘trust God’ and ‘lean not on your own understanding’ in such matters, ‘increased faith’ in IFBdom tends to devolve into sticking with the local sect/pastor through think and thin. The problem is, the IFB take on ‘faith’ doesn’t always look particularly like Bible faith.

Increased Faith — for What?

Lu 17:5-10 makes a good text for browbeating the unbelief of delinquent members who pay the pastor too little servility and obsequiousness. But in Lu 17:5ff, that isn’t what ‘faith’ means. Nor does it mean ordering around local mulberry trees as if they were members. ‘Increase our faith’ relates to what was just being discussed. And what was that?

‘”Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” [Lu 17:3-4].

Why would Jesus tie increased faith to forgiveness? Is he saying that it’s easier for us to command trees to move than it is for us to forgive?

‘And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him’ [Lu 17:4].

Increase our faith indeed!

But who gets Forgiven…

The last several previous posts focused on Lu 17:1-4. But who exactly are the ‘little ones’ in Lu 17:2? And what does that ‘stumbling’ mean?

‘Little ones’ translates ‘mikros.’ It can mean short people, young people, or insignificant people. I’ll go with the last group, further unpacked by such words as ‘lowly’ or ‘unimportant.’ Think of people without rank, standing or influence in society, or in church culture for that matter.

Perhaps most telling, Jesus defines them as those who need forgiveness over and over and over and over and over again. Theoretically, that means all of us. But this tends to be reserved for those on the margins — the unwed teen, the young man struggling with his homosexuality or with some addiction. We sometimes call them, ‘those people.’

It begs to be asked, ‘what if “THOSE” are the people we’re supposed to forgive time after time after time after time.’ What if NOT forgiving ‘THEM’ is the occasion of ‘scandal’ [stumbling] that makes them fall?

Yet as they repent, they are forgiven. Every time they get drunk. Every time they sell their body for bread. Every time they get caught cheating.

Lastly, imagine that after all this hard work of forgiving, confessing:

‘…we have done only what we ought to have done’ [Lu 17:10].

The great thing about the gospel is that it has plenty of ‘scandal’ for all.

It’s when we forget that and put ourselves above others that we blow it.