Sunday, September 21, 2008
The role of women in the public worship of the church has become a contentious issue recently. Despite the clear teaching of scripture and long-held traditions, I was asked several months ago to draft a statement that would be distributed amongst Churches of Christ. I have wrestled with this task. I have anguished over the biblical texts. I have incorporated historical, cultural, and extra-biblical evidence from the Greco-Roman world. But mostly, I have remained unwavering in our historic commitment to the inerrancy of scripture, its clear teaching, and hence the need to take it literally without picking or choosing which commandments we will follow as those in liberal denominations do. The following notice will go out over the wires first thing Monday morning:
To all faithful members of the Church of Christ:
Effective immediately the following rules will be adopted with regards to the role of women in the public worship of the church. We regret that such a notice is necessary, but some among us have not taken seriously the plain commandments of the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 14 and 1st Timothy 2. Henceforth all women are to remain silent in the assembly. Thus far we have not permitted women to preach, lead prayers, or make announcements, but now they will not be permitted to ask questions in class, or participate in the singing. Silence means silence! Women will, however, be permitted to serve communion since this involves no speaking or authority. Furthermore, since we are uncertain where to place the comma in 1st Timothy 2:12, women will no longer be permitted to teach in any capacity. This includes ladies classes and children's classes. ALL classes must be taught by a man. It is better to be safe than sorry. Women will be required to dress modestly. This means that no woman will be allowed to enter the assembly wearing braided hair, gold jewelry, pearls, or clothing purchased at major department stores (expensive clothing). As part of our biblical dress code, all women will be required to wear a head covering. Any modest hat or scarf will do. Ladies, if you have any questions, please follow the scripture and ask your husbands at home.
Friday, September 19, 2008
People often wonder why I have such an openly defiant attitude toward authority – civil as well as religious authority. I want to identify three reasons:
1. I grew up in South Africa during the heyday of the apartheid regime. As a child and teenager my father taught me that I had a MORAL OBLIGATION to resist authority. He was right!
2. I follow leaders. True leaders are hard to come by. I know precious few leaders. You can slap a title or a uniform or a badge on any yahoo. That doesn’t make them a leader, and it certainly doesn’t mean I necessarily ought to follow them, obey them, or respect them.
3. I have a theological warrant. Here’s what I mean:
Jesus was not brought down by anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is ALWAYS a deadly mix. Beware of those who claim to know the mind of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains are seen hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar! I doubt that many of us will end up playing Annas, Caiaphas or Pilate. They may have been the ones who gave Jesus the death sentence, but a large part of him had already died before they ever got to him - the part Judas killed off, then Peter, then all those who fled. Those are the roles with our names on them - not the enemies who confront, but the friends who abandon.
No one knows what Judas said. In John’s gospel he does not say a word, but where he stands says it all. After he led about 200 Roman soldiers and the Temple police to the garden where Jesus is praying, Judas stood with the authorities. Even when Jesus came forward to identify himself, Judas did not budge. He stood on the side with the weapons and the handcuffs.
In 1849 Henry David Thoreau wrote a tract called “Civil Disobedience.” Here’s an excerpt:
“The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders - serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few - as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men - serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.”
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I am less fascinated with the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” than with the question, “Why do good people do bad things?” This is much more relevant and interesting. To say that bad people do bad things is to have a VERY simplistic, childlike view of the world. It is usually good people who do bad things. I have become obsessed with figuring out why. This is why I watch disturbing movies like “Hostel.” This is why I have profiled Hitler’s henchmen. I have really probed the question, “Why do good (or normal) people do bad things?” Here’s what I think. (I wrote about some of this last year.)
We tend to see the things going on inside of a person (personality, motives, desires) as more important in regulating behavior than the forces outside of the person (context, situation, social pressures). We downplay the power of context and situation, while seeing ourselves and other people in altruistic terms. We think that people have an inner core that dictates and determines their actions (their “true self”). So we classify people in terms of “kinds” of people - good people, bad people, strong people, weak people. But all these labels are erroneous. There aren't different “kinds” of people. There are simply people in different situations. Configure the situation a certain way and we can make some people look weak and others strong. This doesn’t mean that situations alone determine our behavior (though I do believe in situational ethics), but we tend to dramatically underestimate the power of context and situation. How many times have you heard someone say, “I would never do that.” This is precisely what sets us up for wrongdoing. We tend to overestimate the strength of our character. We see ourselves as a “kind” of person – a good father, a good husband. To see ourselves in this way is a mistake – a very costly one.
This principle applies to all moral issues - addiction, sexuality, spending, violence, and on and on. Situations have way more power than we think. Consequently, “good” people wander into situations that cause them to falter. Treat your own virtue with suspicion. Your strength can easily become your weakness. Don't believe your character alone is sufficient to carry you through. Trust me on this! The world is full of the ruined lives of those who said, “I don't know why or how I could have done that (fill in the blank). I’m not like that!”
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I'm in Waco today driving around looking at all my old hangouts, walking around Baylor campus, and yes, mountain biking on the trails along the Brazos river. I went down one of the "advanced" trails this morning. I should have known better. It's been years since I knew what I was doing. As I catapulted down a narrow rocky path, my right handlebar clipped a tree. The handlebars got twisted 180 degrees and I got thrown off the bike. I haven't had a good crash in years! I lay there stunned for a minute with my head against a tree - scratches on my right wrist, bruised left elbow, scratches and cuts all down my left leg. I got up, yelled something at the stupid tree, and hammered on down the trail for another 30 minutes with blood and dirt all over my face, arms, and legs. It feels SO GOOD to be alive!!!