Les Miserables 84: Corinth

lesmiserablesLast time we saw Enjolras and friends heading off to war.  Their group picked up several recruits along the way, including Gavroche, Mabeuf, and an older man whose identity no one was clear on.  They had intended to go to Saint-Merry and make a barricade there.  But, as Victor Hugo notes, mobs don’t go where they want.  They get swept up in the wind and go wherever the wind takes them.  For that reason, they overshot Saint-Merry and wound up at Saint-Denis.

Tucked away in the Saint-Denis neighborhood is a labyrinthine network of streets which includes the Rue de la Chanvrerie, which to all appearances is a cul-de-sac.  However it is cut across right near the end by a narrow winding street called the Rue Mondetour.  At this corner, overlooking the end of the Rue de la Chanvrerie, is a bistro called Corinth.  None of this is in existence nowadays; all these streets were torn up and redesigned just a few decades later.

Hugo takes a timeout to relate the history and traditions of the bistro Corinth.  This place was discovered by Grantaire and in time became a regular hangout of Enjolras and friends.  The founding chef died in 1830 shortly before the July Revolution, and the food was never quite the same.  But Enjolras and friends still continued to hang out and drink there.

Early on the morning of June 5, 1832, Grantaire, Joly, and Bossuet were hanging out at Corinth.  Grantaire was already wasted, having downed two bottles of wine and working on a concoction of bourbon, stout, and absinthe.  Eventually a gamin, a friend of Gavroche’s, brought word from Enjolras to Bossuet that Lamarque’s funeral procession was starting.  The three decided to pass on the funeral and wait for the insurrection to follow.  So they sat tight and later Enjolras and friends arrived.

They immediately went to work building a barricade at the intersection of the Rue de la Chanvrerie and the Rue Mondetour to cut off the cul-de-sac at the end where the bistro Corinth was located.  They also built a side barricade along the Rue Mondetour.  At this point Grantaire was so wasted that he finally passed out.

After finishing the barricade and completing all the preparations, they waited.  Night came on.  Gavroche keyed in on the older man who had joined them at the Rue des Billettes.  This man had observed everything there was to observe about the barricade while the students were busy with preparations.  When he finished, he entered the bistro and sat down at the table with the least light.  Gavroche then began to observe this man, and a wave of recognition passed over him.  He pointed him out to Enjolras as an informant.  Enjolras, along with four large workingmen, confronted the man.  The man admitted to being a government official named Javert, and was immediately handcuffed.  He was searched, then tied up and fastened to a post in the center of the bistro.  Gavroche then left to scope out the surrounding area.

At this point Hugo relates a very disconcerting incident.  Mobs attract all sorts of people, and no one asks any of the others where they come from.  One older hanger-on by the name, or possibly the nickname, Le Cabuc, had joined up with the students at some point along the way to the barricade.  He was not known by anyone in the group.  He was very drunk, or at least pretending to be.  While on the barricade, he eyed a five-story house at the end of the cul-de-sac and suggested that they ought to be shooting from there.  The upper windows of that house would have commanded a view of the entire street, and from those windows they would have been able to make life miserable for anyone who tried to attack.  But the house was shut up.  Le Cabuc was not deterred.  He knocked on the door.  When no one responded, he seized a musket and beat on the door with it.  This roused an old man, who placed a candle in the fourth floor window and addressed Le Cabuc below.  He would not open the door, but he could not see that Le Cabuc had a gun.  So Le Cabuc blew his head off.

The porter did not finish.  The musket went off; the ball entered under his chin and passed out at the back of the neck, passing through the jugular.  The old man sank without a sigh.  The candle fell and was extinguished, and nothing could now be seen but an immovable head lying on the edge of the window, and a little whitish smoke floating toward the roof.

Enjolras heard the gun go off, and he was on Le Cabuc immediately.  When Le Cabuc would not kneel, he forced him to a kneeling position with superhuman strength unexpected in one so young.

Pale, his neck bare, his hair flying, Enjolras, with his woman’s face, had at that moment some inexpressible quality of the ancient Themis.  His flaring nostrils, his downcast eyes, gave to his implacable Greek profile that expression of wrath and chastity which from the point of view of the ancient world belonged to justice.

Everyone else that was on the barricade rushed out to join Enjolras.  They encircled him and Le Cabuc.  Enjolras gave Le Cabuc one minute to collect his thoughts.  But in that entire minute Le Cabuc did nothing but just sit there on his knees, blubbering like an idiot.  Finally Enjolras took his pistol and blew his brains out.

They heard the explosion, the assassin fell face forward on the pavement, and Enjolras straightened up and looked around the circle, determined and severe.

Then he pushed the body away with his foot, and said, “Throw that outside.”

Three men lifted the wretch’s body, which was quivering with the last reflex convulsions of the life that had flown, and threw it over the small barricade into the little Rue Mondetour.

The whole group was troubled by what they had just witnessed.  Enjolras spoke at length on the meaning of what he had just done, then instructed them to dispose of Le Cabuc’s body.

Let us add that, if we are to believe a police tradition, strange but probably well founded, Le Cabuc was Claquesous.  The fact is that after the death of Le Cabuc, nothing more was heard of Claquesous.  Claquesous left no trace on his disappearance.  He would seem to have been amalgamated with the invisible.  His life had been darkness, his end was night.

At this point a young workingman slipped into the barricade.  Courfeyrac had recognized him as the same youth who had called upon him at his apartment earlier that day.  Who was this youth?  From earlier descriptions, we know enough to know that it was Eponine.

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“Hip-Hip-Hooray, Driscoll’s Going Down”? UPDATED: Driscoll to Take Six Weeks Off

driscoll

UPDATE  This morning Driscoll read a prepared statement announcing that he will be stepping aside as lead pastor of Mars Hill for at least six weeks while charges filed against him by 21 former pastors are investigated.  Warren Throckmorton provides full audio of the announcement.  Morgan Lee at Christianity Today provides an extensive write-up.

Today I wish to direct to your attention to an item which came across my news feed a couple of days back because it was liked by a Facebook friend.  In a piece entitled “Hip-Hip-Horray, Driscoll’s Going Down!“, pastor Tony Warriner critiques all of the negative publicity surrounding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church which seems to be coming to a head lately.

I have not said much about what is happening at Mars Hill.  First, because I am observing the situation from three thousand plus miles away, and that probably does not make me the most qualified person to speak on what is happening out there.  Second, because others have already said a lot about the situation, and piling on is never good form.

Still, there are significant issues with Driscoll and Mars Hill, and it does no one any good to keep quiet and pretend it’s all good and there’s nothing to see here.

I have no wish to “sit in judgment from afar” or to traffic in opinion or slander or innuendo.  Instead I will stick to what is objectively verifiable and has been objectively verified.

The troubles at Mars Hill apparently started back in 2007 when Driscoll sought to change the church constitution.  Two high-ranking staffers who disagreed with the changes were fired.

Fast-forward to early 2014, when World Magazine reported that Driscoll paid a California-based marketing company to put his 2011 book Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list for one week.  There are ways in which this can be done by gaming the system.  Though this practice is not illegal, it is strongly frowned upon in the publishing industry.

And then there have been ongoing allegations of plagiarism.  In November 2013 Driscoll was accused of plagiarizing the work of Dr. Peter Jones in his book A Call to ResurgenceAdditional allegations surfaced shortly after concerning some Driscoll commentaries on New Testament books.  In early 2014 several publishers began to review several of Driscoll’s works for plagiarism.

Then there are questions about Mars Hill’s finances.  Earlier this year Mars Hill announced a “Jesus Festival” which was to have been a community outreach/evangelism event.  They abruptly and quietly cancelled it, despite having raised more than what they were hoping to raise to put it on.

Also there are charges that Driscoll’s leadership style has alienated many and been a toxic influence at Mars Hill.  Here we venture into the realm of opinion, but there is enough out there that it should at least give us pause.  For instance, there is this candid confessional piece from former Mars Hill staffer Mike Anderson who left back in 2012.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has done a thorough job of documenting the goings-on in this era of Mars Hill’s history.  Matthew Paul Turner, Warren Throckmorton, and The Wartburg Watch are also committed to telling the story and giving space for those affected to share their stories.

Even Jared Wilson of The Gospel Coalition has sought to confront Driscoll via the blogosphere.  This is significant, because Wilson has been among Driscoll’s most vociferous supporters.

The latest developments:  Last month Mars Hill was removed from the Acts 29 church network.  And just this past week, 21 former Mars Hill pastors filed charges against Mark Driscoll alleging abusive conduct.  The New York Times has published a synopsis of the Mars Hill saga entitled “A Brash Style That Filled Pews, Until Followers Had Their Fill“.

You can click the links, read for yourselves, and form your own conclusions.  But I think there is enough evidence here to safely conclude that there are serious issues here, and that what is happening with Driscoll at Mars Hill is something that needs to happen.

Now there is a certain segment of the population that seems to be gleeful that Driscoll is in as much hot water as he is currently in.  These range from progressive Christians who have been offended by his statements about gays and women, to more conservative types who were offended by his and Mars Hill’s style of doing church.

That is not right.  And Warriner is right to express concern about that.

Driscoll started Mars Hill in Seattle back in the late 1990s, and quickly became one of evangelicalism’s greatest success stories.  In one of the most unchurched places in the entire country, Mars Hill was experiencing spectacular growth.  Driscoll connected with young men, a demographic that has been largely AWOL in American evangelicalism.

Driscoll was widely seen as emerging/emergent.  At the very least, his ways of doing church flew in the face of many people’s ideas of what the “Calvinists on the corner” are supposed to look like.  He cussed.  A lot.  And that rankled a lot of people–in my opinion, people who needed to be rankled.

But Driscoll was fiercely Calvinistic, at a time when Calvinism was surging back to prominence in the world of American evangelicalism.  That gained him a great deal of respect from the most prominent names in American evangelicalism, and it made him one of those names as well.

It is a tragedy that Driscoll and Mars Hill have become what they are now.  But what is happening at Mars Hill now is something that needs to happen.  In light of what I have documented above, I feel pretty safe making that statement.

I disagree with the tone of Warriner’s piece, that any criticism of Driscoll or Mars Hill is nothing more than “passing of judgment,” “petty accusations and cheap shots, with many people actually sounding glee-ish over his struggles”.  It is not right to reduce criticism of Driscoll or Mars Hill to that, and so I felt the need to respond.

More appropriate, and I hope more in line with the tone I have taken here, are the words of Wenatchee The Hatchet in response to progressive Christians who have used the opportunity afforded by the plagiarism scandals to jump on the bandwagon of trashing Driscoll for his offensive statements about women and gays:

What we could attempt to do at this point is not continue the echo-chamber reinforcement of our respective teams, whether left or right, whether mainline or evangelical, whether theist or atheist, but to look at how and why entities like Mars Hill come into existence.  Getting to the bottom of what the facts are regardless of whether they go where we want them to go or not should be more important than a particular partisan commitment.  Just because in the last year progressive Christian writers have all but completely missed the boat on news of controversy with Driscoll doesn’t mean they don’t have things to contribute.  But if they’re going to contribute they have to contribute something besides self-congratulatory bromides and the same can be said about the anti-charismatics who have sounded off on Driscoll in the past.  We’re dealing with a community that has a history that is not strictly reduceable to a bullet-pointed list of ideological or doctrinal talking points. Even if everyone could possibly agree that Mars Hill displays a cult of personality merely noting that in a Captain Obvious moment does nothing to further conversation about how a personality cult can be impeded or diminished or prevented.  Phillip Zimbardo’s proposal that the continual appeal of cults and their popularity in the United States should not be seen as signs that Kool-aid drinkers will always drink Kool-aid but that cults appeal to genuine social desires and needs in ways that “normal” society doesn’t.

Let’s look at the drum Mark Driscoll has kept beating, get the young men and get them to man up and become husbands and fathers who live for a legacy.  By appealing directly to young men who have anxieties about their, uh, let’s just call it socio-economic utility to whatever place they find themselves in society, Driscoll and company offer a social meaning for individuals that extant individualism has been incapable of providing.  Let’s face it, if individual agency alone were good enough young guys wouldn’t join athletic teams or go on dates. The question is not if there is someone who won’t drink the proverbial Kool-aid, absolutely everyone will drink gallons of Kool-aid for the cause or person they find suitable.  As Wenatchee has written in the past, if you cannot diagnose within yourself how you are yourself a symptom or capable of being a symptom then it is imprudent to diagnose the disease you presume to be in someone else.  It’s not just people inside Mars Hill who can have this problem, it’s a problem we all have, every last one of us.

What will happen to Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll remains to be seen but if we don’t ask questions that go beyond just Driscoll and Mars Hill that also go into how star systems work in our culture and what things we’ll condone or condemn in our stars if they embody the ideals we admire then we won’t get very far in understanding Mars Hill or Driscoll–this is a case study not simply of a particular type of hero-worship, but an opportunity to explore the apparatus through which such a hero or public figure has taken shape.  It would be wrong to assume that there isn’t a progressive Christian equivalent of a Mark Driscoll, whose foibles and flaws are as forgiven by the religious left as they are condemned by the religious right.  We should consider reaching for the point where we don’t just consider the heroes of the “other” team capable of being monsters but of “our” team as well whatever our team may be.

So what do we do with all of this?  Warriner says pray.  Absolutely.  Pray for Driscoll, that he would get the help he needs, in some form or fashion.  And pray for all those who have been adversely affected by the goings-on at Mars Hill, from Paul Petry and Bent Meyer all the way to the ordinary person in the pew whose story will never make CNN or the New York Times or the Christian blogosphere.

But more than that, let us observe.  Let us look closely at what is happening at Mars Hill–as closely as we can from three thousand plus miles away.  Not to take joy and glee in the downfall of one who is not on our theological team, but instead to learn to ask the same questions about all the other star systems that are so pervasive in American evangelicalism, and in American society at large.  Let us learn to recognize how heroes such as Driscoll are made and how environments such as Mars Hill develop.  Let us recognize that the development of star systems such as Driscoll/Mars Hill does not happen because people are progressive or conservative or the opposite of whatever theological team you happen to be on, but because this is the very nature of American evangelicalism and American society at large, and it cuts across ALL theological/cultural/political boundaries.  Let us use that knowledge to recognize when the same things are happening closer to home, and to speak out and speak up for those who are affected.

This Is What American Evangelicalism Could Be

This is what evangelicalism in the United States could be.

This is what it should be.

Alas, it will never be.  Not as long as the Al Mohlers and John MacArthurs of the world have their way.

There is an organization in the UK called the Evangelical Alliance.  This is an organization which seeks to bring together the UK’s evangelicals.  This is not simply a group of self-appointed evangelical watchdogs trying to lay down the law and draw the lines to determine who’s in and who’s out.  Instead, this organization is actually a well-recognized player in the world of British evangelicalism.  This organization has some history–over 150 years of it–so clearly they are not a fly-by-night operation.

From their “About Us” page:

We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society.

From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we’re not just connecting Christians within the UK. We are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians, and we work in partnership with Global Connections, the UK evangelical Christian network for world mission.

Unity is what drives us – but not just for unity’s sake. By bringing people together, we are following the John 17 mandate to show the immense love of God, who sent his Son for us. We connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s nurturing a church culture which is increasingly confident in the gospel, getting involved in community action or lobbying the government for a better society. We inform and inspire Christians with resources, analysis and articles about our society, what the church is doing and how they can get involved. And we represent evangelicals to the media, presenting God’s truth with grace and telling good news stories about the difference Christians are making.

We believe the Church is the key to long-lasting change in our country – and that by working closely with our amazing members, we can transform our communities with the good news of Jesus.

An example of what this organization does is in their response to the issue of conditionalism (or annihilationism), which has come up for discussion quite a bit lately at Scot McKnight’s blog Jesus Creed.  To sum up:  Annihilationists believe that after death and after the final judgment, the souls of all those who have rejected grace in Jesus Christ will be annihilated and will no longer exist.  This organization has evaluated the annihilationist position (summary statement here).  Scot McKnight sums up their conclusions as follows:

Evangelical pedigree is determined by one or all of these four items: doctrine (Bible-based teaching), historical (fit in the evangelical contours of church history), ideological (fit in modern evangelical groups), and relations (are they on good terms with evangelicals?). Basic conclusions:

Yes, they are Bible-based people;

Less so, their view is a minority view in church history;

Yes, they are part of evangelicalism;

Yes, they are on good terms with other evangelicals.

Thus, conditionalists are a growing but significant minority evangelical group. They are evangelicals.

Thus, conditionalism is a secondary issue, not a primary issue. There is much unity over God’s final judgment and the irreversibility of God’s judgment; there is disagreement over consciousness or consequences, not over the judgment itself. Hell is real for both. God judges in both. Conditionalism is not universalism. The two sides ought to work toward agreement and not settle for “we agree to disagree.”

Another part of what they do is engaging with current issues and stories, such as the Vicky Beeching story from last week.  Ed Shaw, pastor and co-founder of livingout.org, a website dedicated to helping Christians who experience same-sex attraction remain faithful to Biblical teaching while promoting the message that there is more than just one viable script for those who experience same-sex attraction, has a feature piece on Beeching in which he comes at the story from a different angle.  While an awful lot of evangelicalism has gotten it wrong in engaging the gay community and Beeching has tragically been a victim of this, he maintains that Beeching is wrong on the morality of gay relationships.

We are simply not at liberty to change what the Bible says about sex being for the marriage of a man and a woman (Genesis 1-2). We cannot alter this God-given picture of the eternal marriage of Christ and his Church (Revelation 21-22) with unity in difference at its heart. Jesus didn’t –despite all his counter-cultural actions and words to women, tax-collectors, lepers and Gentiles –and neither should we. Vicky, and others like her, are wrong to try and change the essence of what the Church has always taught in this area.

So we need to hear Vicky’s story, but then listen to other same-sex attracted Christians who have a different story to tell. Our stories rarely make the national newspapers or TV news, but large numbers of us want to remain faithful to the teaching of the Bible. We do this, not only because we believe that God’s word is good, but also because, in the end, we believe it signposts the route to human flourishing –and to life itself.

To be sure, there are potential dangers inherent in an organization such as this.  There is the possibility for it to morph into a group of evangelical watchdogs, or even worse, an evangelical Magisterium.  The comments on Scot McKnight’s post speak to this.  But I do not think that is what is happening here, with this organization and its role in British evangelicalism.  Unfortunately, if such an organization were to form here in America, given the nature of American evangelicalism that is almost certainly what would happen.  Either the theological watchdogs of our evangelical culture would hijack it to serve their agenda of drawing boundaries and defining who is in and who is out, or they would denounce it as hopelessly universalist.  Or some combination of the above.  This is tragic, because we are missing out on an awful lot in terms of what such an organization could do for unity among all the various strains of evangelicalism and for our witness to the outside world.

A Crazy Week in CCM

This past week has been one of the craziest weeks in CCM (that’s Contemporary Christian Music–a GINORMOUS industry in the universe of evangelicalism) in a long time.

gungorIt all started when Gungor, a Dove Award (not to be confused with the Dove Bar or Dove Soap, this is CCM’s version of the Grammys) winning group comprised of Michael and Lisa Gungor, a married couple, came out as not being completely on board with a literal reading of the early chapters of Genesis.  In a blog post on their website entitled “What Do We Believe?”, they related how hard it is to go on believing certain things when your life experience runs contrary to what you profess to believe.  In the midst of this came the following big money quote:

I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories. But this is what happens…

If you try to find some value in them as stories, there will be some people that say that you aren’t a Christian anymore because you don’t believe the Bible is true or “authoritative”. Even if you try to argue that you think there is a truth to the stories, just not in an historical sense; that doesn’t matter. To some people, you denying the “truth” of a 6,000 year old earth with naked people in a garden eating an apple being responsible for the death of dinosaurs is the same thing as you nailing Jesus to the cross. You become part of ‘them’. The deniers of God’s Word.

Some churches have cancelled concerts because of this.  And some bloggers of note, such as Jeff Koch of World Magazine, have banished Gungor from the realm of Christian orthodoxy.  Some priceless quotes from Koch:  “…their latest work reveals a band transcending not just musical genres but religious ones—wandering away from a biblically defined Christianity to a land twixt and tween.”  “Gungor is clearly still animated and inspired by the person of Jesus. But it was Jesus who upheld the authority of Scripture and whose recipe for divine connection was fairly simple: “Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name …”  “

This reminds me of back in summer 2003 when another Christian alternative-ish band, Evanescence, was dominating the pop charts.  In the midst of this, they very publicly dissociated themselves from the world of CCM, and immediately had all of evangelicalism questioning everything up to their very salvation.

But all of this was eclipsed in just a few short days by an even more sensational story:  Vicky Beeching came out as a lesbian.

That exploding sound you hear in the background is perfectly normal around here whenever a big-time CCM artist comes out.

beechingBeeching, who hails from Kent, England, is an internationally prominent worship singer/songwriter.  She is the author of several songs that your church has probably sung frequently over the past several years, including “Glory to God Forever”, which has placed pretty high among CCLI’s top 100 songs.  Beeching left the world of CCM worship a few years back, moved back to London, and is now a religious news commentator with the BBC and other media outlets.

In an interview with UK newspaper The Independent that went live last Wednesday, Beeching came out publicly as a lesbian.  Along the way, she related her struggles growing up with same-sex urges in the hothouse environment of a conservative Christianity that is fixated upon homosexuality as sin.  The story takes a somewhat tragic turn in that a few years ago she battled a severe autoimmune disease that was triggered by stress.  She points to the burden of living with the secret of her sexuality as the stress that brought this on.

From the writeup in Christianity Today:

Beeching “still considers herself an evangelical,” writes veteran British religion reporter Ruth Gledhill after interviewing the singer, “although she no longer attends charismatic evangelical services and now prefers the more traditional services of London’s main cathedrals.”

“I am not angry with the Church, even though it has been very difficult,” she told Gledhill. “The Church is still my family. Family do not always agree or see eye to eye. But family stick together, and I am committed to being part of the Church, working for change.”

Get used to it, people:  A certain percentage of the population is gay.  We can argue all day long about whether this is by nature or whether they choose to be this way, but at the end of the day it is what it is and we need to just deal with it.  Some of these people are in our churches.  And some of these people are prominent Christian musicians.  Remember all the angst, hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing, and stone-casting a few years back when Jennifer Knapp came out?  That needs to stop.  It’s a reality we don’t want to accept, but at the end of the day it is what it is and we need to just deal with it.

Evangelicalism’s response to homosexuality has been less than stellar, to say the least.  I wrote about this a couple of months back when the World Vision fiasco was going down.  Though homosexuality is strongly condemned in Scripture, the attention it gets from evangelicals is out of all possible proportion to the attention it gets in Scripture.

It is far too easy, when feeling the rage that we are prone to feel at Gungor’s alleged abandonment of Biblical authority or Vicky Beeching’s coming out, to imagine that we are outraged at the same things that God is outraged at.  If we go down that road then in all probability we are deluding ourselves, because in reality we are probably not even close.

Are You Thinking About God When You Sing “Holy Holy Holy”?

Today I wish to direct your attention to an image that recently appeared on Tim Challies’ blog:

holyI am no big fan of Tim Challies, largely because he is one of the most prominent representatives in the Christian blogosphere of a certain brand of Reformed, Calvinist Christianity which has taken evangelicalism by storm over the previous decade, and which I dislike.  This Neo-Calvinist way of looking at things puts a very heavy emphasis upon doctrinal purity and upon exposing and weeding out all those whose views are at variance with their views on the issues most important to them.

The sentiment expressed in the above quote has a certain significance in Neo-Calvinist circles.  In the more Pentecostal/charismatic parts of evangelicalism they might replace “thinking about God” with “experiencing God’s presence” or “feeling the Spirit”, with an emphasis on speaking in tongues or other manifestations.  In other places the emphasis might be upon lifting your hands and getting rip-roaring crunk for Jesus.  But no matter where you go in evangelicalism, pretty much everyone shares the same sentiment on some level, in some form or fashion.

The idea here is that worship is driven, not by what God does for us as we enter His presence, but by what we do for Him.  This is called pietism.  Pietism had its roots back in 16th century Lutheranism, as certain pietist leaders pushed back against what they saw as the stale religion of the state-sponsored churches of Denmark, Norway, and other places, with the idea that religion is worthless unless it is actually making a real, noticeable difference in your life.  If that sounds familiar, it is because this idea has underlied an awful lot of evangelicalism since its beginnings, and continues to do so today.

Think about how much of what you see and hear and experience in evangelicalism is influenced by this idea.  One of the most basic ways in which we think about ourselves as evangelicals, and differentiate ourselves from other Christian traditions, is the idea that our faith is real.  It actually matters in real life.  It is not just a bunch of words we recite during the church service, or a bunch of words written down in a doctrinal statement on file at the church’s or denomination’s front office, but instead it is a real, active, and living thing which is making a visible, measurable difference in our lives.

Ultimately, what matters in true religion is not what God has done for us, but what we do for God to show that our faith is real and meaningful.  In other words, it is our own personal piety that moves the needle here.  Thus the name pietism.

When we come around to worship, the big idea is that worship is all about our activity for God, not God’s presence with us.  As noted, the emphasis is different in different places–some places emphasize thinking the right thoughts, others emphasize feeling the right emotions and expressing it in the right ways–but the underlying idea is still the same.

Which begs a question:  How much do we have to be thinking about God (or experiencing God’s presence or feeling the Spirit or whatever the emphasis may be) in order to be in a state of true worship?  Is there a magic percentage?  If so, what is it?  How can I be sure I’ve thought hard enough (or felt enough or whatever) to satisfy the requirement?

This is where we are in evangelicalism:  Worship is all about what we do, making sure we are thinking the right thoughts or feeling the right feelings and expressing those feelings in the right way.

When I was growing up in the Catholic faith, I remember a lot of talk about the proper disposition of your soul.  Meaning that you should not have any sin in your life; if you did you had to confess it and make it right.  In order for you to attend Mass and have it mean anything for you, your soul had to be properly disposed.  In order to receive Communion, your soul had to be properly disposed.  If not, it was recommended that you not receive.  There was a lot to do to ensure that your soul was properly disposed, mainly having to do with making sure you were thinking the right thoughts, doing the right things, and feeling the right things.  There were lots of ways in which the proper disposition of your soul could go off the rails.

One of the main things which attracted me to evangelicalism was not having to worry about all this.

But now, here we are.

We talk a really good game as evangelicals when it comes to grace.  But do we really believe it?  Do we really believe in a God who is willing to accept imperfect sacrifices from believers whose minds and hearts are millions of miles away from where they should be during worship?  Do we really believe in a God who hears all our unspoken prayers, troubles, doubts, and even angry rants, and is strong enough to take it all?  Do we really believe in a God who accepts us all in Jesus Christ, regardless of whether we are able or willing to shout or lift our hands in worship, or whether our worship style fits within the pattern prescribed by our church communities via specific teaching and/or peer pressure?  Do we really believe in a God who says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29)?

Chaplain Mike at internetmonk.com shares his thoughts on the same quote

RHE on Why We Need Feminism

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by Rachel Held Evans.

Don’t freak, people.  That exploding sound you hear is perfectly normal whenever the word feminism is mentioned in evangelical circles.

Some of you, depending on your political/theological commitments, will disagree with some of the reasons RHE gives.  But several of these should strike home for any of us who call ourselves Christian.  Regardless of your political or theological commitments, some of these are just wrong:  That so many women around the world are victims of sexual trafficking.  That the unrealistic ideal female body image foisted upon us by Hollywood and Madison Avenue is so pervasive that eighty percent of 10-year-old girls now say they have been on a diet at least once.  That a woman can be raped and the first question many people will ask is “What was she wearing?”

You need to go on and read this for yourself.  Read Rachel Held Evans: We Need Feminism

As a slightly related aside:  It bemuses and fascinates me to no end to see the intellectual gymnastics and contortions that complementarians in the SBC will go through, when faced with the fact that Beth Moore is one of the most influential teachers in the entire SBC (her primary audience is women but that’s beside the point here), that she is way more influential than the vast majority of male preachers/teachers in the SBC, in order to maintain that everything is good and their complementarian way of looking at things has not been violated.