*I wrote this in 2010 after an upsetting experience in a Rockford coffee shop. In light of the Trayvon Martin death and subsequent discussion nationally I’m sharing it here. (more…)
In a recent blog post on SharperIron, Kevin Bauder defended Bob Jones University against a criticism of the university’s low salaries for their faculty and staff. I have not seen it, but apparently someone posted a comparison chart showing the salaries of various universities with Bob Jones being ranked lowest. Also — apparently — there was no comment. Nonetheless, Kevin Bauder felt compelled to use that particular criticism as an opportunity to defend the university and, by extension, the low salaries of many fundamentalist institutions. (more…)
It is amazing to me how much Americans are like the good Germans (98% to be exact) who rush in the reign of Adolph Hitler. German Christians were also swept up in the hysteria. I cannot help but see how the masses of American evangelicals are just as easily impressed by success “as the measure and justification of all things.” Thus, the larger a man’s church gets the more credible he becomes whether his ideas or opinions are worthy or not. Here’s how Bonhoeffer put it:
In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done. . . . With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum and the end justifies the means. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.
Tonight Elizabeth Vargas from 20/20 will air an exposé of Independent Fundamental Baptist churches . From what little I’ve read, it doesn’t seem like she understands the word “independent,” but nonetheless I’m inclined to think that there is a systemic inclination to abuse and cover-up in these circles because of the unbiblical views of authority and autonomy in what is clearly a movement (or, in sociological terms, a “collective”) called Independent Fundamentalists. I am not exactly sure what to expect from Vargas, but having cut my teeth in the exact circles some of the exposed churches are from (and actually having been in and knowing people quite well who were in them), I can expect a circling of the wagons, we v. them isolation, and victim rhetoric as if they are being targeted by the bad, liberal media. Chuck Phelps will be deemed by some as a martyr and many will be more irate at the victims than at the atrocious malady of abuse that finds fertile ground in the sub-culture of fundamentalism.
But this exposure is not about being a Christ-follower. It is about — in the most charitable of analyses — a mishandled situation involving a child who was raped and publicly humiliated. At the very least, Phelps’ et. al. clumsy leadership is on display. And that by itself is fair, particularly because when leaders are that clumsy, people get hurt. Badly. And teachers, the Bible says, get the stricter judgment (James 3:1).
But, supposing Vargas is unfair? What if she drops the word “alleged” and flatly accuses all IFB across the board of abuse? What if she presents IFB pastors across the board as if they are all alike rapists? Some will say it’s a form of suffering.
Fine. It will be suffering. And so it should be. But it’s not suffering for what is right.
Peter said it plainly: “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (1 Peter 4:14-15). The word “meddler” (ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος) can be translated in various ways, but one correct understanding of it is “infringing on the rights of others.” Bumbling something this serious is, at best, meddling. Everybody watching should start considering the lives of children and victims of abuse, their rights, with extreme caution and reverence. The “suffering” happening tonight is because leaders bumbled. And consequently meddled.
Make no mistake about it. Humans are rarely just. Something may be unjust and unfair. In fact, the men and churches involved may have to deal with some suffering. But it won’t be because they did good. It will be because they screwed up and promoted a system that makes victims, not offering meaningful and lasting healing to helpless children abused by sexual predators. They are not making news because they lived a quiet and peaceable life in Christ Jesus. They’re making news because they hurt children. Whether they were sincere or not is irrelevant. Whether they were conniving politicians conspiring to cover-up sin or bumbling klutzes who do not know how to think outside of the framework of their myopic groupthink, it does not matter. The suffering of public exposure does not make them martyrs. It makes them chastised saints.
And if they are chastised saints, it means that no saint ultimately escapes the pain of it. There are some graceless victims, I’m sure, who may feel that points are being scored against the “IFB cult.” True enough. But, ironically, they themselves become sectarian if they think that licks can be made on IFB people of God and not affect them. We’re all one body. In some sense, we’re all being chastised. Chastised saints, indeed. But there will be no martyrs tonight unless its the victims themselves who never signed up to be sexually assaulted in the first place.
Know the difference. And pray for all involved.
Most Americans are really purple. Certainly, they are card-carrying red or blue, but when the rubber hits the road, most are conveniently red or blue depending on how it immediately affects them. Thus, for example, conservatives who rally and vote and huff-and-puff with scandalized sensibilities over the fiscal irresponsibility of liberals who refuse to cut programs find themselves rallying and voting to oust any city official that may want to cut their favored program. Doves who marched against the hawks find themselves championing war. (more…)
This is good. It also illustrates that, try as you may, if you simply state a biblical conviction, no matter how laden with caveats, you will be perceived as judgmental! Did you ever think Joel Osteen would be regarded as judgmental?
Mark Farnham gives an excellent little commentary on Why the Rest Hates the West over at SharperIron. It is an easy read and it would be very good for Americans who can only perceive of this country as a beacon of virtue and freedom to read in order to attempt the intellectually honest activity of walking in the “the rest’s” sandals. There’s a lot to chew on here and I found the article compelling enough for me to want to purchase the book for myself.
But quite honestly I’ve been — if I may say so myself — pretty fair-minded with the haters because of having lived in other cultures. I don’t agree with them all the time, but I can sympathize. There are profound academic, cultural, and philosophical reasons why the rest hate the west, but then there are also ridiculous statements from prosperity-intoxicated pastors that contribute to the “rest’s” rage. Take this for example:
The Rev. Horace Sheffield III tells WJBK-TV his congregation at New Destiny Baptist Church will try to surround the Lions’ Ford Field “in prayer.”
Hall-of-Fame running back Barry Sanders and a carousel of coaches over the years has not translated into victories for the Lions.
Sheffield said “maybe it’s time to get God to help,” and that a city suffering through a terrible economy and high unemployment shouldn’t have to deal with a losing team.
I find the last line to be utterly repulsive. Besides the fact that it is easy for me to think of plenty of reasons why Detroit should, in fact, deal with a losing team, it is egregious and Marie-Antoinette-ish to whine about the burden of having a group of millionaires unable to be able to pull off a record better than 2 – 7. The fact that the man calls himself a pastor is abhorrent to me. I wish he’d go to Haiti and spend a month sleeping in one of the thousands of camps that are there, drinking cholera-infested water and watching people pee on the streets because there is nowhere else to go to get away from a crowd and then see if he thinks Detroit can tolerate another season with a losing team. Or maybe he should have spent the nights with me, earlier last month, on the floor of a wooden clinic six inches away from a woman on the other side of a thin piece of plywood as she retched all night long in the sweltering heat. I can assure you I didn’t feel the need to pray to Merciful God to have pity on my poor Chicago-based flock because the Bears have been disappointing us this season.
Idiotic. Absolutely repulsive. Another reason why the rest hate the West.