Archive for the ‘black evangelicals’ Category

And You Call Yourself A Christian

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

I can’t tell you how many people come to this blog, click around, read what’s here, and leave disgusted. But  not before leaving a message letting me know what they think about the topics and the opinions expressed here.

“You’re going to hell.”
“I would think that a minister would speak more about what God and the Bible have to say about things and less about what she thinks on such subjects.”
“And you call yourself a Christian.”
“What kind of Christian are you?”

I’ve grown an extra layer of thick skin since I started blogging (had to), but I gotta tell you that last statement gets to me.

“What kind of Christian are you” is a question I’ve been asking myself for years. Long before I accepted my call into ministry (which was over 20 years ago, cough. cough). “What kind of minister am I?”I’ve had many occasion to ask myself.  Why can’t I be like others and just follow the script, and say and write and do what’s expected of me?

I visit the websites of Christian bloggers, and I’m jealous.  I covet the reams of melliflous inspirational prose I find there. “God is good.” “Jesus is the answer.” “We’ve come this far by faith.” It’s not like I don’t believe these things and haven’t tried to bolster women’s faith here on the blog. It’s just that I’m the sort that’s always been more fascinated with the messy side of belief than the pristine side. “Lord I believe, help thou my belief” is one of the most exquisite lines in the Bible,  as far as I am concerned. Which probably explains why, if given the choice, I much prefer a room full of unrepentant prostitutes to one of born-again believers. Not because I harbor any distrust of Christians or organized religion as it is fashionable to proclaim these days,  as though saying that is proof that one is a sophisticated thinker. I prefer the room full of prostitutes because a prostitute is never just a prostitute. Just like belief and unbelief are never as simple as they first appear.

burning candleAfter eighteen months of  blogging I am reminded that there are Christians out there who hold with fierce determination to their own definition of “Christian” as the only valid one. They cling to their way of believing with a savage certitude. And anyone who challenges their way of belief is an enemy to be annihilated rather than reasoned with. It was the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal who said, “Men [sic] never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

I wish sometimes that I could be content with talking about belief and certitude. Despite their protests to contrary, people want so much to believe and to know that what they believe is true. But as I wrote in my third book Listening for God, I’ve given up on a faith built on certitude.  I prefer talking about right that might be wrong, and wrong that’s not all wrong. I appreciate the Christian books publishers send me to review. From time to time I get something out of the messages of hope and faith written there. It’s not that the writers paint a rosy picture of life. But it’s not like they spend much  time anguishing over the contradictions of life either.  No one asks why the wicked prosper while the righteous go unrewarded. No one anguishes about the sins of religion.  Everything can be explained, and what can’t be explained isn’t talked about. History, with all its messiness, is not something the Christian should worry her pretty little head about. There are no gray areas for many of these writers. There are moments when I regret not being able to write like that anymore. I believe, but I don’t believe like that anymore. What kind of Christian am I? I guess I’m the kind of Christian that likes to go searching for God in the most unlikely of places like ghettos, mangers, brothels, bath houses, and in the eyes of my enemy.

Follow Up to “Them Baptists”

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Thanks Rev. Charlene Hill both for granting me permission to post here on the blog the response she got back from the folks at LifeWay after she wrote inquiring about their decision to pull from their shelves the Gospel Today issue featuring women pastors on its cover.  Let me warn you now that the letter says nothing new. But kudos to Charlene and the many others of you who made public your disagreement with LifeWay.  This is how community organizing starts and how change begins. One letter at a time.
______________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Charlene,

Thank you for your email of September 25, asking us for a response the article about LifeWay Christian Stores
removing the current issue of Gospel Today from the shelves.  I am pleased to respond.

Thank you for asking about this.  Many of the news media reports were not entirely accurate.
Simply put, we removed the September/October issue of Gospel Today magazine from the shelves
of LifeWay Christian Stores because the cover story, featuring female senior pastors, clearly advocated
a position contrary to our denomination’ s statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message.
We certainly understand that some customers have different positions on the issues and do not agree
with every point.  We also recognize that some customers like to read a variety of views on subjects
such as these to stay engaged in the culture.  For that reason, we have continued to make the magazine
available upon request to accommodate those needs as best we could.  To the extent possible, we try
to serve all Evangelical Christians with the products we carry in our stores.  If you
like, you may find The Baptist Faith & Message available as a free download
at www.sbc.net.

Thank you again for taking the time to write and ask about this article and for giving us the opportunity
to respond.  I sincerely hope this information will be helpful to you.

Blessings,

Jim Shull
LifeWay Christian Stores

_________________________________________________________________________________

Heck y’all, I’m grateful to folks like Jim Shull.

In fact, there’s a lesson in all of this.  Maybe God is showing us something in all that we’ve seen and witnessed over the past months. Something important. Something that’s supposed to open the eyes of those of us who’ve been shy about  questioning authority and afraid to challenge the way Scripture has been interpreted by those in charge.

Power comes from lying. Lying big, and gettin’ the whole  world to play along with you. Once you got everybody agreeing with what they know in their hearts ain’t true, you rule and you win.

Thanks John McCain, Lifeway Stores, and “Them Baptists.”  You’ve taught women like me a lot about power, politics, and truth over these last few months.

I’ll never be afraid again to see the world differently, nor will I ever again be made to feel guilty about using my influence to persuade others to see the world as I do.

Blessings to you too Jim, et al.

A Woman’s Right to Choose…Differently from Palin

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

“Now you see why I chose her?” John McCain asked the wildly cheering audience after Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech before the RNC on Wednesday night. Sure do, John.

Sarah Palin showed last night that she was chosen to energize the working class and Evangelical base of the Republican Party. And if the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center Complex in St. Paul is any indication, she delivered. It will take another couple of days to find out exactly how Palin went over with the base Republican consituency across the country. Women and men from the conservative right usally don’t like punchy, tough talking women. (Think Hillary Clinton.) No matter how pretty they are. But that was before John McCain became the Republican nominee and needed to pull a rabbit out the hat in order to get his base behind him. What we’ve seen over the past week since Palin was introduced into the race is despite McCain’s claim to be a reformer, the Republican party reverting back to the strategy that worked to get his predecessor, George W. Bush elected in 2000 and 2004. Inflame the Religious Right. And nothing puts a fire under that  group and imbues them with a sense of call like a perceived threat against the traditional family.

In comes Governor Sarah Palin.

Party Convention

Here’s my point: I’m an ex-Pentecostal with, let’s say, charismatic predilections, a minister, a bible scholar, a writer who writes about religion and spirituality, a Christian who goes to church almost every Sunday (which means even when I’m not preaching), a pastor’s wife and a mother, someone who teaches bible study and vacation bible school classes, when her schedule (and mood) allows – heck I’ll let everyone in on a little secret, I even tithe to my local church (yeah, yeah, I know; don’t go there). Despite my impeccable credentials, it’s pretty clear to me that I’m not who pundits, politicians, and media prophets have in mind when they talk about “Evangelicals.”

“With Palin on the Ticket, Evangelicals are Energized.”

“Sarah Palin brings hope to Evangelical Voters.”

“Evangelicals Rally Behind Palin After Pregnancy News.”

“Has Palin’s Light Dimmed Among Evangelicals?”

That’s Evangelical with a capital “E.”

What’s an Evangelical you ask? Even Evangelicals don’t agree on what an evangelical is. Besides, it doesn’t matter what an Evangelical thinks an Evangelical is. What matters is what politicians and pundits and media prophets say an Evangelical is. Evangelicals are Evangelicals not because of what they believe, but because of the stance they take on controversial issues. No issue matters more to them than unborn fetuses and traditional marriage.  Sure, Evangelicals, according to  pollster, tend also to be pro-death penalty, pro-preemptive war, anti-immigration, pro-home schooling, anti-Palestinian rights, pro-Republican party, anti-Democratic party, pro-literal reading of the Bible, anti-higher taxes, and so on. But nothing strikes horror and disgust in the heart of a true Evangelical like notion of a woman’s right to a legal and safe abortion. There’s no one they care about like they care about unborn fetuses. No one they despise more than those who are pro-choice. A woman’s right to choose is to Evangelicals what the Communist threat was to America during the Cold War.  Evangelicals are Christians who think it is their religious duty to thrust their notion of values and God down the throats of everyone else. Jesus’ “Great Commission” was not about making disciples, but making it increasingly difficult for women to have safe, legal abortions. If it means electing an ex-beauty queen from Alaska name Sarah Palin with a compromised family life as Vice President of the United States, then ‘Thy will be done.”

christian flag

Tonight Sarah Palin proved that she is a smart, ambitious, attractive, accomplished woman. She is no shrinking violet. Her classmates called her “baraccuda” for a reason. Too bad she spent most of her speech fending off attacks and taking swipes at Barack Obama instead of talking about what important insights she brings to the Republican ticket as a woman, a mom, and a governor on matters of reviving our economy, fighting global poverty and disease, ending the war in Iraq and addressing climate change.

I know that as a woman of faith I’m supposed to feel comfortable around the theology of the Religious Right. But I’m not. I hear all that talk about family values, and I get scared.  Whose family and whose values? I wonder.

I’ve certainly been bothered sitting her this past week watching the party most closely associated with Evangelicals and the Religious Right change its platform, switch values, and give itself a complete moral make-over in less than a week. Anything to win. I’ve sat and listened to pundits and politicians who otherwise would probably never work for a woman or elect a woman rally the troops to accept Sarah Palin, quick to label any questions about Sarah Palin qualifications for the Vice Presidency as misogynist and sexist.

Who would imagine that the same men who drafted the Southern Baptist 2000 Baptist Faith & Message would this week praise McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for VP?

“The only restrictions we find in Scripture are, that for whatever reason women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church,” explained Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “That has nothing to do with governor, or senator or the House of Representatives, or president, or vice president.”

What a bunch of hypocrites.

Women can head countries, but they can’t head churches?

I repeat: John McCain is a fox. Beside proving how much contempt he has for women by choosing as a running mate whose credentials and personal life cause a dilemma for every modern woman who thinks women deserve a chance to lead this country, he then proves the contempt he has for the Religious Right (who have consistently in the past rejected his bid for the presidency) by choosing someone whose personal life makes a mockery of issues the Right has built its platform on upon (e.g., abstinence and traditional wives).

While I’m at it, I am offended that while Palin’s family is supposed to be off limit to criticism she gets to parade them before the public and score points as a Mom, a mom who doesn’t believe in abortion, the proof being a special needs infant and an unwed, pregnant teen daughter standing there with the Baby Daddy at her side.

Back off Obama.

This is a woman’s issue. This one hits too close to home.Women’s reproductive rights is at stake with Sarah Palin on the ticket. McCain has renewed the anti-abortionists’ dreams that they will have a say in filling the three Supreme Court slots likely to come open in the next four years with conservative judges.

That Sarah Palin’s 17 year old pregnant and unmarried is no business of mine . But that Sarah Palin opposes abortion and the teaching of sex-education in schools, and has a 17 year old daughter who is pregnant, is very much my business. And the business of every woman who cares not only about the unborn, but the born too. You don’t get to profess to be opposed to abortion and then cut a line item in your state budget that would provide transitional housing for teen mothers in need of a place to live.  Where do unwed teens who don’t get to live in the Governor’s mansion or the White House go to live?

Have you noticed?: Black teens, like most teens, carry their babies to term, and they are blasted by conservative pundits  as immoral “welfare queens” for getting pregnant before marriage . Bristol Palin chooses, with her mother’s support, to go ahead with her pregnancy, and she is good Christian girl who deserves to be left alone.

Did I mention those conservatives who use the example of Jesus being born out wedlock to whitewash Palin’s 17 year old daughter’s pregnancy? I love you Mary, but someone give me a break.

Evangelicals have made birth control, abortion, sex education in public schools, and homosexuality, into public issues and if those of us who consider ourselves evangelicals with a little “e” don’t speak up and remind folks that the Religious Right does not have a corner on Christianity, women like Sarah Palin will be in the Executive Office rolling back the clock on every legal achievement women have fought for and achieved in the last 40 years.

Life Choosing

I, and other Christians, too care about the sanctity of life. Life from conception to the grave. We also believe that fetuses should have a chance to grow and thrive under the best economic, emotional, and physical circumstances their parents can provide. We care about the others issues Jesus had in mind too when he declared, “I come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). We care about mothers (and fathers too) and the stress and hardship women and families facing an unplanned pregnancy sometimes endure. We care also about poverty, HIV/AIDS, health care and insurance hassles, equal pay, immigration, war, child care, and families losing their homes – the kind of issues that when compounded with an unplanned pregnancy can be soul breaking to women without resources and support.

And just in case, folks hadn’t noticed, there’s a law  already on the books that protects a woman’s right to determine the number and spacing of her children, by providing her the right to have access to a safe and legal abortion should circumstances force her to have to make such an unfortunate decision. It became law in January, 1973.

“And you call yourself a Christian.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one. For not towing the line. For not believing what others believe. For not being Right. Content simply to try to live right, that is in a manner Jesus would recognize. To do justice, show mercy, and to walk humbly before God

I Now Pronounce You “Mrs. and Mrs.”

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

While we’re talking about God, sex, and marriage, let’s talk about…um…er…same-sex marriage.

Here’s a poll (or at least part of a poll) that came in the mail recently to my house.

If you had three choices regarding the laws governing same-sex marriage, what would you choose?

1. Same-sex couples should be allowed legally to marry.
2. Same-sex couples should be allowed legally to form civil unions but not marry.
3. Same-sex couples should not be allowed to obtain legal recognition of their relationships.

marriages and black conservatives

Now as you all know, this summer California became the second state, after Massachusetts, to make marriage licenses available to same-sex couples. And if you’ve been following the campaign news closely you’ll notice that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain seem particularly comfortable talking about gay marriage as a campaign issue. NPR aired a story this past Monday containing statements made by each candidate, in public forums.

In the past Obama has said  that he opposes gay marriage but that every state should be allowed to decide the issue on its own. He has changed his mind in recent months saying that while he opposes same-sex marriage, he supports civil unions and domestic partnerships between same-sex couples.

As for McCain, well after receiving lots of pressure from big guns like James Dobbs of “Focus on the Family” and other leading conservative evangelicals who complain that McCain has been reticent about talking about issues that motivates grassroot conservatives (you guessed it, abortion and homosexuality), McCain sent a short statement back in June to the “Protect Marriage” campaign, one of the conservative groups spearheading an effort to amend the state Constitution in November and define marriage as between a man and a woman saying that he supported the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman.

What folks on this blog probably don’t know is that the great untold story of the 2004 presidential elections was the black evangelical vote. Conservative Republicans figured out in 2004 that to get their man George Bush back into the White House they needed to inflame black’s anti-gay bias. Although black evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, blacks gave Bush the cushion he needed to bag Ohio and win the White House. What did it? Opposition to gay marriage. A national coalition of religious conservative groups, which included Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council, formed in early 2004 to defend traditional marriage. Conservative blacks were key to their strategy.

In case you failed to get the memo, word has it that in 2008 a new younger crop of evangelicals has come on the scene. Young evangelicals who can not be easily pegged by pollsters nor easily manipulated by politicans. Young evangelicals who are passionate about a broad platform of issues, and not just the grassroots moral issues of their parents, abortion and homosexuality. Conservative icons like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson are being replaced with kindler, gentler faces like those of Rick Warren and Brian McLaren who, though socially conservative, are determined to market themselves as compassionate and generously involved in lots of issues (HIV/AIDS, poverty, the environment), and have shown that they are willing to engage in conversation with people with think and believe differently. Both McCain and Obama are glad for friends like Rick Warren who give them the chance to bypass the old guard of conservative leaders and speak directly to “open minds” of young evangelicals. That’s young, white evangelicals, in case you were wondering.

Where do young black evangelicals figure in all of this? Who cares? No one, from what I can tell. That’s probably because everyone assumes that young black evangelicals are an uncomplicated lot. Even if they oppose same sex unions, as many assume they do, race trumps theology which means Obama can count on their vote. But is that true? How much does homosexuality and same sex marriage matter to this generation of African American churchgoers?  What say you who admit here on the blog to playing hooky from bible study to get home to watch “Sex and the City”? You’re a pretty complicated lot to me. Like me, you wring your hands over the risky sexual behavior of our teens. Some of you say that it doesn’t make sense to teach abstinence, and that protection and good judgement is the better church curriculum for teens. A few of you even share some of my old-fashioned notions of marriage, at least the notion that what we are witnessing is a generation of young people gone wild from being raised in an environment that believes sex is a god, being sexually satisfied is an inalienable right, getting pregnant outside of marriage is unfortunate, but not a calamity, and that marriage is optional.  So, do your broad, generous attitudes toward heterosexual marriage and sex extend to homosexual unions and the efforts by lesbians and gays to see to it that their unions enjoy the same protection and rights of as heterosexual unions?

Knock. Knock. Who’s there? The conservative white evangelicals who will surely try to figure out a way to corral just enough Blacks this Fall to swing the presidential vote in the direction they want and get religious conservative black folks to join them, their nominee, and God in their campaign to save America from gays, unwed mothers, and all those who have sex any way other than the way God intended. Whatever way that is.