Monday, September 15, 2014

The False Teachings of Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" (Video Series & Workbook)


I admit, I haven't read the book itself. In fact, I'd never heard of it until this past weekend when I attended a ladies' retreat with my church. The agenda said that, over the course of three days, we'd watch five video sessions and split into groups after each one to discuss the correlating discussion questions and assigned Scripture readings. Sounds great, I thought.

The first session was quite beautiful and insightful. Ann Voskamp has a unique and soothing poetic style that, though it was difficult to get used to at first, I really enjoyed. I'm a lover of poetry and of the written word, so it appealed to me personally. She talked about how important it is to make a conscious effort to recognize the everyday gifts God gives us--curls tied with ribbons, the smell of fresh baked bread, freckles on little boys' faces--you know, the beauties God has woven into the fabric of our existence--things we often overlook or take for granted, especially in times of trouble. Recognizing God's thousands of gifts (big and small), she taught, will multiply our joy and help us recognize God's grace. I agree.

Then we went on to session two. And I started to get uncomfortable with the direction she seemed to be heading. By the end of session three, I knew I was done.

Now, I don't know what she says in the book, but in the video in session two, she said, "What if our troubles are only feelings?" Um, no. Say that to a mom of young children when she has just been diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live (even with treatment). She'd be within her rights to give you a good punch in the face.

And a question in the study guide for that session (top of pg. 31) reads, "What if the things that feel like trouble are gifts of grace?" 

And, what if the things that feel like trouble, are actually trouble?

John 16:33 Jesus says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

And, Paul writes to the Romans, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)

These passages should make it clear that the troubles themselves aren't grace, but Jesus is the source of our victory over those things. If troubles themselves are gifts of grace, then what need do we have to be delivered from them? They must actually be good, right? What right do we have to acknowledge a loss? What right do we have to mourn? What need have we of comfort?

But Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

The video session for the third lesson got even more convoluted. Talking about hardships (in her case, the example was of watching her boys fighting at the table), she said (and I'm quoting from memory), "I feel like a greedy child taking candy from God's hands, but refusing the trouble." The implication here is that God doles out both blessings and troubles (I can only guess this means suffering, hardship, evil, and trials of all kinds, as she makes zero distinction between them), and we should be equally thankful for both.

She also said, still speaking of all kinds of trouble that, presumably God hands us, that we should, "give thanks for all things."

She uses no Scripture to support this--probably because the Scripture passages that come the closest to her subject say something very different.

Matthew records Jesus's words in Matthew 7:9-11 (which is also recorded in Luke 11:11-13), "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

So, would God give us trouble? Should we ever consider bad things as God's gifts? Obviously not, from what Jesus adamantly proclaims here.

So, if God doesn't give us bad things, why does Ann Voskamp tell us we should thank him for "all things?" The Bible doesn't even ask us to do that. I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to "give thanks in every circumstance." That little preposition "in" is very important. It does not mean "for" which, when Ann uses it, means something completely different. God wants us to recognize God's victory and power within every circumstance--the good, the bad, the ugly. As David says, in Psalm 9:9, "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." But, He never asks us to thank Him for the bad or the ugly, as if He was the instigator or the source of the evil in the world.

According to Ann, God dishes out the trouble. According to the Bible, God is a refuge from it.

Ann uses very little Scripture that directly backs up this point, and the Scriptures she does use, she misinterprets. On pages 44-45 of the study guide, she has us read Luke 9:37-43, provided below:

"The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not." "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here." Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God...."

In reference to the above passage, Ann asks the question, "How did Jesus see good and beauty in situations where everyone else saw only a mess?"

No. Let's think about what actually happened here. Jesus didn't see "good" or "beauty" in this situation. He saw evil, and He cast it out.

Throughout this session, both in the video and in the study guide, Ann keeps repeating the phrase, "All is grace." At first I had trouble wrapping my mind about what she meant by that... until I started analyzing all of the above misinterpretations of Scripture, mis-directions, and flawed assignations to God's character. So, let's look at that phrase in light of all the other things she's been saying. Naturally, if you believe that God is the sort of being who is the source of both good and evil, as Ann seems to, then this makes sense. Perhaps it could be true that "all is grace" if there is no genuine difference between good and evil. But even as she blurs the lines between them when she claims both come directly from God, she continues to claim that God is good. Wait... what's the definition of "good" then? And what is "evil"? Do these words even mean anything anymore?

When you take a word pregnant with meaning, like the word “grace,” and strip it of its opposites, the word ceases to mean anything. If "all is grace," that means that "grace" has no opposite. Evil is also grace. Sin is also grace. Intense, meaningless suffering is also grace. And it all came from God.

No, Ann. No.

What about the young lady whose father has been raping her from the time she was three years old until she turned 16 and finally ran away, only to be sucked in by a sex trafficker? Is that grace? Did God do that? Is that one of the "good gifts" from His hand?

A woman at my table during the second discussion said, "So, if that's true, then does that mean that God killed my babies?" She has suffered four miscarriages.

Do you see how insidious, how false, how dangerous it is when we start to blur the lines between good and evil? Do you see how God’s character is being maligned when we teach that He is the source of evil? Do you see how easily it would be for people to, not only get confused, but to grow to deeply loathe a god like that?

If “all is grace,” what moral responsibility could there be for us when we sin? After all, the suffering we cause others must really be just the gift of grace to them from God’s hand, right? So, nothing I do could ever really be blameworthy. And that poor raped girl has no right to feel angry or hurt by what Daddy did. Because it was really all arranged by God. And, in some baffling twist of logic, it was good.

If “all is grace,” what is Satan’s job? The Bible calls him “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”(I Peter 5:8) Ann ignores him completely.

If “all is grace,” what need do we have for Jesus? Why did He have to die? If every good thing and bad thing are equally gifts of grace from God’s hand, then we would have no need of rescue. And when evil and sin lose their meanings, so do goodness and grace.

Actually, I could probably make a list of one thousand things that aren’t grace:

1. Fear
2. Hatred
3. Sin
4. Satan’s fiery arrows
5. Temptation
6. Denying Christ
7. Murder
8. Rape
9. Lies
10. Cursing
11. Unhealthy relationships
12. Disease
13. Envy
14. Lust
15. Manipulation

…Need I go on?

When Ann ignores Scripture in favor of her own view of God, she plays right into the hands of those who would use her arguments to deny God altogether.

Sometime between BC 341 and 270, Epicurus wrote these famous words, called “Epicurus’s Riddle.”:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"

How would you respond to him? Will “One Thousand Gifts” equip you to do so? No, it most certainly will not. It will do the opposite. It actually does more to prove his point. However, the Bible does equip us to understand that at the root of this argument is a great deal of brokenness and suffering caused—not by God, as Ann would claim—but by struggling through life in a world plagued by the disease of sin. And God’s Word goes further, to teach us how to gently speak the truth in genuine love to those who struggle with the philosophical and theological problem of evil. But most of all, God’s Word shows us that the answer to sin and evil and suffering—is not to adopt some Buddhist, Zen-like, attitude in which we try to distance ourselves from our desires and emotions, convince ourselves sin and evil and suffering are “just feelings”, and thank God for all of it—but to look to Jesus—God Himself, the definition and standard for good—and “cast all our burdens on Him” (I Peter 5:7) as we place our trust in Him. After all, He left His Heaven to step into this mess we created (Romans 5:12-17) and became the Solution to the problem of evil (not the source of it). He took on this life and then He gave it up again so that He could prove to us how much He loves us. Then He picked up that life again to prove to all of creation that death and sin and evil have been conquered once and for all.

If you are still not convinced that Ann is mistaken in how she very oddly credits God as the source of trouble and hardship and evil, making no differentiation between them, just look up the word “evil” in your concordance at the back of your Bible and glance through the verses that deal with the subject. Right away, in Genesis 2, we see that there is a tree called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The dichotomy between these two things is already present in the opening chapters of God’s Word. Then I see phrases like, “he feared God and shunned evil,” “Far be it for God to do evil,” “Beware of turning to evil,” “keep your tongue from evil,” “Turn from evil and do good,” “he who pursues evil goes to his death,” “wash the evil from your heart,” “Your [God’s] eyes are too pure to look on evil,” “who reject the truth and follow evil,” “Avoid every kind of evil.” And the list goes on and on. Obviously, God, in His Word, draws a very strict, thick line between good and evil. And so should we.

Isaiah 5:20 reads, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Christian Feminism Is About


 This post is a response to The Matt Walsh Blog. Click here to read the original article.

Dear Matt Walsh,

I just read your blog article, “Christian Women: Feminism Is Not Your Friend,” posted April 22nd.

I have to say, that although I’m glad to meet another brother in Christ, I found your attitude toward feminism and, apparently, women in general disappointing. First of all, it should be pretty obvious that, as a man, you are standing on somewhat precarious ground when you choose to preach to women about how they should think and what they should and should not expect in terms of how they should be treated by men. Given our vast history and continued battle for equality with men, any man who does so with the purpose of getting women to give up the fight could be accused of succumbing to a conflict of interests. However, I am not writing accuse you of this and will try to simply provide a response to your concerns, taking them at face value.

First, let me point out that you are working under the false assumption that feminism is about securing equal rights. That’s only part of it. It’s about changing the culture. It’s about recognizing that women have value in and of themselves without any reference to men. It’s about teaching women that they can just be who they are without feeling guilty. It’s about creating an environment where women can be safe in their relationships with men and one another—safe to speak their minds without being told they are stupid or should think more like a man, safe to say ‘no’ to sexual advances without feeling like they are taking something that doesn’t belong to them, safe to walk down the street at night without fearing being beaten and then raped to death.

Because you are a man, it’s unlikely you fully understand the genuine fears and self-doubt and emotional sacrifices women are forced to make that have absolutely nothing to do with whether she is paid as highly as a man or whether she can vote. Were those important victories for women? Of course. But, that is not the final goal of feminism. Feminism is about identity, safety, value, being.  And, because feminism is only, in a very small part, about legal rights, it is by no means made obsolete when some male judge condescendingly agrees to “let” us do something (that should’ve been a human right, not just a man’s right)—and probably does it just to get his own wife off his back. Can’t you see that the denial of freedoms and rights are only a symptom of the bigger problem? The problem is how femaleness is viewed—not only by society and the men in our lives, but by ourselves.

Consider the following current trends in the United States today:

“Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported” (“Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, 2009.” The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from: http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/ChildSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf)

“Men spend $10 billion on pornography a year. 11,000 new pornographic films are made every year. And in those films, women are not people. In pornography, women are three holes and two hands” (Jensen, Robert. “A Cruel Edge: The Painful Truth About Today’s Pornography—and What Men Can Do About It.” Retrieved April 24, 2014 from: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/pornography&cruelty.htm)

“Cultural representation of glamorized degradation has created a situation among the young in which boys rape and girls get raped as a normal course of events (Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. William Morrow & Co.: New York, 1991. 167.)

“In 2007, intimate partner violence resulted in 2,340 deaths; 70% of the victims were women” (Clark, Cat. “Intimate Partner Violence.” The American Feminist, Fall/Winter 2011, pp. 12-17.)

Females (76%) experienced more domestic violence than males (24%).” (Morgan, Rachel E. and Truman, Jennifer L. “Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003-2012.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=4984)

“Implicit messages such as those found in the Twilight series appear elsewhere, too. A newspaper story might describe a crime in a titillating manner or encourage readers to blame the victim. A novel might suggest it is noble for a woman to allow an abusive partner back in her life. A popular song might devalue or objectify women, or a movie might portray domestic violence as a ‘lover’s quarrel’ leading into a romantic interlude,” (Clark, Cat. “Intimate Partner Violence.” The American Feminist, Fall/Winter 2011, pp. 12-17.)

Approximately 90% of rape victims are women (“Get The Facts.” Rape Crisis Center. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from: http://www.rccmsc.org/resources/get-the-facts.aspx.)

Women are more likely than men to think victims should take responsibility for their assault, and women ages 18-24 are, of all female groups, most likely to believe the victim is responsible. (The Havens. Wake Up To Rape Research: Summary Report. 2010: 5.)

And as bad as this is in our country, that doesn’t even touch what happens to women in other countries. Consider, for example, this report on the ongoing child bride phenomenon: http://www.soroptimist.org/whitepapers/WhitePaperDocs/WPPlightChildMailOrderBrides.pdf

After seeing all of this—and this is only the tip of the iceberg—can you still claim that women in this country are just as valued as men? That we have been endowed with all the rights and securities due us? That we have somehow “arrived?” That we have nothing more to fight for? No reason to raise our voices against injustice? No right to demand equality?

But, of course, lest I forget, you also make the mistake of defining “equality” as “sameness.” This is not at all what is meant when women demand equality. We do not demand that the government pay for us to be given sex changes so that we can be men. We don’t want to be men. We want to be fully woman—in all the beauty and even the mess that entails—and know that that’s enough. If a woman believed that the only way she could become equal to men was to become a man, that would completely defeat the purpose of “feminism.” But, frankly, we are already equal (meaning of equal value and capability and responsibility) before God; we just want our husbands and fathers and sons and friends and pastors and bosses and co-workers to wake up and recognize that fact.

A third mistake you make is, I’ll admit, and understandable one, but a mistake nonetheless. You assume that being a feminist and being pro-abortion are inseparable. You assume that it was feminism that created the monster of abortion. First of all, I think it is easy to conflate the ideal of feminism with the feminist movement. These are two very different things. Just as there is the ideal Christian (follower of Christ) and there are the Crusades, which will forever be recorded in the annals of “what you shouldn’t do in the name of Jesus.” So, your claim, “Feminism, they say, exists largely to combat the patriarchal evils of pro-life Christianity,” (aside from being divorced from any reference to whom the “they” is referring to) is deceptive.

Feminism exists because women have consistently throughout history been viewed as “the weaker sex,” “less than men,” “second to man,” “subservient to men,” etc. (And, yes, these are all current, modern ideas.) Culture often teaches us that this is our lot, and we must accept it to be good, desirable, and worthy of love. Men are often sent the message that they get to control, manipulate, belittle, and use women, and they are heartily congratulated when they deign to give women respect (that she should’ve had all along). Feminism exists because there is something wrong with this picture. And, frankly, Christianity has not solved it. (And by Christianity, I do NOT mean Christ or the Bible. I mean the traditional religious practice itself.) Why? Because Christianity is led almost exclusively by men who find these ideas convenient for them and, like an ego-enhancing drug, difficult to avoid.

You wrongly follow the idea that modern, pro-abortion feminists have embraced abortion “logically” somehow stemming from the early anti-abortion feminists. No. Their arguments are anything but logical. There is no such thing as a pro-abortion argument that is an exercise in good logic; they are each one absolute perversions of reason. I have a master’s degree in philosophy, know logic well, and have studied all the arguments on both sides of this issue. Trust me. The pro-abortion ones are bad, bad, bad—often not structurally valid, and always unsound. They utilize every logical fallacy known to man, including blatant lies, straw-man arguments, red herrings, and skewed emotional arguments that hinge on misdefinitions.

But, logic aside, you seem bent on laying the blame of the tragedy of abortion at the feet of feminism. Or, more accurately, at the feet of women. This is baffling to me.

Which gender has exclusively controlled the White House since President Washington? Which gender has consistently held the most seats in the Senate and House of Representatives? Which gender holds the most public offices, attorney degrees, and police officer positions? Which gender holds the most seats as university presidents, deans, provosts, and professors? Which gender owns the most businesses and hires the most employees? Which gender leads the most churches and synagogues and temples? Which gender holds the most positions as physicians, and surgeons, and abortionists? Which gender is most active in the sale, trade, and use of pornography and (mostly female) sex slaves? Which gender is more able and statistically more likely to leave a domestic situation if it doesn’t conform to his personal desires?

The answer to each of these questions is: MEN.

So, who is most in control of our legal system and our culture and how we live our lives? MEN.

And who most benefits from abortion? MEN.

The noisy, angry voices of a few very messed up women make it easy for men to step aside, just like Adam did in the garden (who was right there with Eve the whole time—Gen. 3: 6), and let women take the blame and suffer the consequences for their mistakes. God didn’t let Adam off the hook, though. And He’s not going to let men off the hook for the tragedy of abortion, either, be assured.

Do you know the number one reason why women have abortions? It’s not because they want an abortion. No little girl dreams of growing up, getting sexually used and then disposed of by men, and having one abortion after another. So, why do women have abortions?

“The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%).” (“Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2005, 37(3):110-118. New York: Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3711005.pdf)
 

When I see this, things begin to add up for me. A woman has an abortion when her husband or boyfriend refuses to help support her or the children he creates, when her boss says, “We have no way to help you find childcare,” when her school says, “You are going to lose your scholarship and be kicked out of student housing if you have a child,” when her pastor says, “If we support you, that means we’re condoning what you have done.” The truth is that society (again, largely led by men), does not see pregnancy and childbirth as a natural and expected and beautiful part of womanhood. We see women as good for sex, but burdensome when that sex leads to a baby. So, we tell women that they have a “choice,” when really we mean they have only one choice: abortion. But, abortion is in no way pro-woman. It deeply wounds the woman and pits her against her own children—all the while letting her male user and abuser get away free of consequences so he can mistreat the next woman he meets. As the pro-life feminist group, Feminists For Life (www.feministsforlife.org) says, we force women to choose between her own life and the life of her child; but women should refuse to choose!


Yes, it’s hard to be abandoned by the man who claimed to love you. It’s hard to be a single mom. It’s hard to find a job and support and an education with a child. It’s hard to place your child for adoption, even when he or she came from an unplanned pregnancy. But, when society, including “feminist” organizations like NOW (National Organization for Women), NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League), and Planned Parenthood, tells a woman that she can’t handle these hardships, that she’s not strong enough to do it on her own, that she can’t get by without the job she wants or the education she wants or the love she wants, what are we saying about womanhood?

We’re saying women are weak! That they can’t handle the tough situations! That, without a man, women can’t make it! I wholeheartedly disagree! You see, I was that woman! I was the girl who believed that girls were lesser than boys, who fell in love with an abusive, controlling, self-righteous, manipulative man, whose emotionally abusive boyfriend then kept pushing and pushing and pushing for sex, who finally gave in, who got pregnant, whose boyfriend then demanded she have an abortion, who refused, whose boyfriend then threatened to steal her child but dumped her and abandoned his child instead, whose parents were disappointed, whose school said, “You can’t be here anymore,” who lost her job when the baby was born, who lived on $100 a month, who felt completely alone!

...except for that precious little girl’s smile that lit up the dark places of my world. And a family who came around and helped me out as best they could. And a Church who forgave me and supported me and welcomed me back with open arms. And a God who said, “Despite your mistakes, I’m going to bless you with a beautiful daughter who you will love with your whole heart for the rest of eternity—because I’m a God who loves and romances and blesses, even when you don’t deserve it, just because I can and because I want to.”


Now, I am a Christian woman. I am also emphatically pro-life. I am married to an amazing man and mother to an intelligent, hardworking daughter and two sons who are equally so. But, I am also a feminist. I am a feminist because I understand the difference between feminism, the ideal, and the issue-driven, political, feminist movement. And, I am a Christian because I recognize the difference between Jesus Christ and His followers.

Feminism itself simply means being pro-woman. We’re, literally for woman, meaning not against woman nor indifferent toward woman. And, Who defined what it means to be a woman? Who decided to make woman in His image? (Gen. 1:27) Who was the first to honor woman? Who gave His life and conquered death for woman? Who gave woman a free and clear, direct path to relationship with God—without having to go through a parent or spouse or priest first? Jesus did these things! Jesus, who is also the Creator (John 1:1-3), and a member of the Triune God, was the first feminist. He was the first to be pro-woman. As it happens, He’s also very pro-man, having done all of this for man, too—showing that one need not be anti-man to be pro-woman or vice versa.

I am the founder and president of The Coalition of Christian Feminists (www.facebook.com/christianfeminists)—a small group of men and women who recognize that feminism is an ideal defined by God Himself, who seek to bring our worldviews under His direction in all things, and who take the Triune God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) as the correct relationship model for marriage (Jesus, Man, and Woman)—with perfect harmony between the three. We avoid getting distracted by particular issues, such as whether or not a woman should be a pastor, but place all these things at the feet of Jesus, seeking to keep Him in sight at all times.


Just because certain self-proclaimed “feminists” are angry and noisy, doesn’t give them the exclusive right to define the term “feminism.” Because feminism is an ideal, and because right and wrong, good and bad, only make sense in reference to our Creator, isn’t it preferable to let Him define it for us?  

One amazing thing about God is His ability and proclivity to redeem. He doesn’t wipe everything out and start over from scratch. He takes the little that is there and does something new with it—imbuing it with His own self. Even in Genesis 1:1, we see that His act of creation of Earth and mankind was an act of redemption. It was not, in that description, creation ex nihilo (out of nothing); there was something there, variously described as waters, the “deep” (which had a surface), darkness, chaos, a void. And, so God stepped into this mess, became the Light in the darkness, and turned something ugly and empty into something beautiful and full and valuable. He did the same thing as Jesus Christ. He stepped into the mess and offered a way out through His own death and resurrection.

So, I think it is a mistake to allow people who deny their Creator to define our ideals. Yes, the word “feminism” has been taken to mean something ugly, something confused, something perverse. But the word itself is a good word. It has a good base meaning. And, I think it’s time we take it back, give it to Christ, and let Him do what He does best—redeem it for His glory. We’ve given up enough territory to the Enemy. It’s time we started taking some back.

May you be blessed,

Susan

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What is Christian Feminism?

 

The Stereotype
The Reality
Burns bras!
Sexually liberated!
Women should feel free to engage in casual sex, just as men do.
The true feminist recognizes the beautiful form given to her by her Creator, values her body and her purity, and protects herself from those who would selfishly use her.
Pro-Choice!
A woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her own body and shouldn’t be forced to carry a child to term if she doesn’t want to.
Pro-Life!
The true feminist recognizes, not only her own value, but the value of all human lives—including those in an earlier stage of development. A woman has a unique ability to bond with her young, long before they are born, so a true feminist embraces this God-given strength and uses it and her wisdom and love to defend her children from those who would seek to cause them harm.
Uses her body to seduce men and manipulate men.
The true feminist can be sexually attractive, but does not rely on her sexuality to define her relationships with men. She realizes that love requires respect, and so improves her mind and character to be worthy of the respect of those around her.
Hates men. Men are the enemy. They only want “one thing!” And, when they get that, they either treat you like dirt or leave.
Loves and respects men! A true feminist is very much pro-man! She realizes that a single gender of any species will never be complete without it’s complementing half. So, she encourages and challenges the men in her life (husband, sons, brothers, fathers, etc.) to become men of God and establish their identity in their Creator as men, just as she seeks to do the same as woman. But, she will not sell out and allow herself to be used or mistreated by anyone who fails to recognize her worth as a daughter of the King (and, if necessary, she will wait a long time until she finds a man willing to rise to the challenge).
Experiments with lesbianism.
Feminists don’t need men for anything, not even romantic relationships.
A true feminists relishes in her uniqueness as a woman. Femininity is not the enemy! Being “girlie” is just fine! (As long as you exhibit respect for yourself in the process.) The goal of the feminist is to realize what it means to be woman—not to try to force herself to become more like a man. God made women to sexually desire men—the manlier the better! It’s our differences that spark the chemistry between us.
Anything men can do, we can do better!
A true feminist does not play the game of one-upmanship. The goal of discovering and claiming the beauty and value of Christ-honoring womanhood is not to gather ammunition for male-bashing. True feminists are strong enough to encourage one another and the men in her life, recognizing their unique, God-given abilities, desires, and talents.
Feminists get offended when men open doors for them or behave with chivalry. Who do they think they are? Men are being condescending when they treat us like the “little lady.”
 A true feminist is unafraid to open both her mind and her heart to the people around her. She can tell the difference between common courtesy and condescension or insult. She is gracious to the former, but uses her good judgment with the latter—evaluating the relationship and the situation to decide whether the battle for respect is worth her time. Sometimes a gentle or subtle reminder of her equal status as human is necessary and helpful. Sometimes, it is not and contrary to God’s purposes for that interaction. She seeks and follows Godly wisdom in these matters and refrains from letting her emotions control her actions.
Feminists make terrible wives!
Everything has to be split 50/50—chores, free time, and bank accounts. She refuses to take her husband’s name, fights for control over every decision, and finds it insulting to have to obey her husband, nagging to get her way. No man wants to live with a woman like that.
A true feminist makes a wonderful wife!
She realizes that marriage is a relationship that is supposed to reflect the character of the Triune God—where each participant (husband, wife, and Christ) gives 100%! Stages of life come and go. Sometimes she will sacrifice a disproportionate amount for her husband and children. Sometimes he will. But the trend should be a fully-dedicated partnership—working side by side for a common purpose—to become more like their Creator. Decisions are made through open, respectful discussion coupled with prayer—not through power struggles. She speaks her mind, but is wise enough to listen. She will admit when her husband is better at something, but works diligently at everything under her purview, seeks new ways to exercise her abilities, and refrains from overburdening him. She rises to the challenge of being her husband’s equal partner, but never humiliates or undermines him. She is his champion, and he is hers. She finds him desirable, capable, and worthy of respect. She laughs at his jokes, inspires him to greatness, and brags about him behind his back.

 From the Coalition of Christian Feminism, 2/24/2014. For more about what it means to be a Christian Feminist, visit www.facebook.com/christianfeminists

 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Objectification of God

"I'm struggling with my faith."

"The experience increased my faith."

"My faith gets me through the day."

Have you ever heard or said anything like the above sentences? Here's my problem with them: they mean almost nothing. Why? Because this way of speaking makes faith into an abstract concept. The word can be applied to anyone or anything. It is, at least, one step removed from the object of that faith.

I don't like talking about faith as if it is a thing in and of itself. To talk about our faith makes us sound very spiritual, but our faith is only so good as the object or person in which it is placed. If I have faith in a chair to hold me up when I sit in it, my faith means nothing if someone came along before I got there and removed all the screws. If I have faith in God, my faith is only so good as my relationship with Him as a Being.

That last sentence is very important. Read it again. My faith is only so good as my relationship with God as a BEING. It is essential that we recognize God as a BEING, as opposed to a BELIEF. Many of us good, well-meaning, "spiritual" Christians find the fact that God is an actual Being very inconvenient. That means He has a personality. He has opinions (that I may not agree with). He experiences emotions. He thinks about things differently than I do. He has His own goals and methods of accomplishing them. He works on His own timetable. (That last one is a big problem for me, actually!)

It's much easier to think of Him as a belief and just try to fit that belief into our world and our plans as best we can. That way, I can go to church and "fellowship" and try to be good and even pray once in a while, but I don't really have to rearrange my entire life to fit with Someone else's agenda. I don't have to sacrifice my lifestyle (as long as it's "good enough" to sooth my conscience) to step out of my comfort zone into the unknown realm of relying on a Being I can't see. I don't have to study the Word in it's minute details to learn how to hear His voice in my life and then wait and listen for Him to speak to me.

Adding god to my life is so much easier and less messy than aligning myself to God.

But, do I really need another belief? I have lots of them. I believe dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate. I believe it's scary to drive on icy roads. I believe Nietzsche would have made a very good Satanist. I believe my husband would get upset if I went out and bought a car without his knowledge. I believe my dog is prettier than my neighbor's dog. (Tru dat.)

Do I really need one more belief? Isn't it better to have a relationship?
Think of it this way. What would you prefer--to believe that you have a spouse who loves you or to actually have a spouse who loves you?

I want the spouse. I want the love. I want the messy. I want the challenge and the disagreements and the making up. I want the sounding board for my insane, crazy emotions and my deep, profound thoughts about the meaning of life. I want the discovery of the depth of who he is--weird or not. I want the teasing and the wrestling and the love making and the rolling of the eyes. I want it all. I don't want just a belief in him, I want HIM.

Without Him, I'm stuck with just...

me.

The difference I'm talking about is a difference in the kind of knowledge we have a right to claim. It's the difference between propositional knowledge ("I know that God exists.") and interpersonal knowledge ("I know God.")

Knowing a fact is propositional knowledge and it's fine, for what it is, but it's very impersonal. It's no more important than knowing the moon exists. OK. Got it, but what does that really matter for my day-to-day?

Knowing a person is interpersonal knowledge (IPK) and it is a vastly different experience than knowing a fact. It's the difference between knowing Shaquille O'Neal exists and knowing Shaquille O'Neal. Which is more dynamic? More life-changing? More involved? More intrusive into our world?

So, when we think of using the word "faith," perhaps we should instead use the Name of the Person---the BEING--we really mean: Jesus Christ.

"I'm really struggling in my relationship with Jesus Christ."

"The experience with Jesus increased my dependence on Him."

"Jesus Christ gets me through the day."

Suddenly, these statements start to make sense. I want to hear more. I want a glimpse inside a relationship that is dynamic and real. I want to know this Person, too.

Closing thought:
The word "faith" isn't the only word we use to objectify God. Consider the words/terms: "moral right," "religion," "justice," "hope," etc. There are many, many ways we push God away through the way we conceive of Him and substitute abstract words for Him. When we think of Him as a belief, our word choices betray us. When know Him as a Being, our word choices reflect that relationship. This week, listen to the way people talk about God. Is He a belief or a Being to them? How about to you?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

True Hope

 
God is a God of hope. He wants to give us true hope—a hope that lasts and endures, regardless of the situations we find ourselves in.

Hope is a forward-looking idea. The Spanish word for hope is esperanza. It comes from root word esperar, or 'to wait'. In this country we usually think of waiting as a negative thing, like waiting in a line at the supermarket. But hope is the part of waiting that anticipates the blessings to come. Hope is the knowledge that something better is coming. Esperanza is the feeling the groom has as he waits at the altar for his bride to walk down the aisle in her white wedding dress.

Revelation describes the joy and anticipation Christ inspires as He waits for His bride--us, the Church:

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."  Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' "  Revelation 19:7-9 (See also: Rev. 21:1-7)

How else does the Bible describe hope?

1. Hope is a kind of faith—the faith we have in a person we know personally and trust unconditionally.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  Psalm 42:5-6a    

For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. Psalm 71:5

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1  

Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. I Peter 1:21

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I Timothy 6:17

So, like all faith, hope is based on something else. If your hope is based only in people, then, when those people let you down, your hope will also fail. And you find yourself feeling hopeless. But when you base your hope in Jesus—in His salvation and in His promises—then you will find true hope—a hope that will never prove false—because Jesus can never be false. (Numbers 23:19)

2. Hope is eager anticipation based in certain knowledge of good things to come.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25

3. Hope in Christ has the power to lift us out of our present circumstances, no matter how dire, and set our eyes on what really matters.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. Psalm 130:1-8

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.  We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:17-22

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.  II Corinthians 1:9-11

4. Hope in Christ provides insight into our present circumstances, wisdom to know how we should respond to them, and certainty within our relationship with Him.

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. II Corinthians 3:12

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

5. We are called to hope in Christ. It is not something we can access on our own strength. It is an invitation from God to us and a gift to all who respond to Him.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19a

There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called...  Ephesians 4:4

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Writing Prompts to Inspire, THREE!

Here are some more inspirational first-lines for you to use as you bring a new story to life!

1. I wonder if I'm too old, he thought, gazing from his parlor window, for love.

2. His eyes were as blue silk, hair black as burnt cork, hands weathered and worn as old leather.

3. "I know who did it," he said, heart-pounding and voice wavering.

4. Nobody gonna love me now, she thought, daring to gaze at her reflection in the pond.

5. It may seem strange, but gunshots and screams can often go unnoticed.

6. She opened her eyes, only to discover a large, dripping tongue dangling before them.

7. What does it mean, she wondered, if you lose your wedding ring on your first anniversary?

8. "Chickens scare me," he confessed, "unless they're on my plate."

9. This could make a pretty good weapon, he realized, handling the cool rubber of the narrow cord.

10. Dread locks swayed against Armani-covered shoulders as he entered the room.