Super Creepy Dad Gives “7 Simple Rules for Dating My Christian Daughter”

Welcome to the world of Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, where occasionally in our wanderings across the internet we blunder into the most absurd, bizarre, demented, ignorant, outlandish, or just plain whacked regions thereof.  And we occasionally have no shame whatsoever about sharing our findings from said regions of the internet with you our readers.  Today’s offering comes to you courtesy of the Tumblr site “Christian Nightmares“.  It is a video in which an exceptionally creepy Christian dad offers what he purports as “7 Simple Rules for Dating My Christian Daughter”.  For your viewing pleasure I link the video below:

Wow.  Does that not just completely creep you out?  Especially when the dad looks dead center into the camera and starts talking, in the creepiest voice he can possibly muster, about how “Now sex can kill”.

So let’s have a look at these “7 Simple Rules”, shall we?

1. I will date only a growing Christian.

Coming from Mr. Creepy Christian Dad here, this sounds exceptionally weird, especially when you consider that many religious cults and fringe groups have strict rules about dating only fellow members of the tribe.  And yet, there are very good reasons for Christians not to date non-Christians.  Any relationship faces very long odds when the people involved are in disagreement as to the answers to the most fundamental questions of existence.

If I were to date a non-Christian, then at some point I would have to be either a bad boyfriend or a bad Christian.  A bad boyfriend, because my acceptance and love for my girlfriend would be contingent upon her one day becoming a Christian.  In other words, I would be accepting and loving her, not for what she is, but for what I hope she would one day become.  Or a bad Christian, because in order to accept and love her as she is, I would have to turn a blind eye to the implications which the Christian message has for all people on the face of the earth.  Not a choice I want to make.

2.  My date mate must be in harmony for God’s will for my life.

A little confusing grammatically, but hey.

It is a good idea if you are going to date someone, to ensure that you are on the same page spiritually, or at least remotely close to being on the same page spiritually.  But there are lots of ways this can go off the rails.  If this becomes an excuse for you to not extend grace to someone who is on a different spiritual journey than you, or who is going through a difficult season spiritually, then you are DOING IT WRONG!!!!!!!!!

3.  I will not defraud my date.

With this one, Creepy Christian Dad is focusing his attention squarely upon women.  Not surprising.  In much of the evangelical discussion on modesty, it seems that the burden falls disproportionately upon women.

That is not right, people.

Women face horrendous amounts of pressure and unrealistic expectations concerning their dress, which ties directly to their body image.  On the one hand, women are constantly bombarded with messages from the culture which tell them to dress in ways that will make them attractive to men.  The culture tells women incessantly that they can never be thin enough, fit enough, well-endowed enough (I’m trying to keep it family-friendly here), et cetera.  That is bad enough.  The Church makes things worse by sending messages that women’s bodies are a shameful thing which causes men to be dragged into sin by uncontrollable lustful passions, and that they are therefore responsible to dress in such a way as to keep their brothers in Christ on the straight and narrow.

That is not right, people.

Fellas:  YOU DON’T GET A PASS ON THIS ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You are accountable for your own sexual desires and how you act on them.  When Jesus says that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28), he does not give men the option of blaming it on the what the women were wearing.  Instead he says in the very next verse, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out! Better to enter life blind than be thrown into hell with both eyes” (my paraphrase).

And I’m not giving you that option either.  For too long, evangelical culture has come down unjustifiably hard on women because some men cannot control their sexual passions.  It is way past time to start holding men accountable in this regard.  So you think her neckline is a little too revealing?  TRY LOOKING AT HER FACE!!!!!!!!!!!!  Don’t bitch and moan about how her revealing neckline is leading you into sin.  Try showing some self-control yourself before you go blaming women for leading you into sin.

For too long, the burden of evangelical teaching on modesty has fallen disproportionately upon women.  It is way past time for men to step up and assume some share of the burden here.

4.  I vow to save myself sexually until marriage.

Okay.  There is not a shred of teaching in any stream of Christianity (except perhaps the most whacked-out of the liberal mainlines) where it is OK to jump into the sack before you get married.  And I’m not about to encourage jumping into the sack before marriage either.

But there are WAY too many ways for this to go off the rails.  Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” from over a decade ago spawned a cacophony of craziness on this subject in evangelicalism.  No longer is it enough just to not jump into the sack before you get married.  Now you must not even kiss, hold hands, or any other physical display of affection before marriage, as all of these are the on-ramps to a road which leads straight to sex and from which there are no off-ramps before that final destination.  The courtship movement is now dead, thankfully.  But dead movements, like dead people, never just go away.  They always leave behind a stinking, rotting corpse, which in this case is a generation of young and young-ish adults who have serious hangups about any sort of touching before marriage.  In the present climate it is all but impossible to have a romantic relationship in evangelicalism without getting into all sorts of weirdness concerning this.

‘Preciate ya Josh Harris!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the video, Creepy Christian Dad makes an argument heard frequently in evangelicalism:  that virginity, once given away, can never be reclaimed and therefore it should only be given to the person you love on the night of your wedding.  True enough, on the surface.  Sex is a very powerful act with profound emotional and spiritual consequences, such that sex outside of marriage is fraught with danger and it is best to not even go there.

But there are too many places in evangelicalism where virginity is made into an idol.  Once you have given away your virginity, you have descended into a pit of unspeakable shame and disgrace where not even the grace of God can reach you.

That is not right, people.

5.  Both of us will be in agreement and submission to our parents.

Creepy Christian Dad does not give any clear cap on how far or how long this goes.  Certainly it is wise to seek to maintain good relations with your parents.  But part of growing up is learning to face the world on your own, to make your own choices in life and bear the responsibility yourself for said choices.  If your understanding of Christianity justifies you in laying upon your adult children the expectation that they will be in full submission to you for the full remainder of their lives or else “inherit every damaging experience possible”, then YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6.  I will put God first on my dates, not myself or my mate.

This is sensible enough.  Much ill has come of people being in relationships where they put themselves first or made the other person their sole reason for existence.  You can’t go wrong by seeking to put God first.

7.  I will avoid places, people and parties which will compromise my convictions.

For this one, Creepy Christian Dad uses a charming analogy:  You can’t walk through a pig farm in a white suit without getting dirt or mud on your suit.  There is some wisdom here:  If you are a Christian, there are probably some places you can’t go and/or people you can’t be with, without falling into sin or at least making it unnecessarily hard on yourself to avoid sin.  You are wise to know yourself well enough to know what those places are and who those people are, and avoid said places/people as much as possible.

Well, that’s about it from Creepy Christian Dad.  Some of it is good and wise advice.  Some of it plays right to evangelicalism’s worst tendencies and prejudices, as noted above.  But when said advice comes from a dad sitting in a darkened library, looking dead center at the camera and speaking in the lowest, creepiest voice he can possibly muster–well, you have to admit that the overall effect is decidedly CREEPY!!!!!!!!!!

Lent Week 1: The System Is Finished

lent06We began our Lenten journey this year by going straight to the end, where Jesus, dying on the cross, spoke the last word of his earthly existence.  A single word “Tetelestai” (don’t know the correct spelling so that will have to do), which changed everything.  Translated into English, it becomes three words:  It is finished.

But what is finished?  Several things.  In the weeks to come we will unpack some of these.

Today:  The system is finished.

Meaning:  Religious systems are finished.  Anything we do, or feel we have to do, to get into or to maintain a proper relationship with God, is finished.

In ancient Egypt, God commanded an idolatrous Pharaoh to let a slave people who lived in the kingdom go.  Pharaoh refused, and he and Egypt experienced a series of plagues of escalating intensity, until one night when every firstborn in all of Egypt was slain.  All except for those who lived in certain houses which had the blood of an unblemished lamb smeared across the front door.  This event marked the inauguration of Israel.  Jews commemorate it every year by sacrificing a perfect, spotless lamb.  The blood of this lamb atones for all their sins for that year.  And then the next year they do it all again.  And the next year.  And the next.  Et cetera.

Not this was a bad, defective, or deficient system which needed replacing.  This system was given by God for a specific purpose, and it served that purpose very well.  Through this system, the people that would give birth to Jesus the Son of God was formed and shaped.

But that system has done its work.  Now it is finished.

But it is not just this system which is finished; it is any religious system that operates according to what can be described as a “temple model”.  This was not just ancient Judaism; virtually every religion of the ancient world operated according to a temple model.  Most of today’s world religions operate according to a temple model.  Much of Christianity operates, and has operated for most of its history, according to a temple model, even though it was never designed or intended to.

The salient characteristics of the temple model are sacred places, sacred texts, sacred men (it’s almost always men), and sincere followers.  (There are other words we could use in place of sincere, some of which are not suitable for a family blog.)

When Jesus came on the scene, he transformed the temple model into something completely different.  The temple model is built on standards of holiness and perfection so high that only the elite can meet them.  Jesus took those standards and raised them even higher, so high that not even the elite had a prayer of meeting them, thereby leveling the playing field, then offered Himself as the one in whom all the standards are met.  The temple model is built on going to a specific place and offering prescribed sacrifices according to prescribed rites to make peace with God.  Jesus reversed that by teaching on numerous occasions that what really matters to God is how you treat other people.  The temple model is place-specific and nation-specific.  Jesus proclaimed that what He was doing was for all nations and all peoples in all places.

At the heart of the temple model is a fundamental insecurity concerning your relationship with God.  Yet Jesus proclaimed and Paul reiterated that what really moves the needle in your relationship with God is how you treat other people.  As Paul would say (Galatians 5:6), “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”.  If you believe that Jesus died on the cross for you, then you don’t need to be insecure about your relationship with God.  Jesus has taken care of that.

The temple model has a certain appeal.  If God came down to earth and became a human being, then it would make sense to honor as sacred the places where God was born and lived.  But at the end of the day, any person you meet on the way to these sacred places is more sacred than the places themselves, because she or he is a person for whom Christ died.  As noted a couple of posts back, God has staked His honor on how you treat other people.  So any talk of defending the honor of God or speaking for the righteousness of the King of Israel is foolishness if it does not proceed from an unrelenting sense of love, respect and honor for those for whom the King of Israel laid down his life.

Ash Wednesday: It All Begins at the End

lent06Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season.

Lent is the forty days before Easter.  Start at Easter, back up six Sundays, then back up a few more days to the Wednesday before, and you get to Ash Wednesday.  That’s actually forty-six days.  Back out the six Sundays, which are treated as “free days” and not counted as part of the Lenten season (they are and they aren’t–it’s complicated), and you get to forty days.

Lent is a season of preparation for Easter.  We prepare by focusing on Christ and his journey to the Cross, which lies squarely across our path and looms ever larger the deeper we get into the Lenten season.  The 40 days of Lent tie in directly with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness prior to the start of his public ministry, and indirectly with the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness prior to entering the Promised Land.  Not all of us can go out into the wilderness for 40 days, but we can all place ourselves in a posture of humility and choose practices consistent with a lifestyle of repentance.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this journey.  Many churches have Ash Wednesday services where you receive ashes on your forehead.  Ashes symbolize repentance from sin; to go around in sackcloth and ashes was a classic Old Testament expression of grief and repentance.  Ashes also symbolize mortality; we are but dust and unto dust we shall return.  We die to ourselves and all that we are in this world in order that we may rise to life in Christ.

And in order to begin our Lenten journey, we go straight to the end.

Our beginning as Christians is at precisely the same place which was the end for Jesus.  Just outside Jerusalem, right by a garbage dump, on a Roman cross, with two criminals on either side of him.  For several hours he had hung there, the last bits of the perfect life he had lived to the glory of God the Father draining out of him.  Finally he spoke a single word, and that was the end.

Words are powerful things.  Sometimes a single word carries an entire world of meaning.  Words like:  Graduated.  Engaged.  Employed.  Won.  Passed.  Healed.  Other words are equally life-altering but not in a good way:  Died.  Divorced.  Cancer.  Unemployed.  Lost.  Failed.  Irreconcilable.  For any of these words, you don’t need to know the particulars because the one word says it all.

The word Jesus spoke on the cross was just such a word.  In our English language it takes three words to say it:  “It is finished”.  But in the native dialect in which Jesus spoke, it was just one word:  “Tetelestai”.  (Don’t know the actual spelling, but that’s close enough.)

That one word, spoken at the end of Jesus’ earthly life, represents the beginning of everything we are as Christians.  That one word changes everything.

“Tetelestai”.  It is finished.  But what is finished?

A few things, which we shall unpack in greater detail over the coming weeks, though this is by no means an exhaustive listing.

–The system is finished.  Meaning:  Religious systems are finished.  Meaning:  Anything we do, or feel like we have to do, to get ourselves into a proper relationship with God is finished.

History lesson:  Judaism got its start back in ancient Egypt when God, speaking through Moses, commanded Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go.  Pharaoh would not, and so God killed every firstborn in Egypt–all except those who were in houses that had the blood of a lamb smeared on their doorway.  Every year since then, Jews have celebrated that event–the Passover–by sacrificing a perfect, spotless lamb.  The blood of that lamb would atone for the sins of the community for that year.  And then the next year they would do it all again.  And every year, year after year, they would do it all again.

Not to say this was a bad system, because it wasn’t.  It got us to where we are now.  It was the system by which God produced a people out of whom would come his son Jesus Christ.  But with Jesus Christ on the scene, that system had done what it was supposed to do, and now it is finished.

–Sin is finished.  Most people think of sin as something that makes us bad, and they think of the Christian life as about learning to be good, or at least learning to be better people than we are now.  Not so.  The reality is that sin makes us dead.  That’s a problem.  Because dead people can’t do anything to improve themselves.  They may think they can, but they can’t.  Jesus did not come down to earth and die on a cross so that bad people might become good or that good people might become better.  He came so that dead people might become alive.

–Self is finished.  Our way of doing things is finished.  Our rights, and any thinking on our part that we  have rights, are finished.  When you look up and see Christ hanging there on the cross, whatever rights, plans, and agendas you may have just don’t matter anymore.  What rights does anyone have who needed the word “Tetelestai” (It is finished) spoken over them just to be alive?

Our striving is also finished.  Gone is any sort of thinking along the lines of “Jesus did so much for you, what have you done for Him lately?”  Answer:  Jesus did it all.  There is nothing to be done.  There is nothing you can do, even if you wanted to.

–Division is finished.  I do not say this because I am on board with anyone’s attempt to unite all of Christianity under one institutional expression of the Church.  But this business of saying that others are wrong and probably not even Christian because they do not agree with you on every point of doctrine that matters to you, has got to stop.

Doctrine matters, but not nearly as much as you may think it does.  When your doctrine becomes an excuse to treat fellow believers for whom Christ died, as if they are outside the family of faith altogether, you’ve got problems.

Though there are many different expressions of the Christian faith out there–a reality both beautiful and tragic–we are all united before Christ in our dependance upon Him for our salvation, as we wait in faith and hope for all that is promised to us to come true.

When Jesus died on the cross, that changed everything.  The old narrative of God’s people purifying themselves through faithful obedience, carried out with zeal against the pagans who seek to impose their will from without and the disloyal, half-hearted, compromised, capitulating believers within, is finished.  Instead of God’s people versus pagans without and renegades within, the battle is God versus the forces of darkness and death in our world.  That battle has been won through Christ’s death on the cross, and we are part of making that victory a reality throughout the universe.  There is now no longer any place for the old narrative of God’s people versus pagans without and renegades within–all people are people for whom Christ died.

–The world’s way of doing things is finished.  The world’s way of doing things is all about power, all about getting power, all about impressing people by showing how much power you have.  When your king is someone who got himself crucified on a Roman cross, all that goes out the window.

That is where we shall begin our Lenten journey, because that is where it all begins for us as Christians.  Jesus’ last word is our first word.  His last breath is our first breath.  The end of his life is the beginning of ours.

Les Miserables 86: The Grandeur of Despair

lesmiserablesLast time we caught up with Marius and followed his despondent journey from the Rue Plumet where he had failed to meet Cosette, to the barricade where his friends were.  We tracked with Victor Hugo as he painstakingly related Marius’s itinerary through Paris, and experienced a breathtaking description of the city on the verge of war as seen from the sky, of Marius entering into successive layers of increasing darkness as he approached the barricade.  We left him just outside the barricade, struggling with himself as to whether or not he would take the final step that would put him inside the barricade.

In all of this, it is easy to lose sight of an important reality:  No one who went into that barricade was going to make it out alive.  Barring an extraordinary miracle, all who were in that barricade were doomed to death when the better-armed and better-numbered Municipal Guards arrived.  (That is, unless the people themselves joined in the fight on the side of the student insurgents.  But as we have seen from events thus far, particularly the confrontation between Le Cabuc and the old man in the house at the end of the cul-de-sac, that is probably not going to happen.)  We must keep that reality front and center as we follow the action from here on out, because that is what is hanging over everyone in that barricade.  That is what is hanging over Marius as he hesitates over whether or not to take the final step and enter the barricade himself.

At this point we rejoin the others inside the barricade.  Gavroche has just returned from scoping out the area–and just in time.  The Guard was on the march, and quickly approaching the barricade.  In the initial melee, the flag at the top of the bus at the end of the barricade was shot down.  When the bullets subsided, Enjolras asked for volunteers to raise the flag again, but no one would do it.  Until the old man Mabeuf came out.  Mabeuf, upon arrival at the barricade, did not involve himself with the preparations, but instead went and sat with Javert in the room where he was tied up.  He looked down and sank into despondency–understandable, considering the story that had brought him to the barricade–and gradually into an unconscious stupor.  But the noise of the initial attack woke him up.  He went outside to see what was going on–just at the time Enjolras was asking for volunteers to raise the flag.  He agreed.

His presence produced some commotion in the group.  A cry arose:  “It’s the Voter!  It’s the Conventionist!  It’s the Representative of the people!”

Probably he did not hear them.

He walked straight to Enjolras, the insurgents fell back before him with a religious awe, he snatched the flag from Enjolras, who drew back petrified, and then, nobody daring to stop him or aid him, this old man of eighty, with shaking head but firm foot, began to climb slowly up the stairway of paving stones built into the barricade.  It seemed so somber and so grand that everyone around him cried, “Hats off!”  At each step it was terrifying; his white hair, his decrepit face, his large forehead bald and wrinkled, his hollow eyes, his quivering and open mouth, his old arm raising the red banner, surged up out of the shadow and loomed in the bloody light of the torch, and they seemed to see the ghost of ’93 rising out of the earth, the flag of terror in its hand.

When he reached the top of the last step, when this trembling and terrible phantom, standing on that mound of rubbish before twelve hundred invisible muskets, rose up, in the face of death and as if he were stronger than it, the whole barricade in the darkness seemed a supernatural, colossal image.

There was one of those silences that occur only in the presence of wonders.

Mabeuf yelled out in defiance.  The commander of the Guard gave the command for the insurgents to disperse, and then the soldiers fired.  Mabeuf was killed.  Courfeyrac recognized him and told Enjolras who he really was.  Enjolras gave a stirring speech about the old man’s bravery.  They carried his body into the bistro to tend to it there, and his bullet-riddled coat became their new flag.

Meanwhile the Municipal Guards pressed in upon the barricade yet again.  Bahorel was killed.  Courfeyrac and Gavroche would have been killed too, but their assailants were cut down by unseen bullets.  These came from Marius, who was just now entering the barricade.

Remember the lengths Hugo went to to make us aware that Marius still had the two pistols Javert had given him earlier in the story?  This is where the two pistols finally come into play.  One of them took down Courfeyrac’s assailant, the other took down Gavroche’s assailant.

Marius had been sitting outside, watching the first phase of the combat.  He saw Mabeuf raise the flag and get shot, he saw Bahorel slain, and when Courfeyrac cried out for help he could stand it no longer.  He took the final plunge into the abyss, and entered the barricade.

Marius threw down his discharged pistols, and then noticed a powder keg just inside the door of the bistro.  At that point a soldier with a musket took aim at him, but a hand stopped it.  It was the hand of the young workingman in the corduroy trowsers, whom alert readers will recognize as Eponine.  There is no time to dwell on this now, as the events of the battle are moving at breakneck speed, but we will come back to it later.  Meanwhile, the barricade was crawling with Municipal Guards.  In the smoke of the battle, Marius got the powder keg and brought it over to the other end of the barricade.  He dropped it into the spot where the torch had been, picked up the torch, and threatened in a very loud voice to blow up the barricade.  Something in his voice caused the Guards to think he was just crazy enough to actually do it, because they all cleared out immediately.

With the barricade cleared, the insurgents took stock of things.  Marius asked where the leader was, to be told by Enjolras that he was now the leader.

All day Marius had felt a furnace in his brain, now it was a whirlwind.  This maelstrom within him affected him as if it were outside his body and sweeping him along.  It seemed to him that he was already at an immense distance from life.  His two luminous months of joy and of love, terminating abruptly on this frightful precipice, Cosette lost to him, this barricade, M. Mabeuf dying for the Republic, himself a chief of insurgents, all these things appeared as a monstrous nightmare.  He was obliged to make a mental effort to assure himself that all this surrounding him was real.  Marius had lived too little as yet to know that nothing is more imminent than the impossible, and that what he must always foresee is the unforeseen.  He was a spectator of his own drama, as of a play one does not grasp.

They noticed that Jean Prouvaire was missing, and surmised that he must have been taken prisoner.  When they heard his voice and then heard the shots from down the street, their worst suspicions were confirmed.

While the other insurgents were inspecting the main barricade, Marius inspected the side barricade on the Rue Mondetour.  As he finished his inspection, he heard a voice.  He recognized the same voice that had called to him at the Rue Plumet, but by this point it was merely a breath.  He saw the young workingman in the corduroy trowsers lying at his feet in a pool of blood, and this time there is no doubt that it is Eponine.  Marius attempted to move Eponine but could not.  Eponine showed him her hand with the hole in it; that was the hand which had stopped the bullet aimed at Marius earlier.  At Eponine’s behest, Marius sat down with her.

What follows is a heartrending scene:

“Do you know, Monsieur Marius?  It bothered me you went into that garden; it was silly, since I was the one who showed you the house, and then, well, I surely should have known that a young man like you–”

She stopped, and, leaping over the gloomy transitions that were undoubtedly in her mind, she added with a heartrending smile, “You thought me ugly, didn’t you?”

She went on, “See, you’re lost!  Nobody will get out of the barricade, now.  It was I who led you into this, it was!  You’re going to die, I’m sure.  And still when I saw him aiming at you, I put my hand on the muzzle of the musket.  How odd it is!  But it was because I wanted to die before you.  When that bullet hit me, I dragged myself over here, nobody saw me, nobody picked me up.  I waited for you, I said, So, he won’t come?  Oh!  If you knew, I bit on my blouse, I was suffering so!  Now I’m fine.  Do you remember the day I came to your room and looked at myself in your mirror, and the day I met you on the boulevard near some working women?  How the birds sang!  It wasn’t so very long ago.  You gave me five francs, and I said to you, I don’t want your money.  Did you pick up your coin?  You’re not rich.  I didn’t think to tell you to pick it up.  The sun was shining.  I wasn’t cold.  Do you remember, Monsieur Marius?  Oh!  I’m happy!  We’re all going to die.”

At that point Gavroche let out a loud song while loading his musket.  Eponine informed Marius that Gavroche was her brother; up until then he didn’t know.  Eponine had a letter from Cosette that she had taken with the promise to deliver it to him; she had kept it because she didn’t want him to have it, but now that it was all over she gave it to him.  She then asked Marius to kiss her on the forehead after she died.

She let her head fall back on Marius’s knees and her eyelids closed.  He thought the poor soul had gone.  Eponine lay motionless, but just when Marius supposed her forever asleep, she slowly opened her eyes, revealing the somber depths of death, and said to him with an accent whose sweetness already seemed to come from another world, “And then, do you know, Monsieur Marius, I believe I was a little in love with you.”

She tried to smile again and died.

Marius kept his promise, and kissed her on the forehead.  He was able to justify this in his mind as a thoughtful gesture of farewell to an unhappy soul instead of disloyalty to Cosette.

Marius then went inside the bistro to read Cosette’s letter, because he couldn’t bring himself to do it in the presence of Eponine’s body.  Cosette attempted to inform Marius that she would be at the Rue de l’Homme Armee, and then in a week she and Valjean would be going to England.

At this point Hugo backtracks and briefly relates the events that brought Valjean and Marius to the present state.  When first relating these events a few chapters back, Hugo planted enough clues for alert readers to suspect Eponine’s hand in these events; now we see that those suspicions are correct.

As noted earlier, Eponine is a very complex character.  She is a Thenardier, so understandably she has at least some of the Thenardiers’ evil tendencies in her.  This explains her jealousy to Marius in leading him into the barricade, to what she thought would surely be his death.  But at the same time, unlike her parents or her sister Azelma (as far as we know), she does have some good in her.  We saw that earlier when she helped Mabeuf water his garden that night and when she found Cosette’s address for Marius, and we saw it again when she stopped the bullet to save Marius’s life.  But even in saving Marius’s life by stopping the bullet, her motivations were mixed and even quite dark–“it was because I wanted to die before you.”  A noble deed, because she was a good person, but with mixed and dark motives, because she was a Thenardier.

At this point Marius remembered the debt of honor his father Pontmercy had laid on him toward Thenardier.  Now knowing that Gavroche was a Thenardier, he wanted to make sure no harm came to him.  So he wrote a response to Cosette’s letter and sent Gavroche out to deliver it to her, thinking and hoping that he would miss the battle and spare his life.  But Gavroche had other ideas.

Unless You Have Something Substantive to Say, Shut Up Already about 50 Shades of Grey!!!!!

christiangreyToday we are going to talk about 50 Shades of Grey, the eagerly anticipated movie which comes out this weekend.  I have not seen it, nor do I intend to.  I have not read any of the books, nor do I intend to.  But I refuse to let that stop me.  Why?  Because I am a blogger.  Offering unsolicited opinions on subjects about which I know nothing is what I do.

I see that I am not alone in this.  It seems all the usual suspects in the Christian watchblogosphere are lining up to say something about this movie despite not having seen it and not intending to see it.  Owen Strachan at Thought Life writes about “How 50 Shades of Grey Harms Women & Jesus Saves Them“.  Marshall Segal, a contributor at Desiring God, writes about “Fifty Shades of Nay“.  (Damn.  Wish I’d thought of that one.)  Tim Challies writes about “7 Lessons from 50 Shades of Grey“.

In short:  This is sin.  Stay away.  Jesus can save you from your sin.  Turn to Jesus.

All of the above is true and certainly appropriate in its place.  But THIS IS A MOVIE, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!  I am certain that the vast majority of women recognize that any man who does in real life the things that Christian Grey does in this movie would be considered monumentally CREEPY!!!!!  If they don’t, they’ve got problems.  And I am certain that the vast majority of men do NOT want to be Christian Grey.  If they do, they’ve got problems.

So unless you have something to say about the film that goes beyond using the same Bible verses to say the same things evangelical culture warriors have been saying for ages, then SHUT UP ALREADY!!!!!!!!!

More on Strachan and Gay Marriage: What Kind of People Are We Becoming?

westboroI wanted to come back to the Strachan posts again.  I know many of you are probably sick of me coming back to this over and over again–this guy is going on and on about the same stuff and I am just as bad if I keep linking back to him.  But I cannot and will not let it go just yet.  Why?  Because I believe that there is a lot at stake in the debate over gay marriage.  Strachan says over and over again that this is a high-stakes issue, going so far as to say that this is a battle for the very soul of evangelicalism.  He is right about that, yet not at all in the way he would imagine.

What is really at stake in the issue of gay marriage, I believe, is the issue of what kind of communities our churches will become, and what kind of community the Church at large will become.

(When I say the Church at large, I am referring strictly to evangelicalism.  I get that there is another whole world of Christianity out there besides our evangelical niche.  I am sure that mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox are having their own conversations on this issue right now.  But when it comes to being all sorts of loud and obnoxious about it, when it comes to the sheer volume of dirty laundry aired in full public view, we evangelicals have the rest of the Christian world beat by a most impressive margin.  So for those reasons I will limit this discussion to evangelicalism.)

The bottom line issue is this:  Are we becoming a movement defined by faith expressing itself through love?  Are our churches becoming communities defined by faith expressing itself through love?

Strachan talks a lot about “defending the honor of God”, about “speaking for the righteousness of the King of Israel”.  Yet God, speaking through Jesus Christ, has made it abundantly clear that He is honored when other people are well-treated.  See the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46):

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

Then there is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), a weird and somewhat disturbing story about a rich man and a beggar living just outside his gate.  Within the context of this story, the rich man’s eternal destiny is intimately tied up in how he treated this beggar.

On another occasion Jesus said “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)  Translation:  If you are offering your sacrifice to God but there is an issue between you and someone else, go make that right first.  God can wait.  Honor God by making things right with other people first.

All this to say:  How you treat other people matters.  So much so, that God is staking His honor on it.  If you want to honor God, then treat other people well.

“Who will speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel?”  The King of Israel–who was rejected by his own people and crucified on a Roman cross.  Cancel the memoir.  Forgo the book tour.  Postpone the Oprah appearance.  Because this changes everything.

Not only has God staked His honor on how we treat other people, but Jesus Christ believed so strongly in it that He laid down His life.  Which means:  Every person in your life is a person for whom Christ died.

(In the Neo-Calvinist movement there is that whole limited atonement/double predestination thing.  I won’t explain it all here, as different Calvinists put it differently and it can get quite confusing at times.  This is best left as another diatribe for another day.  But suffice it to say that the whole limited atonement/double predestination thing provides a convenient on-ramp for thinking and/or believing that there are some people out there for whom Christ did not die.  This may be in play with regard to Strachan’s thinking on gay marriage.  I can’t say, and I’d prefer not to go there.)

Every person in your life is a person for whom Christ died.

Which means:  Queers are people for whom Christ died.

Anything we say about homosexuality must begin and end there:  All of these are people for whom Christ died.

There are a lot of conversations which we will have along the way.  But this is where it all begins and ends:  All of these are people for whom Christ died.

The Bible is clear in its denunciation of homosexual activity.  We will get to that somewhere along the line.  But that is not where this conversation begins.

Some gay people, upon becoming Christian, are able to become straight.  Excellent.  But we need to recognize that, for the vast majority of gay people who become Christian, that is probably not going to happen.  And we need to account for this.

Do we tell gay people that they must remain celibate? That is a possibility.  But lifelong celibacy is a very long and very hard road for anyone to travel, gay or straight, and if we lay that obligation on anyone we had better make sure that we have plenty of resources in place to help them pull it off.

Is there a way for people to live in committed gay relationships while still remaining faithful to the witness of Scripture?  I don’t know.  But that is a conversation we need to have.

Is there a way in which gay people can engage with and participate in the life of our churches?  Don’t know.  GracePointe Church has chosen the route of full inclusion.  Is that the right way to go?  Don’t know.  But that is a conversation we need to have.

But the bottom line here is that all of these are people for whom Christ died.  That is where all our conversations begin and end.

All of these are people for whom Christ died.  If you cannot accept this, then get alone with God–no, get on your face before God–until you can.

(Some nerve I’ve got saying that, seeing as I’m just a young-ish punk with a blog, yet here we are.)

Okay.  Some of you have had the Gay Pride parade come marching down your street.  You’ve seen things that you will never be able to un-see for as long as you live.  This is going to be hard.  I get that.

Doesn’t change anything.  These are still people for whom Christ died.

As you read Strachan’s posts, consider this:  Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that it is appropriate to denounce pastors and churches that affirm gay marriage?  Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that churches which welcome gays and/or affirm gay marriage are on the path of destruction?  Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that acceptance of gays and/or gay marriage represents capitulation to the forces of godless paganism in the world at large?  Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that the Church at large is under judgment from God because it is capitulating to the culture in welcoming gays and/or affirming gay marriage?

“Who will defend the honor of God? Who will speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel?”

When we treat gays–and everyone else in our midst–as people for whom Christ died, then God will be honored.  When we speak up for these people for whom the King of Israel laid down His life, then we speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel.

Haters Gonna Hate: Owen Strachan is At It Again

Welcome to the world of Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, where I shall now proceed to WINSOMELY convince you all that you are WRONG and you need to REPENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A couple of weeks back I linked a piece by Owen Strachan at Thought Life in which he blasted fellow evangelicals who engaged in what he termed “cultural capitulation” on the issue of homosexuality.  I noted that Strachan is part of a movement known as Neo-Calvinist, Neo-Reformed, and other such things which has arisen to prominence lately as a reaction to the shallow, entertainment-driven megachurch spirituality which pervades much of contemporary evangelicalism.  I noted that the Neo-Calvinist movement has a manner of engaging contentious cultural and theological issues which I termed “cultural Pharisaism” because it bears strong resemblance to the Pharisees of first century Israel, who saw themselves as the guardians of their nation’s purity before God, who were marked by intense zeal for the commands of God which they directed against pagans who sought to impose their will from without and break Israel’s national spirit and against disloyal Jews whose zeal was not equal to their own.  The Strachan piece I linked is an example of this par excellence.

Not content by any means to quit while he’s ahead, Strachan is at it again.  Earlier this week Strachan took aim at another prominent evangelical pastor who, as he put it, “self-congratulated” on endorsing gay Christianity.  The pastor, Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church outside Nashville, Tennessee, preached on Luke 24:13-16, the famous “walk to Emmaus” story.  Elizabeth Dias of Time Magazine recounts the story and also provides a full-length video of the message.  Strachan pulls some choice quotes from the message:

The connection Mitchell draws between the passage and the legitimacy of same-sex orientation is that of “epiphany”: once God appeared to his disciples, surprising them, and he now manifests himself afresh. The epiphany Mitchell presents is that the church should, because of “a divine wind,” as he calls it, embrace same-sex orientation.

Mitchell’s rhetoric reaches fresh heights of self-congratulation: “One day I will write a memoir, and a large portion of that memoir will be about this life-giving experience. The book is not to be written yet, because the final chapters are yet unwritten.” He speaks to the difficulty of the issue at hand: “I have been broken almost to the point where I despaired of life, but I have been encouraged.” Finally, he compares the struggle before him to the civil rights cause: “Could you be a church in Selma and not march, just handle your own community? I don’t think I can do that. We are on the front edge of a movement that means so much.”

He then unleashes a withering barrage of vitriol:

…The move that Mitchell is making is not a heroic one. It is a cowardly one. It doesn’t cause true believers any trepidation. It deserves no applause. It merits no commendation. This is a moment of shame for this pastor, not a moment of acclaim.

I hear the verdant tones of self-aggrandizement. I see the storied hand of history raising up a humble servant to the misty heights of heroism. But pause that for just a sec. Cancel the memoir. Forgo the book tour. Postpone the Oprah appearance.

If you fear man, God will become small to you. The approval of fellow sinners will matter more to you than obeying God by the witness of his Word.

There it is, in living color.  As I noted a couple of weeks back, the Neo-Calvinist movement talks a great game about sovereign grace, yet what really moves the needle in Neo-Calvinist circles is the faithful obedience of God’s people–“obeying God by the witness of his Word.”

“Who will defend the honor of God? Who will speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel?” One could easily imagine such phrases as battle cries for the Pharisees of first-century Israel.  He then references the story of David and Goliath, how David was zealous for the honor of God while his fellow Israelites trembled in cowardice before the threats of Goliath, even to the point of rebuking David for his boldness as his brothers did.  As we know, David defeated Goliath.  God gave him the victory because he was zealous for the honor of God.

Are there any in the new Israel, the church, who will honor God?  Are the pastors of God’s people boys, and not men?  Will we defend the righteousness of God when Satan assails it? Or will we fall silent, grow fearful, and drown out our proclamation of the truth in a series of jokes, qualifications, and selective put-downs of David-like Christians?

From here Strachan goes on to castigate other pastors who “tremble before Goliath”, praying (in a manner of prayer that sounds an awful lot like preaching) that they “will be given eyes to see that they fear man, and not God.  They are setting themselves and their congregations up for destruction”, and calling on those who profess Christ to “do the loving thing, which is to say, to repent and turn back to the obedience of faith.”

Of course the shift will continue.  More godless pastors will turn away from the faith, bowing before the idol of popularity and the good opinion of man.  They will capitulate to the culture, rejecting the truth of God’s word on the issue of gay marriage.  And they will posture themselves as courageous heroes for doing it.  They will weep under the weight of the decision–but it’s all just an act, people.  They will congratulate themselves.  They will tell of impending memoirs and book deals.  And on and on it will go.

But never fear, people.  Because there are many other pastors and churches out there who will NOT bend the knee to Goliath!!!!!  They have fire in their blood, Spirit-given courage, a strong confessional foundation, and pastors who are men and not boys.  They will lovingly preach the Gospel to sinners like themselves (spend enough time in Neo-Calvinist circles and it will become clear that this doesn’t quite mean what you think it means).  And of course, praise God that many former GracePointe members have “recognized the path of destruction” that church is now on and refused to go along.

Strachan ends with a clarion call for more men and women of courage, more pastors of the mold of Spurgeon, Calvin, Cranmer, Huss, and Machen.  There are much higher stakes than being liked by a sin-cursed world.  So don’t be sad about defending orthodoxy.  Be winsome and be shrewd, but don’t be confused or compliant.  Because the stain of the blood of Christ is painted on the household of God and will not wash out.  Don’t be slow to speak out on Christ’s behalf.  Be leaders who “joyfully wake up every day with their blood pumping, and with these immortal words on their minds:  Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”

Okay.  Couple of things here:

–As noted earlier, this is yet another example of “cultural Pharisaism” –engaging the culture in ways strongly similar to the Pharisees of first century Israel.  Recall that they were the culture warriors of their day–they were obsessed with Israel’s purity as a nation before God and they saw themselves as the guardians of said purity.  They had a long tradition of revering individuals who acted decisively against pagans who sought to impose their will on Israel (Mattathias and the Maccabeans) and against disloyal Jews who compromised with the pagan world (Phinehas) because they were zealous for the honor of God in the house of Israel.  Strachan clearly shows a similar obsession with the Church–the new Israel–‘s purity before God.  He sees himself and others of like mind as the guardians of the Church’s purity before God.  He sees the Church as under judgment because of its compromise with the culture on the issue of gay marriage.  He is quick to finger pastors and entire congregations as being on the path to destruction because they are on the wrong side of this issue.  He sees this as a time for decisive action–resorting to violence if necessary (at least the violence of words posted on the internet)–to defend with zeal the honor of God in the Church.

–Strachan is quick to castigate pastors who come out in favor of gay marriage for “self-congratulating”–yet seems to take a pretty self-congratulatory tone himself for being on the right side of this issue, for not bending the knee to Goliath or submitting to the yoke of the Philistines.  This is a time which calls for courage, for pastors who will be men and not boys, for leaders who will defend the honor of God, and he and others of like mind are answering the bell and rising to the challenge.

–Why this fixation with homosexuality?  The Bible is clear in its denunciation of homosexual behavior–yet devotes a very small amount of ink to the issue.  The percentage of verses in the Bible which address homosexuality is very low, both with respect to the text as a whole and the percentage of verses which address other issues.  So why are evangelicals, and especially those of the Neo-Calvinist persuasion, so completely and totally obsessed with this issue?  Why, when an evangelical church makes the decision to allow individuals with certain views on sexuality to participate more fully in its life, is it suddenly an issue where the Gospel and the honor of God are at stake?

–GracePointe may have gotten it wrong.  Their decision has certainly made a lot of people uncomfortable, as evidenced by the fact that attendance and giving is down this month (as noted in the Time article)–yet at least they are trying to address the issue.  At least they are trying to have a conversation, and it is clear (also from the Time article) that lots of other churches are joining the conversation and trying to figure something out on this issue.

But the one thing you must not do is the one thing Strachan is attempting to do in this piece and the other piece I linked a couple of weeks back.  You must not attempt to shut down the conversation.  You must not act as if we already have all the answers and it’s now our job to implement those answers and if you do it wrong or differently you and your entire congregation are on the path to destruction.

As Protestants, we are not the religion of “Roma locuta est, causa finita est”.  We converse.  We figure things out.  It’s very messy at times, but we trust that through it all the Spirit is guiding us into all truth, even if we don’t see said truth in our lifetimes.  What we do not do is shut down the conversation and act like we have all the answers.  We trust the process.  It’s better than the alternative.