For you cannot serve two masters …
Oct 9th, 2012 by Sonja

This post is part of the October Synchroblog – Faith and Politics: No matter what you believe or don’t believe, “faith in the public square” is something you probably have an opinion about.

Yeah, I have an opinion (because we all know I have an opinion on just about everything). My opinion is that only the very adept can mix faith and politics without some measure of toxicity entering the atmosphere.

I believe that it is a matter of course that a person of faith should take their beliefs into the voting booth.  We all measure candidates using different gauges and people of faith will and should use their beliefs as some part of that.  As a liberal, I believe that helping people should take precedence over enforcing rules and I likely differ with many of my conservative brethren and sistren about how one helps another in need.


I also believe that faith should stay out of politics.  There is something funny that happens when you get a good idea and are able to convince others to join your cause.  It feels really good to have a bunch of people telling you what a great idea you have.  It’s even better when they all work together to implement your idea … wow!!  Check it out … a bunch of people believe the same way you do and they want to help your idea out.  It’s awesome.

But then (in many cases) something weird happens.  That good idea begins to take on a life of it’s own.  It gains traction and grows bigger, until it owns the person.  And what was once a good idea begins to morph into something that is the opposite.  Until something like this happens:

If one could contrive a nation that whole-heartedly followed Jesus, I think that might be a good thing in the world.  Not gonna lie, in a colloquialism of today.  However, I’m not certain that is something that can be legislated.  Rulers of past nations/empires have tried this and ended up killing many of their countrymen in a quest for absolute …. ahhh … power.

I was deeply troubled by the caption my friend gave this link.  It would seem that in the desire for a good thing, many of my brothers and sisters have opted to go the way of power.  And according to my understanding of the faith, Jesus eschewed power and declared that we who follow him ought to as well.

Here is the list of some other writers who shared their thoughts on this subject:

We The People by Wendy McCaig

Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm

Plumbers and Politicians by Glenn Hager

Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus

Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers

A Kingdom Not Of This World by Jareth Caelum

I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer

5 ways to make it through the election and still keep your friends by Kathy Escobar

Why There’s No Such Thing As The Christian Vote by Marta Layton

God’s Politics? by Andrew Carmichael

Faith and the Public Square by Leah Sophia

Diversion or Distraction?
Oct 12th, 2011 by Sonja

I may or may not have mentioned it here before but I regularly take some medication that requires the oversight of a psychiatrist.  Mostly this is because I also take some meds for my seizure disorder and it’s good to have someone in charge of all brain medication who knows what they do.  This is the theory anyway.

In any case, I was meeting with my psychiatrist the other day in order to check on all my meds and how I’m doing and I told her that I’m feeling very unfocused.  It’s something I have been struggling with for several years now, but lately it’s been almost overwhelming.  She asked me a couple of pointed questions about current events in my life and pointed out what some side effects were for some of the seizure meds I take and said, “I don’t think you’re unfocused.  I think you’re distracted by what’s going on with you.”

Um.  Really.  So what’s the difference?  It made sense when she said it, now I’m wondering.

Diversion –
1. the act of diverting from a specified course
2. ( Brit ) an official detour used by traffic when a main route is closed
3. something that distracts from business, etc; amusement
4. (military) a feint attack designed to draw an enemy away from the main attack

Distraction –
1. the act or an instance of distracting or the state of being distracted
2. something that serves as a diversion or entertainment
3. an interruption; an obstacle to concentration
4. mental turmoil or madness

Sooo … it looks to me as though being unfocused (or diverted) is makes me the subject of my own sentence.  But being distracted makes me the object.  Or is it vice versa?  I’m not sure … but I think that’s the difference between the two.  I don’t think knowing which is which really matters either.  I just needed to know what was what.

There was an ad campaign for something (I can’t remember what) not too long ago that went, “Life is messy.  Clean it up.”  For the record, all the ads for cleaning products bug me.  More than that, they piss me off.  Who can live in those pristine houses?  Life IS messy.  It’s gross and kind of disgusting down here in the trenches of our own stuff.  I’m not so sure we should clean it up.  I wonder about that sometimes.

Do you wonder about that?  Is just cleaning it up a distraction?  Or a diversion?  What if what we are supposed to do is get rid of that stuff?  What if we are supposed to make it new again?  Redeem it or reconcile it and by swiping it with some magic eraser, we’re diverting our attention to something else?  Have we got “stuff” in our lives that is like that old family room carpet.  It’s old and grungy because it’s in the most used room in the home.  People are always in and out and yes, they eat in there.  Yes, they eat dinner in front of the television on more occasions than any of us would like to admit.  And popcorn during movies and sporting events.  And snacks at other odd times.  So there are probably bits of food ground in there somewhere.  Years worth of pets and children going in and out the back door have ground in bits of mud and grass and heaven-knows-what.  This carpet has seen better days.  We keep vacuuming it and occasionally cleaning it because we know that replacing it is going to be time consuming and expensive.  Eventually we won’t be able to avoid that time and expense, but for now we get by.

We all have stuff in our lives that is deeply ground in, musty and yucky that needs to be replaced with good new and clean stuff.  We want to get at it.  We know we’ll be better off for it, healthier, more well-rounded, and we might even like ourselves better.  But … there it is.  It’s going to be time consuming and expensive.  I don’t mean money.  I mean it’s going to be hard.  It might hurt.  It might cost us some friends.  It might cost us some intangible things that we don’t even imagine when we set out on that journey.  We know that … somewhere in the remote places of our hearts.  So we divert and distract by vacuuming and dusting and saying it’s okay for now.  It’s really okay.  I’ll get to that later.

Life is messy.  I don’t want to clean it up.  I want to embrace the mess and understand it.  I want to own it and then.  I want to redeem it.  But I don’t want to just clean it up with a whitewash of pretty paint.  Because that’s just a mask and I’m done with that now.


This post is part of October’s Synchroblog – Down We Go.  You can read other, insightful, posts at these links:

  • Alan Knox – How Low Can You Go
  • Jeremy Myers – Seeking The Next Demotion
  • Glenn Hager – Pretty People
  • David Derbershire – Reaching The Inner City
  • Tammy Carter – Flight Plan
  • Leah Randall – Jacked Up
  • Leah Randall (her other voice) – How Low Can We Go
  • Liz Dyer – Beautiful Mess
  • Maria Kettleson Anderson – Down
  • Christine Sine – There Is No Failure In The Kingdom of God
  • Leah Sophia – Down We Go
  • Hugh Hollowell – Downward
  • Kathy Escobar – We May Look Like Losers – Redux
  • Anthony Ehrhardt – Slumming It For Jesus
  • Marta Layton – Down The Up Staircase
  • Wendy McCaig – A Material Girl
  • Bumpersticker Theology
    Mar 20th, 2011 by Sonja

    The bright blue sedan sped merrily down that major artery; providing oxygen on an otherwise dreary journey into the city. Small and fuel-efficent, there were a number of profiles the driver might fit into. But it was the array of festive bumper stickers that made the car merry. They were happy; cheeky. Then there was the central sticker, located under the brake light: “I pray that God isn’t too picky.”

    Hmmmm …

    That one made me think of the firestorm that has recently engulfed the social media world (blogs, twitter, facebook) concerning a certain book by a certain young cheeky pastor (Rockstar) and his (potential) views on Hell and who might go there.

    I never planned to write about this one. I don’t care about it. Mostly, I’m no theologian. The finer points that these people are arguing make my head spin and in a world where much more interesting things are happening (like democracies emerging in the Middle East) and tragedies must be observed (Japan), my poor brain has very little space left over for jots and tittles. But then, along sped this merry little automobile and I began to think.

    Why is it that the Gospel, the so-called Good News, has become this? Yay! When you die, you don’t go to your room. If you are very, very lucky or something … you get to go to God’s room.

    Now. I know that a bunch of people are going to come on here in comments to correct my description of the Gospel. Yep. You are all probably correct. I’m not talking about that. I’m writing about what our popular culture HEARS from the church. Because it doesn’t matter what we think we’re saying. What matters is what people hear. If what people hear sounds like the teachers/adults in a Charlie Brown television special, why then it doesn’t really matter what Rockstar writes (good, bad or ugly) or what his detractors say about him … because the only people listening are the choir.

    The church is now arguing over how many camels will fit on the head of a pin … really?

    Jun 13th, 2010 by Sonja

    The three people who are still reading this blog after my long hiatus, know that I have started writing again using a series of blog prompts put on by National Blog Posting Month found by clicking on that link back there.  I found it through one of the writers in my feed reader.  The day (last Monday) she posted, the prompt was this:

    Do you owe an apology to anyone? Why?

    That’s been rattling around in my head since then.  I did not post anything that day.  I’ve toyed with the idea of back posting ever since because … well … because.

    Ready for the Ball

    Friday night LightGirl went on her first date.  She and her date went to a dance; the Blumen Ball the dance committee called it.  It was a semi-formal dance put on for homeschoolers.  KidCourageous (as he shall be known here) asked her to go about 10 days before the event.  She accepted and they both were very excited (on a scale of 1 to Christmas morning they agreed it was like going back to Hogwarts).  They had a wonderful time and danced the whole evening.  Their chauffeur for the evening was KidCourageous’ older brother.  LightGirl was presented with a wrist corsage and KidCourageous was a perfect gentleman all evening.  She is still (Sunday morning) walking on air.  If you are friends with me on FaceBook you can see photos there.

    There was only one small snag.  Several of the young men in LightGirl & KidCourageous’ group of friends thought it would be fun and funny to play games with them during the dance.  These young men would surround them and separate the two of them regularly throughout the evening.  It might have been funny had it only happened once or twice, but as young men are wont to do, they carried it on for too long and too far.  LightGirl and KidCourageous became frustrated with the situation.  But they handled it graciously and kindly without creating any fuss.

    The next night, the ringleader of the young men was chatting with LightGirl on FaceBook (which they do regularly).  She was still pretty upset with him for the antics of the previous evening.  I encouraged her to let him know that she was unhappy, but to be kind about it.  I guess she must have because he attempted to apologize.  It was a rusty attempt because I’m not certain he does this very often.  But all the ingredients were there … he acknowledged that he had behaved badly, he empathized that it was hurtful, and he agreed that he shouldn’t have done it.  The only thing lacking were the specific words, “I’m sorry.”  But those are the least important words in an apology; he included the more important ones.  I haven’t been able to convince LightGirl that this is in fact an apology yet.  She (at the time) was still too upset and hurt by past interactions with this young man to be objective.  But I was really proud of him for taking that risk.  She will come around and be able to see it in a day or so.  My hope is that he will not be feeling rejected by then and their friendship will be restored.  I think it will … they seem to practice this sort of thing on each other regularly and are getting better and better at it every time.

    The whole incident pointed out some things about apologies to me that I’ve been reflecting on for some time now.

    The first thing is this … an apology is a risky business.  The person apologizing puts themselves in a vulnerable position vis a vis the person (or group) they are apologizing to.  They are giving power and/or control over to that person/group.  Forgiveness is a form of acceptance and redemption gives one re-entry to the relationship.  When one apologizes one acknowledges both wrongdoing and that the other person may or may not offer grace in return.  The restoration of the relationship is entirely in the hands of the person to whom one has apologized in that moment.

    A proper apology consists of several necessary ingredients – an acknowledgment of wrong/bad/hurtful behavior, empathy with the person/group who was harmed by the behaviour, and agreement both that it should not have happened and that one will endeavor to prevent it from happening again.

    Apologies cannot be demanded or manipulated.  They can only be offered free and clear by the person who is apologizing.  If they are not offered, but instead are made in response to a demand or as a result of manipulation they will be useless or empty.  One cannot acknowledge wrong/bad/hurtful behaviour when one doesn’t know what one has done.  This happens when an apology is demanded or manipulated as a condition to restore one’s relationship.  One can only be mournfully sorry about general malfunctions if an apology is demanded or manipulated.

    Most often, though, between adults (and near adults), apologies run in both directions.  It is extraordinarily rare among two parties to a dispute to have only one which needs to apologize.  When wrongs have been done they often have been committed by both parties.

    If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you may recall an ugly leave-taking with my CLB back in early-ish 2007.  It was hard.  It was hurtful.  It was/is permanent.  It was a long drawn out process, during which an apology was demanded of me in order that my relationships in the church might be restored.  I had no idea what apologize for so it was empty and meaningless.  But I was trying to do anything I could to restore balance and harmony to relationships that had strayed badly off course.

    I’m now apologizing to the people in question here.  I still have no idea what the instigating issues were (though I have been told many times that I do).  However, I can apologize for my very poor behavior during that months long process.  I was defensive, angry and embattled.  I was also very depressed.  In the words of Paul the apostle, what I wanted to do, I could not do and I knew that I was doing what I did not want to do.  Call it arrogance (certainly), call it tunnel vision, call it depression, or some of all of that  and some other things that I have yet to identify, but I could not see any other path at the time than the one I/we traveled.  I know that did damage to the people I was close to.  I know our abrupt departure was frightening, upsetting, and painful.  I apologize for that.  I wish it could have been different.  I wish I were different; stronger, better, wiser.  But I’m not.  I’m zealous, over-protective, and type A-high maintenance.  In an attempt to preserve feelings and group unity, I kept secrets I should not have kept.  Revealing them here, or now would not be profitable.  But keeping them at the time proved ultimately harmful to everyone, including me.  They seemed harmless.  But secrets never are.  All things kept in the dark ultimately prove to be harmful.

    I know that I am in a much healthier frame of mind now.  I have more tools at my disposal for communicating my difference of opinion with others without being as confrontational as I’ve been in the past.  Do I think that any of this will or would change anything?  I don’t know.  All I know is that I need to do this for my own peace of mind.  How it is received and what is done with it is out of my hands.   If I had been healthier at the time there is a chance I might have been able to exit with less damage.  Maybe.  But … I’d hate to speculate now.  What happens now … who knows?

    And I — I Took the One Less Traveled By …
    Feb 10th, 2010 by Sonja

    The Road Not Taken

    TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    Robert Frost

    It has become quite fashionable to write posts these days waving good-by to the emerging conversation, drawing a line in the sand and staking a claim to a new path into a new future.  I don’t quite know what to do with that.  I struggle with it.

    On one hand I see these posts as asking valid questions and see the people writing them as having legitimate concerns with the direction that the conversation is headed and how things are currently going.  I have to say … I am in agreement with Sarah at Emerging Mummy who is uncomfortable with how commodified the conversation is becoming; more and more blog posts and comments seem to be platforms for someone to hawk their books, conferences, magazines, etc., etc.  But thankfully, no bobblehead dolls … yet.   I am really looking forward to Jeremy Bouma’s series that he has introduced here – Goodbye Emergent – Why I’m Taking the Theology of the Emerging Church To Task.  He’s asking some key questions about stands that leaders in the conversation have taken on original sin, whether or not the Gospel is important, how we view the Cross and the heresy of Pelagius.  You’ll have to read Jeremy’s post to see how he’s framed the questions and what (exactly) has grabbed people’s goats along the way.  I see it as an introduction, a broad brush and we’ll see the details in the weeks to come.  I’m sure I’m not going to agree with everything that Jeremy writes … that’s alright.  I’ve become accustomed to not agreeing 100% with anyone, not even my dearly beloved husband.  The only one who agrees with me all the time is my dog and his brain is the size of an orange (with a miniscule frontal lobe) … think about that for a while.

    Mainly, I think we’ll disagree over Pelagius.  I tend to think that P-man got a lot right.  I think he’s often taken out of context and forced into the Greco-Roman context of Augustine where he makes very little sense.  We forget that, indeed, the fight between the two started over something quite small … the date that Easter would be celebrated.  And it escalated until Augustine finally won the battle to get Pelagius declared a heretic.  Augustine was a recovering alcoholic and Pelagius was a party boy, some even say a glutton.  They were diametrical opposites in every way.  That they came to (theological) blows is no surprise.  What if we return Pelagius to his homeland of 5th century Ireland and read him in that context?  I’ve never done this, but my guess is that his “heresy” might not be so glaring.  He was converting/pastoring Druids and Celts … not Romans, Egyptians and Greeks and that might be an entirely different thing.

    So, on the other hand, I remember when I wandered all wobbly on to this road about 4 or 5 years ago.  I’d just started blogging.  I’d read a few books (Blue Like Jazz among them) and was asking a lot of questions.  A LOT!  I was going to a small church where some questions were encouraged and I started looking around the internet to see if there were more women like me.  I’d found some men bloggers, but I wanted to find women.  And in my search, I started to find more people who were asking some of the same questions I was asking.  I found women too.  Women like Julie Clawson, Makeesha Fisher, Linda (the blogger formerly known as Grace), Molly Aley and Christy Lambertson (both no longer blog).  The list of women grew and grew and so did the men.  Sometimes it kind of felt like the Old West in ways both good and bad out there.  But the wonderful thing was anyone could participate.  It was like my grampy’s old saying, “If you can read, you can do anything.”  If you could read and write, you could participate.  There were (and are) defined tiers of participation.  There are definite leaders who’s blogs get a bazillion hits a day (and some people can dismiss that, but … well … fine.  The rest of us know you’re being silly).  I’m about the 7th tier down … maybe further (in case you were wondering) and I like it that way.

    Over the last year or so things have begun to change.  For a variety of reasons, some personal and some not, I don’t feel so comfortable in the greater conversation anymore.  I don’t know quite what has changed.  In some ways, yes, the conversation has changed.  I felt (at the time and continue to feel) that creating an organization around Emergent Village was a terrible idea.  I know it created efficiencies and abilities that were not available without the umbrella of an institutional organization.  However, that’s just exactly the problem.  Once an institution is created, then somehow that institution needs to be fed and maintained.  Someone needs to guard the gate.  Others need to dust the furniture.  Still others need to buy food and prepare meals.  And don’t even talk about the laundry!  Gradually, when all those people are doing all that work together to feed and maintain that institution a couple of things happen.  One is that they get to know one another and usually become friends.  Another is that they start get a sense of ownership in that institution; pride in what they’re doing and how well they’re doing it.  All of these are really good things for the most part and I’m glad for the folks who are involved in Emergent Village that they have that place.  But (you knew that was coming) there is a flip side to all of that chummy joy.  Eventually, other people come along who want to come into that institution, but they have muddy shoes and dusty pants and they leave their drink glasses on the table without using a coaster.  In short, they do not have the same respect, love and care for the institution that those who feed and maintain it do and pretty much, these outsiders are not very thoughtful of the help either.  Even when the newcomers stumble in and are appreciative, there is no possible way for them to appreciate the help (oldtimers) nearly to the degree which they deserve.  This is mostly because those on the outside really have no possible way of knowing what is going on on the inside.  It’s just the way institutions roll.

    So, we’ve come to a place where there are a goodly number of people who are comfortable with the way things are (or are headed) in the emerging conversation.  But there are also a goodly number of people who (for a variety of reasons) are no longer comfortable with it.  Me, I feel like Robert Frost standing at the two roads diverging in the woods.  Do we really have to choose?

    Because honestly, the response to the questions and concerns of the people who are no longer comfortable has not been entirely welcoming.  And I know (believe me, I know) how it feels to be under constant attack from the heresy hunters.  There have been one or two here that love to drop by and call names, engage in straw man silliness and all kinds of hurtful evil in the name of Truth.  I understand the frustration of hearing the questions all the time (I have two teenagers) … but.  But.  I’m just not sure that choosing camps, engaging in hyperbole, and generally dumping the frustration of a thousand other blogs onto friends and fellow conversants who are now choosing a road less traveled is the wisest, or indeed the most Jesus-y, choice we can make right now.

    So I’m wondering what will happen now.  Will emerging devolve into Augustians and Pelagians?  Will the institution that is Emergent Village become more important to protect and preserve than the individual people that are under it’s umbrella?   Will a “conversation” begun based on the tenet that it must be acceptable to question the faith of one’s elders, be able to survive the questioning of those who are now part of it?

    Leadership In An Age of Cholera
    Nov 4th, 2008 by Sonja

    Crime & CholeraCholera: any of several diseases of humans and domestic animals usually marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms ; especially : an acute diarrheal disease caused by an enterotoxin produced by a comma-shaped gram-negative bacillus (Vibrio cholerae syn. V. comma) when it is present in large numbers in the proximal part of the human small intestine.  Merriam-Webster on-line

    I just voted.  Yes, I voted for the hip, young man of color for President.  I have many reasons why and I’ll get to them in a second.  But first a wee story or two.

    It was exciting to go and vote this time.  In fact, I scared my poor poll worker, I was so exuberant at the little screen.  Then when she handed me my sticker, she hugged me.  As I attempted to dance through the wrong doors in exit, all the poll workers called to me and I turned around abashed at my silliness.  I was just too giddy.  Why was I giddy?  Here’s why.

    I remember the 1960’s.  Most of all, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr.  If I had to pick a hero, he’d be it.  He was a legend in his own time.  I might pick Gandhi, but for a real American hero, I’d pick King.  Every year I listen to his “I Have A Dream” speech and cry.  I’ve studied his speeches and writings; I have a fairly good idea of which Biblical prophets he was studying when he wrote.  And today … well, today … I got to vote for someone based upon the content of his character not the color of his skin.  Amen and hallelujah.  And the tiny little poll worker who hugged me?  Well, she was African-American too.

    Mind you, I did NOT vote for Obama because of his roots either. Did I listen to both sides?  No, not equally.  I lost respect for the Republican party back in 2000 and again when Republicans treated James Jeffords with such disrespect when he became an independent.  The party had huge barriers to overcome in my mind, and they failed to get there.

    Here is why I voted for Obama …

    “People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” John Kotter

    I didn’t find that quote until about a week ago when I was looking for something else entirely.   But it encapsulates my reasons for choosing Obama for president.  Even my father has some qualms about the details of his platform, the hows and wherefors.  What exactly will he do if he is elected?  For someone with little time in his role in the Senate those are very legitimate questions.  But it’s his ability to inspire that I look at.

    Frankly, I’m tired of leaders who go around poking into private business looking for what is wrong.  I want leaders who will inspire us to find our dreams and make them reality.  It is in those dreams and that reality that we will rebuild our economy, our infrastructure, get us off the dependence on petroleum and many of the other ills that we currently find ourselves in.   That sort of leadership is transformational; it begins at the top and trickles down.  We learn how to encourage and develop our own dreams.  Then we learn how to encourage and develop the dreams of others.

    Or will it?  Can a charismatic leader help us overcome our addiction to power?  That’s the question for the ages.  Too often people in leadership are at the top, they lead from above and are in a position of power.  They have the ability to cause hardship, pain and devastation to those they purport to lead.  Typically, those who are leading hold all or most of the cards.  But in this new scenario, of dream empowerment, the little guy, the individual is given the space to dream and realize those dreams.

    So, will we find this in Obama?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But that’s what I voted for; that’s what I’m hoping for.  That’s the kind of leadership I’m hoping for.  In this age of choleric leadership, we need something new.  We need something that won’t revolt us and turn our stomachs.  Something, someone nationally, and locally who will help us find our own dreams and turn them into reality.


    This is part of synchroblog on Leadership … the rest of the most excellent writings are below, please check them out:

    Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

    Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

    Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

    Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

    Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

    Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

    Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

    Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

    Geoff Matheson – Leadership

    John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

    Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

    Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

    Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

    Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

    Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

    Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

    Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

    Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

    Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

    Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

    Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

    Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

    Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

    Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

    Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

    Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

    A Theory Of Everything
    Aug 25th, 2008 by Sonja

     … but I might revise it later

    So, as you know I’ve been on vacation.  No television (thus no Olympics to squander my braincells).  Lots of porch time for pondering.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve been trying to catch up on my belated Ooze reading (and I have … sort of).  Then my brother came and landed a new book in my lap.  My mom insisted I read it … first … so I could send it on to my other brother and his wife.  Okay.

    In Defense of FoodIt’s an easy read.  Well, the reading is easy and engaging.  But it pulls you into some deep deep thinking too.  Dangerous territory.  The book is “In Defense Of Food:  An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan.  You might recognize him as the author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire.”

    As I’ve been reading this book, the Lakeland Revival and Todd Bentley have been unraveling rather publicly.  You can read blogger opinions about it in various places.  I (of course) have been following Kingdom Grace (start with Apostolic Bullshit and then read parts II and III), Brother Maynard, Bill Kinnon and iMonk (among others).  In a post the other day, Bro M asked the question whether or not Christians are more gullible than the rest of the general population.  And something that has been unsettled in my head clicked into place.  This post is a result of that click; perhaps it was an epiphany or maybe it’s just a rant … I’ll let you be the judge.

    As I first jumped into the book I found it striking how closely it paralleled the Christian sub-culture.  Quotes such as this jumped out at me:

    “The story of how the most basic questions about what to eat ever got so complicated reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry, nutrition science, and – ahem – journalism, three parties that stand to gain much from widespread confusion surrounding the most elemental question an omnivore confronts.  But humans deciding what to eat without professional guidance—something they have been doing with notable success since comgin down out of the trees—is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company, a definite career loser if you’re a nutritionist, and just plain boring if you’re a newspaper editor or reporter.  (Or, for that matter, an eater.  Who wants to hear, yet again, that you should “eat more fruits and vegetables.”?)  And so like a large gray cloud, a great Conspiracy of Scientific Complexity has gathered around the simplest questions of nutrition—much to the advantage of everyone involved.  Except perhaps the supposed beneficiary of all this nutritional advice:  us, and our health and happiness as eaters.”

    Then there’s this:

    The first thing to understand about nutritionism is that it is not the same thing as nutrition.  As the “-ism” suggests, it is not a scientific subject, but an ideology.  Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions.  This quality makes an ideology particularly hard to see, at least while it’s still exerting its hold on your culture.  A reigning ideology is a little like the weather—all pervasive and so virtually impossible to escape.  Still we can try.  (italics mine for emphasis)

    Well, I won’t bore you with the quotes on all of the pages I’ve flagged, just tell you that this book looks like a veritable rainbow when you see the long page edge of it shut.

    Michael Pollan does a masterful job telling us that it is highly likely that the source of many of our health ills (from diabetes to depression, heart diseases to hyper-activity) in the modern world is the so-called “Western Diet.”  That diet composed of refined sugar, refined grains and refined fats.  We have so depleted our soil that we are now both overweight and starving ourselves to death.  It’s the Modern paradox.

    (Aside … I’m particularly fond of Michael because he outs soy as a modern evil.  I’ve been convinced for years that soy will be our downfall and refuse to consume it in any form if I can help it –I’m also highly allergic to it–but now you know what my tinfoil hat is 😉 )

    So what, you would be correct in asking, does any of this have to do with Todd Bentley and the unraveling of the Lakeland Revival?  Nothing at all.  And … well … everything.

    You see, a long time ago, and not so long ago when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, we humans relied on each other for advice.  We relied on our elders to teach us how to walk in the world, how to behave, what were good things to eat, what weren’t, who the charlatans were and who they weren’t.  We lived in close community with one another.  Sometimes that was painful and ugly.  Sometimes it was beautiful.  But regardless, the advice we got from each other was given by people who knew one another with some level of intimacy and (here’s the important part) the giver of the advice didn’t have a horse in the race.  In other words, the giver of the advice wasn’t going to receive remuneration or paybacks for any kind of change in the behavior of the receiver of the advice.

    Things have changed rather dramatically in the last 100 or so years.  Now we pay for advice that used to come from the elders in our communities.  Not only do we pay for it, but in paying for it, we subsidize those who stand to gain the most from our receiving their words of wisdom.  We change, and they get paid twice.  Something is amiss.

    Or this example:  meningitis.  A drug company has developed a vaccine for meningitis.  I know this because LightGirl recently went in for a physical.  She was offered a vaccination for meningitis.  We took it.  But I was blind-sided by it.  I’m not so certain it was necessary or right.  The doctor presented it as a good thing, the insurance company covered it.  So … no big deal.  Not really.  But she’s young enough that she’ll need a booster before college and no one really knows the long term effects of this vaccine.  Really.  And what is this vaccinating against?  What are the realistic chances that she’ll contract viral meningitis?  Uh … slim and none … realistically.  When I look at it, the doctor had every reason to “sell” this vaccine to me and the drug company had every reason to “sell” it to him.   I had virtually no opportunity to sit back and peruse the situation from a dispassionate vantage point and the doctor?  He had horse in the race.  I was not getting unbiased information from him.  Now he’s a good doctor, LightGirl is not disadvantaged by having this vaccine that we know of.  My point is … we don’t know enough.  I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.  I only have enough information to make a decision that benefits the person giving me advice.

    I can never have enough information to make that informed decision … because I cannot get outside the box of the medical ideology that permeates our culture to find that kind of information.

    Here’s where I find my theory of everything in the nexus between this book and Lakeland.  My generation (Gen X believe it or not) and Gen Y and Millenials and maybe even Boomers and really anyone alive today have been raised to be distrustful of their elders.  We’ve all … all of us … Christians, atheists, Hindus, whoever … religion has nothing to do with this … been taught to believe that only professionals can teach us what to do next.  That’s why we look to professionals in every area of our life.  We have professional Christians, professional nutritionists, professional child rearing experts (of every stripe) … you name the issue … we have professionals to tell us what to do.  Often confusing professionals who dole out conflicting advice which changes every few months or years.  So we must keep changing the stuff we purchase … the gadgets, gee-gaws and books … more and more books on every subject under the sun.

    The reality is that most of us know … we know … what to do.  We know what’s best and good and right and true.  We know the right way to be and how to be that way.  Or maybe we don’t … but an expert is cannot tell us the best road to choose.  Only someone who knows us can give us advice.  Only someone who is intimate with what is important to us, can ask the right questions.   Sometimes we do know in our heart of hearts that when Sara Lee markets a loaf of bread as “Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White” bread it’s an oxymoronic crock of smelly dung so deep and wide that not even God’s grace can cross it.  We don’t buy it and we shouldn’t buy it … not literally and not metaphorically.

    It’s not that we (Christians … or anyone else) are necessarily gullible.  It’s that we’ve been taught to suspend our native intelligence over and over and over again on so many issues.  We’ve been taught by our governments and our religious leaders; our politicians and our teachers to listen to the experts.  Listen to the experts and the professionals … they know what they’re talking about.

    But they all have a horse in the race.  No one ever told us that part.  They all … every DAMN ONE OF THEM has something to gain by getting the lot of us to suspend our good judgment and believe their twisted un-truths.

    So … are Christians gullible?

    Not any more gullible than the Congress of the United States who believed George W. Bush when he said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, yet it patently did not … according to every single unbiased study that had been done.   Hell, I knew it didn’t … a stay at home mom in Virginia.

    Not any more gullible than the hordes of people who believed Bill Clinton when he said he hadn’t had sex with Monica Lewinsky or hadn’t smoked marijuana because he hadn’t inhaled.

    The problem is not that we’re gullible.  The problem is that we’re listening to the wrong “experts.”  For hundreds, even thousands of years we listened to people who knew us and were in relationship with us.  People who know, for example, that I get wigged out when faced with unexpected trouble (like a car breaking down on my way to college is likely to ruin my entire college career).  I have learned over time how to manage those issues better, but my elders who know me, also know to ignore some of my outbursts as, “she’ll get past it.”  Not, “let’s medicate that.”  Or they might ask a few pertinent questions, such as, “How important is this?”   Now we think we need to see an “expert” or a “professional” about the many different issues in our lives … these experts, these professionals have a vested interest in “selling” us something … a way of life, a medicine, a book, something …

    So, the next time you get all hyped up about something, remind yourself that you live in a capitalist system.  You do.  Every thing.  Every damn thing costs.  So when you ask for or receive advice from an expert or a professional, ask yourself what does that person stand to gain from their advice … even if it appears to be as wholesome as a revival in a church.

    The Church and The Vote
    Aug 6th, 2008 by Sonja

    Yesterday I wrote the story about the nexus of my political perspective and my faith.  It has been a place that’s been filled with tension for a very long time.  After all, I live in a state where tobacco is king.  And football is a prince.  It’s the Bible Belt, sweetie and I shouldn’t expect anything different.

    And yet perhaps I should.  For all the sermons, from the literal pulpit and the bully pulpit, that I’ve heard about how Christians are to be in the world but not of the world, it would seem that we ought to be somehow different.  Yet we are not.  We look just like everyone else.  We fight our neighbors, sue our co-workers and friends, we marry and get divorced at the same rates, according to some studies abortion rates are actually higher among evangelicals and fundamentalists (p. 160-161, We The Purple … I tried to find the original article that Ms. Ford quoted, but the magazine website is no longer available).  We look for ways out of the Sermon on the Mount, rather than how to live in it.  In short, according to all available data, we are just like everybody else except that “we’re also busy for a few hours on Sunday morning.” (I can’t remember where I heard that, but it stuck and it’s sorta funny.)  For many of us we also have a more than annoying habit of being supercilious, hard headed, and power hungry.  The reputation that Christians have is unsightly and unworthy.  What we’re doing is not working.  So perhaps we ought to try something else.

    So take a step back from all of this with me and let’s look at this from another perspective.  For the past week or so The Church of England has gathered some of it’s top leaders and thinkers together at the Lambeth Conference.  They did something new this year and invited a rabbi to speak at their gathering.  I’m indebted to Mike Todd at Waving or Drowning for linking to the full text of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks remarks.  Reb Sacks spoke on the nature of covenant and the context it gives to our lives.  Here’s the link to the full text, I highly recommend you download them for yourself and read them.  I’m going to wrestle with a couple of quotes below.

    And let’s begin our journey at the place we passed on our march last Thursday, in Westminster. It was such a lovely day that I imagine meeting up with my granddaughter on the way back and taking her to see some of the sights of London. We’d begin where we were, outside Parliament, and I imagine her asking what happens there, and I’d say, politics. And she’d ask, what’s politics about, and I’d say: it’s about the creation and distribution of power.

    And then we’d go to the city, and see the Bank of England, and she’d ask what happens there and I’d say: economics. And she’d say: what’s economics about, and I’d say: it’s about the creation and distribution of wealth.

    And then on our way back we’d pass St Paul’s Cathedral, and she’d ask, what happens there, and I’d say: worship. And she’d ask: what’s worship about? What does it create and distribute? And that’s a good question, because for the past 50 years, our lives have been dominated by the other two institutions: politics and economics, the state and the market, the logic of power and the logic of wealth. The state is us in our collective capacity.  The market is us as individuals.  And the debate has been: which is more effective? The left tends to favour the state.  The right tends to favour the market.  And there are endless shadings in between.

    But what this leaves out of the equation is a third phenomenon of the utmost importance, and I want to explain why. The state is about power.  The market is about wealth.  And they are two ways of getting people to act in the way we want.  Either we force them to – the way of power.  Or we pay them to – the way of wealth.

    But there is a third way, and to see this let’s perform a simple thought experiment. Imagine you have total power, and then you decide to share it with nine others.  How much do you have left?  1/10 of what you had when you began. Suppose you have a thousand pounds, and you decide to share it with nine others.  How much do you have left?  1/10 of what you had when you began.  But now suppose that you decide to share, not power or wealth, but love, or friendship, or influence, or even knowledge, with nine others.  How much do I have left?  Do I have less?  No, I have more; perhaps even 10 times as much.

    The Chief Rabbi is on to something here. The state is about the distribution and manipulation of power. The market is about the distribution and manipulation of wealth/money.  Where does the church fit into this equation?

    So that’s what I want to write about today.  For the last 20 or 30 years, evangelicals have posited that they could play the political power game and play it well.  We’ve seen organizations such as the Moral Majority (headed by Jerry Falwell) and the Christian Coalition (headed by Ralph Reed) come and go.  Up until very recently, (as in the campaign cycle of 2006) it was a foregone conclusion that the evangelical voting block would vote Republican.  That is slowly starting to change.  Those thinly veiled voter information guides produced by Concerned Women for America and Christian Coalition are (hopefully) a thing of the past.

    So, the question still remains, who would Jesus vote for?  Or would He even vote?  It’s my belief that He probably would not participate in the political process.  The state is about the creation, distribution and manipulation of power.  It works hand in glove with the market.  The market exists to create, distribute and manipulate wealth.  Both of those operations are/were an anathema to Jesus:

    The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. After Jesus had gone without eating for forty days and nights, he was very hungry. Then the devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.” Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:

    `No one can live only on food. People need every word that God has spoken.’ ”

    Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. The devil said, “If you are God’s Son, jump off. The Scriptures say:

    `God will give his angels orders about you. They will catch you in their arms, and you won’t hurt your feet on the stones.’ ”

    Jesus answered, “The Scriptures also say, `Don’t try to test the Lord your God!’ ”

    Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms on earth and their power. The devil said to him, “I will give all this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.”

    Jesus answered, “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: `Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ”

    Then the devil left Jesus, and angels came to help him. (Matthew 4:1-10)

    Every place in the gospels where Jesus was offered the chance to have power and/or wealth he passed it by.  Even when that power would serve a so-called higher purpose.  He knew that in the end, the power would end up serving itself rather than the purpose.  It always does.  Power consumes itself.  Power becomes it’s own end and requires more and more fuel for its engine.  Jesus knew that.

    He could have come as a political king.  In fact, the Jews of the day fully expected that.  That’s what they were looking for and why so many missed out on their Messiah.  He wasn’t what they were looking for.  They were looking for their savior to come and overthrow the Romans, give them back their Promised Land, their Holy City, their Tabernacle, their Temple, their status before G-d.  They’d been looking, watching, waiting for hundreds of years, tens of generations … waiting.

    But it didn’t happen the way everyone expected.  And here’s the thing.  We can’t fully comprehend how things went down in those first century days when Jesus walked the earth.  Because everything changes once you know the end of the story.

    Have you ever read a book and gotten about 4 chapters in, then read the last chapter?  I have.  Sometimes I’ll just read the last page.  I just need to know who’s still alive at the end of the book.  Once in a while I’ll read the whole last chapter.  It completely changes the way you read the book.  The whole plot of the book comes into play in a different way.  You understand different nuances of character and see things differently.  You begin to understand how things work together differently.  It all makes more sense when you know the outcome.

    In the same way, we know the end of Jesus’ story from the beginning.  We know  that He came born as a baby in a stable, heralded by shepherds, spent part of his childhood in Egypt, got separated from his parents at the Temple as a boy, etc, etc., etc.  We know all of his story now.  But at the time, it all came out piecemeal.  One little bit at a time and must have been quite bewildering.  Even down to His death and resurrection.  Which were one more bit of evidence of Jesus laying aside power in place of relationship.

    Now, it’s fairly easy to rationalize and say that, “Well … He’s God.  I’m not.  I need to keep some power for myself and for others … how else will we get along in this fallen world?”  Well, that’s a fair question.  How else will you or get along in this world?

    Power is a zero-sum game.  That is, in order to keep some for yourself, someone else has to lose some.  Wealth is also a zero-sum game.  In our capitalist culture we excel in zero-sum games.  We love them.  We begin teaching them as soon as our children have consciousness.  Here are the things that are not zero-sum games … that is if you want to get some for yourself, you have to share it with others (which is counter-intuitive in our capitalist culture):  knowledge, influence, love, kindness.  Or maybe you don’t necessarily “have” to share with others, but the sharing with others will not in any way diminish the amount that you have and it will likely increase what you have.

    The problem is that the church, from the time of Constantine, has engaged in the affairs of the state and rationalized it by saying that it’s for a greater good.  Sometimes waxing, sometimes waning, the church has made greater and lesser grabs at power in the state.  Remember, the state is concerned with the creation, distribution and manipulation of power.  What did Jesus do with power?  Every single time it was offered to him?  He turned his back on it.  Now there’s a good reason for that.  Which can summed up in one word … possibly two.  But for now the one word is, covenant.  No, two.  Covenantal relationship.  Jesus has a covenantal relationship with us, individually and as a group (His Bride).

    Once again, I’ll let Chief Rabbi Sacks explain this:

    One way of seeing what’s at stake is to understand the difference between two things that look and sound alike but actually are not, namely contracts and covenants.

    In a contract, two or more individuals, each pursuing their own interest, come together to make an exchange for mutual benefit.  So there is the commercial contract that creates the market, and the social contract that creates the state.

    A covenant is something different.  In a covenant, two or more individuals, each respecting the dignity and integrity of the other, come together in a bond of love and trust, to share their interests, sometimes even to share their lives, by pledging their faithfulness to one another, to do together what neither can achieve alone.

    A contract is a transaction.  A covenant is a relationship.  Or to put it slightly differently: a contract is about interests.  A covenant is about identity.  It is about you and me coming together to form an ‘us’. That is why contracts benefit, but covenants transform.

    So economics and politics, the market and the state, are about the logic of competition.  Covenant is about the logic of co-operation.

    For the last 20 to 30 years the church has busied itself with the logic of competition rather than the logic of co-operation. We are to be in the business (as it were) of transformation. Go back to the beginning of Reb Sacks speech, where he said that “The state is about power.  The market is about wealth.  And they are two ways of getting people to act in the way we want.  Either we force them to – the way of power.  Or we pay them to – the way of wealth.”  The liberal end of the spectrum in our country tends to favor the state, the conservative the market.  And in the church (on both sides) we’ve bought into this.  We’ve agreed with the rest of the world that there are only two ways to get people to do things.  And it may just be time to admit we’ve been wrong.  We’ve been trying the way of the world in different forms and fashions for 2000 years.  And we’ve tried especially dogmatically in this country for the past 30 years.  It has not been a crashing success.

    So I’m suggesting that perhaps Jesus wouldn’t even vote.  He eschewed all power in favor of relationship.  He worked the logic of co-operation in order to transform.  I’m beginning to wonder what it might look like if we, his followers, started to do that as well.  If we stopped worrying so much about being right (as in correct, no matter what sort of correct you might be talking about), and started worrying about our relationships with our families and our friends and just made that enough for each day.   If we engaged in the logic of cooperation and love.  If we became truly people of covenant and understand what that means, both the responsibility and the privileges, I just can’t imagine the supernatural “Power” that it would unleash.  None of us would gain anything by it.  We’d all individually likely lose.  But until we’re willing to look past what’s immediately in front of us and see what Jesus was talking about we will remain concerned with the small things of this world.   We have to come together, be able to look at a larger horizon, and be known finally for our love for each other as He said in order for any of this to come true.

    The Clothes Make The (Wo)Man
    Jun 9th, 2008 by Sonja

    This photo is from the on-line gallery of Phillip Toledano (thanks to fellow Scriber, Ben).

    Sit with that photo for a minute. Allow your emotions to bubble up and give them names. Let them have their own stories just for a moment or so. See what those stories might be, if you don’t just shove the emotions down or wave them aside or tell them what to do.

    Now, think for a moment about how intimidated you feel when standing in the presence of someone who is dressed “to the nines.” How intimidated you feel when you walk into a room or space and suddenly you realize … you are not dressed the same as everyone else there. You’ll never be able to dress like everyone else there.

    Now you have the sense of modesty that Paul was trying to instill in Timothy when he wrote, “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” His concern was not for sexual purity, but that the women would set a tone of hospitality and welcoming.

    Our clothes tell people something about us. They tell a story about who we are before people ever get to know us. When we use those clothes to engage in power and manipulation to subdue others in our presence … by whatever means, we are negating the power of the Gospel in the very space that the Gospel is to be transcendent.

    So … how should we dress? Well … that’s up to you and your particular dance with the Holy Spirit. See, none of us is the same. The rules are all the same, yet they’re all different. All we can do is ask questions of each other … where do you live? How do your neighbors dress? What are the local standards? What is welcoming amongst them? How do you create a welcoming environment in your space, where you are free to proclaim the Good News to people so they will hear it from you?

    May 12th, 2008 by Sonja

    Fellow Scriber Wess wrote a post the other day about dress codes in church for women. He is a new dad with a tiny LightGirl of his own so these issues are largely theoretical for him, but do loom in his future. His post sparked a discussion about how women dress in church and in our culture. This sparked some discussion about whether or not women are responsible for the thought life of men.

    Makeesha wrote a great summation of current modesty codes and some of their effects in the comments:

    … we promote modesty from the wrong angle. It becomes about the man instead of being about the woman. It becomes about acceptance from God based on what a woman wears. In other words, I should dress modestly because my body creates some sort of temptation. My body isn’t about me, my body is about the man, about society. It’s an object to be controlled and preached about from the pulpit. My body is scary and shameful because it causes others to sin. My breasts aren’t beautiful creations that have 2 purposes of sexual pleasure and providing food and bonding for my progeny – they are temptations. My shape is to be veiled because it’s bad, because it causes my brothers to stumble. I am the object. I am the sin. I am the receiver. These are the messages the church sends when dealing with this issue. Regardless of the intent, this is what many many women hear – for some, it creates shame that causes the woman to hide away, to cover, to follow the rules – for others it creates a shame that causes the woman to seek validation by uncovering.

    The rest of the conversation is well worth reading … and towards the end Wess challenged some of us to write further on the issue. So here I go.

    It is currently fashionable for many in the church to hold women responsible for how men think, by suggesting that women dress more conservatively in order to “help” men keep their thoughts under control. There are nearly as many women who subscribe to this theory as men. The primary verse that is quoted to substantiate this is 1Timothy 2:9 – “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, …”

    So I looked that verse up in many different versions and found that the word “modesty” is in virtually all of them. This is unusual to say the least, so it began to stick out and I began to wonder what that word was in the original text. What was it that Paul was trying to say to Timothy here?

    First I wanted to verify for myself what it is that we mean in our current cultural context when we say the word “modest” or “modesty.” So I looked it up on and here is a summary of the definitions:

    1. marked by simplicity; having a humble opinion of yourself; “a modest apartment”; “too modest to wear his medals” [ant: immodest]
    2. not large but sufficient in size or amount; “a modest salary”; “modest inflation”; “helped in my own small way”
    3. free from pomp or affectation; “comfortable but modest cottages”; “a simple rectangular brick building”; “a simple man with simple tastes”
    4. not offensive to sexual mores in conduct or appearance [ant: immodest]
    5. low or inferior in station or quality; “a humble cottage”; “a lowly parish priest”; “a modest man of the people”; “small beginnings” [syn: humble]
    6. humble in spirit or manner; suggesting retiring mildness or even cowed submissiveness; “meek and self-effacing” [syn: meek]
    7. limited in size or scope; “a small business”; “a newspaper with a modest circulation”; “small-scale plans”; “a pocket-size country” [syn: minor]

    So to our ears, when we hear … “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, …” what that says to us is “I want women to dress modestly [marked by simplicity, free from pomp or affectation, and not offensive to sexual mores in conduct or appearance, humble in spirit or manner suggesting retiring mildness or even cowed submissiveness], with decency and propriety…” Given the context of the remainder of chapter 2, that appears to make sense. Given the current atmosphere in the western church in which we seem to have a morbid fixation on sex and sexual issues, it also seems to make sense. But was that really what Paul was saying?

    I looked up the Greek word that is translated here as modest in our Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament ed by F.W. Danker (a large, heavy and imposing book). The word is only used one time in the whole New Testament and if I were smarter, I’d figure out how to type it here so you could see it. But I’m lazy. In any case, I found the word and the definition:

    This term expresses the opposite of considering or treating something in a common or ordinary manner; a respect for convention. A term of reverence or respect.

    Then as I was looking through all the different versions of the verses (I looked at it in the context of the whole chapter), I began to notice some footnotes that linked to it. One was for a similar verse in 1 Peter … so, okay. But there were two others that were particularly interesting. One for Revelation and the other for Isaiah. The thing I love about BibleGateway is that instead of bumbling my way through paper pages, I can just click and be there. So I did. Here are the scriptures:

    The Letter to Laodicea
    14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

    “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. 20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. 21 The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.

    Isaiah 3

    13The LORD has taken his place to contend;
    he stands to judge peoples.
    14The LORD will enter into judgment
    with the elders and princes of his people:
    “It is you who have devoured[f] the vineyard,
    the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
    15What do you mean by crushing my people,
    by grinding the face of the poor?”

    declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

    16The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty
    and walk with outstretched necks,
    glancing wantonly with their eyes,
    mincing along as they go,
    tinkling with their feet,
    17therefore the Lord will strike with a scab
    the heads of the daughters of Zion,
    and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.

    18In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21the signet rings and nose rings; 22the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.
    24Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;
    and instead of a belt, a rope;
    and instead of well-set hair, baldness;
    and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;
    and branding instead of beauty.
    25Your men shall fall by the sword
    and your mighty men in battle.
    26And her gates shall lament and mourn;
    empty, she shall sit on the ground.

    When I read those in context with Timothy and the idea that modesty is about reverence or respect … I get a whole new picture of how women should dress and more importantly … why. Once again, it’s a heart issue. It has to do with the women and, interestingly, nothing to do with men.

    As I said on Wess’ post, men … get past yourselves. If you find the way a woman dresses too distracting, find something else to look at. That is your responsibility. You are in control of where you put your eyes. You. And only you. It is the man who lusts in his heart who is the adulterer, not the woman.

    A woman needs to dress according to her heart. Where does her heart stand with God. Look in the letter to Laodicea. And in the prophecy to Jerusalem. God is not so concerned about sex. He seems to be very concerned about how we treat the poor. How do the rich treat the poor. Are we proud of our riches and flaunt them? Do we grind the face of the poor into the ground?

    It’s very easy to create a set of rules and standards. How far is that skirt from the ground? No pants. Dresses must be made from this pattern. Etc. Etc. It’s easy to tell who’s in and who’s out by those standards. If a woman comes in wearing pants … she’s out. The problem is … what if she’s wearing pants, but her heart is right? How would you know? Is it our right to judge? Why do we think those arbitrary rules are so important?

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