Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rambling piece, probably a bit angrier than it needs to be

I read Al Mohler's recent column "Are Stay at home Moms "Letting Down the Team?" At first I got a laugh out of the arguments of his--for lack of a better word--adversary, then I began to wonder-- Are we really on the right track? I mean, much of Christian talk radio, conservative evangelical Christianity, and my faith tradition count Mr. Mohler as a teacher in the faith community. But I'm beginning to wonder if his methodology and even his message are really the message and methodology of Christ.

He writes about a recent "Good Morning America" program in which Linda Hirshman, a prominent feminist thinker advocates a new brand of feminism. Her alarm at recent data showing a growing number of bright, articulate, ivy league graduated women leaving the office to change diapers and to be quite literally spit upon leads her to advocate that feminist ideology require those women to stay at the office.

Now I profess, the picture of a radical feminist professor wagging her finger in the face of a college coed while instructing her to, "stay in her place" is funny.

But as I read his piece I got discouraged. Because, well, what change takes place because of the clever words Mohler writes? When we, as conservative evangelicals, continue to engage in a tug-o-war with feminist sometimes it seems like we are pulling them over the line, sometimes we are getting pulled, but no one is going to win this game. Which is why we good Christian people are waiting for God to beam us up in the middle of 5:00 traffic as we sing praises to our loving God and watch all of our cars ram right into Moms in minivans with children that are ages of about eight and above (most people consider the age of eight to be the age of accountability--an idea that has little scriptural backing.)

In light of the current Theology driving Evangelical America: a prosperity gospel that comforts those "blessed" by God with wealth and the Left Behind series's eschatology that promises great reward once we die for "believing" the right creed (these two beliefs fuel one another, but that is another issues), we would be just as well served if Al Mohler sat at home and watched the Olympic's curling event. He preaches only to the choir and the choir, according to our theology, has already done their part by walking down the aisle and getting dunked (though they get extra points if they bring friends). But we spend an awful lot of time tossing out rules to live by to a broken and hungry world? And the result is a world that maintains an even tighter grasp on the rope.

And I guess, what I want to know is, well, the point. What does Christ want us to do? Call people to our team? Or drag those who disagree with our social and political agenda through the mud and into our social and political agenda which by all indexes looks very much the same as from where they came. Divorce? The same. Alcohol? The same. Abortion? The same.

Why bother?

What I have just written is harsh and angry sounding. If it makes anyone feel better, I belong in the group I'm bawling out at this moment. Typically, I am all about love and getting along and compromise and seeing someone else's point of view, but shouldn't we expect more? I think this kind of frantic activity we engage in with little to show for it makes God angry as well.

So, Frankly, I'm dropping the rope.

What do I mean by dropping the rope? Well consider the following:

What would happen if we wrote thank you letters to feminists and said thank you for the right to vote. Thank you for equal pay for women. Thank you for opening college up for women. Thank you. And thank you for encouraging fathers to take a more active roll in parenting.

What if we began inviting our enemies over to our side of the rope to help us pull for those things we all agree upon?

What if we partnered with Gay activists in their fight against A.I.D.S.

What if, together, we built houses for the poor?

What if in our activity we asked them what they believe about Jesus? (Don't ask them what they believe about His church, we already know the answer to that.)

All goodness and truth belong to God and most everybody no matter their religion or lack thereof does good and true deeds. Why don't we commend them and then ask how we might be able to help?

At least ask yourself-- how could any of the ideas listed above hurt?

If Mr. Mohler and Christian radio and a myriad of others think this on going debate with the left really impacts the culture then I've got news, a google search revealed no one who said, "I thought Linda Hirshman was right on, then I read Al Mohler's piece and I thought, "Wow! You know I really need to change my view on this subject and live differently." Even more discouraging--no one expects that to happen. Yes, here and there, there might be someone who finds that Mohler makes some good points, but he is likely to "repent" and then encourage his entire family to pick up the other end of the rope especially if he tells his wife to quit her job. But let's give Mohler et. al. the benefit of the doubt and say that they really meant to preach to the choir. I mean after all, doesn't the choir need instruction as well?

Should we make someone who has the music memorized sit through another rehearsal?

So why are more women staying at home? Dilbert the comic strip and the sitcom The Office probably have more to do with the changing attitudes of women (and men for that matter) about the contributions to modern society made by their work in a lonely little cubicle or a lonely corner office than the Evangelical church, because when Ms. Hirshman espouses her ideas to the postmodern feminists in her audiences she is likely to hear them reply:

"Who says money or career status should define my importance?"

"Who says the one who makes the most money should be the leader of the family?"

"Um, Prof. Hirshman, my Mom is a stay at home mom. She invented a line of women's clothing that wipes clean of all spit up. She made millions."

"My mom quit her job and began selling bubble wrap on e-bay. Now my dad is quitting his job to join her."

"Prof. Hirshman, sorry to bother you, but I need you to sign this form. I'm withdrawing from the university to pursue my career as a photojournalist in Paraguay."

In other words the entire culture and economy is changing, and both Hirshman and Mohler need to realize that their debate is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

More importantly, I'm now having a hard time seeing where the work of Mohler and much of conservative evangelical Christianity has ever had much relevance. Perhaps we are angrier. Or at least louder. More fortified and united. But in all of this song and dance I am beginning to wonder: do we really take Christ seriously? I know we are grateful, eternally grateful, for the sacrifice, but the analogy of the sacrificial lamb was not to be applied to Christ's intelligence--As I think we do when we do not take his words seriously (the red ones). And when we speak and act without expectation of change we are not taking him seriously.

Christ changed people.

And we have been given a Spirit to do the same. So why are we wasting our time wringing our hands over the fringe feminists?

Jesus, just before he gives the Sermon on the Mount, goes through Galilee healing people. These are the people that came to Jesus. People that needed healing. And Jesus's first words to them are (and I paraphrase) "You are blessed." He blesses them! But he doesn't leave it there. He then expects them to be salt and light. He expects these poor, recently wounded but now healed people to change the world. How would churches change if this is what we really believed--that the guy at the soup kitchen needs to be restored because God expects him to join in restoration of his creation. That the prostitute on the corner has a significant role to play in God's Kingdom. What if our message to the other team was not, "You are wrong!" But "You are significant!"

Ultimately, our game of tug-o-war is a fatal distraction. Right now the typical theology of the run of the mill evangelical views God's creation as a sinking ship. And so as Christians we are going to lock the dregs of society down below in the servant quarters while we get our loved ones onto the life rafts. And then we will spend the rest of our time instructing our little ones so that they do not fall out. Out of feelings of guilt we might toss a life preserver or two out to a drowning world, but we are not going to get into the water.

After all, it is absolute lunacy to leave a place of safety and comfort to save a world that the creator himself intends to do away with anyway.

And I would agree with that last sentence except that it goes against everything Christ did and said. Christ says jump out of the boat and count on Him for safety. Christ says the people that look the worst off have the most to give. God called his creation good and Christ affirms it. Christ tells us he will grant us supernatural power and that death we need not fear. But we keep trading Christ and His truth for another cultural band-aid (Women mind your place!) for our problems. And so we look like everyone else and wonder why no one wants to wade through a mud bath to join our team.

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