Are People Basically Good or Bad?
Someone on the Well Trained Mind Forums (where I've been spending way too much time lately) posted a poll asking whether conservatives thought that people were basically good or bad - it generated a lot of responses. Here's what I said:
Don't have time to read through all the responses, but I think the question is basically flawed...as are people! :) But since you asked...
I believe we're born with an inherent selfishness that causes us to rebel, but at the same time, we were made perfect in the image of our Creator. So to be fully human is actually to be totally good, but we won't get there until God restores his creation when Jesus returns. Meanwhile, we can be born again, whereby we still live with our sinful nature, but it doesn't rule us once we are submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit. So we still "do what we do not want to do" (the apostle Paul's words) but our response to God's grace (unmerited favor from an unobligated giver) is a desire to love him and thus obey him, in thankfulness and knowing that his ways are the best.
There's also common grace, which is what keeps us all from destroying each other and the planet. So even those that reject the gospel, which is God's mercy and grace (Jesus atoning for our sins and reconciling us to the Father by becoming the perfect sacrifice to satisfy God's perfect nature which demands justice for wrongdoing, no matter how seemingly trivial to us), still bear the image of their creator and have his truths written on their hearts, so they are capable and inclined toward doing good more than evil, but it is a slippery slope without Christ, whereby anyone is able to be dragged down to the depths of their sinful nature, especially with their vulnerability to the deception presented by the devil whom they usually don't believe in, and therefore oblivious to his schemes (see The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis).
Btw, I don't consider myself conservative or liberal - it all depends on the individual issue. I'm solidly pro-life (no abortion or CP). I voted for Ron Paul and would again, though I don't agree with all his views - it's more his character that made me vote for him.
Pastors, Pay Attention
Did you know your church has a personality type? Chances are, it's similar to yours. Also, some of you missed the memo from way back about the Transformations videos being debunked. What you should be showing your congregation is Lord, Save Us from Your Followers (it's also currently on Netflix instant play). If you really want to see revival, then find out what it means to be missional. It's not just another Christian buzz word.
Some weird and dangerous stuff has been creeping into your church via well meaning but misguided homeschooling families who have been influenced by "family" ministries like Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, the Duggars, Bill Gothard (yeah, he's still around) and others who subscribe to a hyper-patriarchal theology (a.k.a. patriocentricity) that teaches legalism, authoritarianism, and the quiverfull philosophy of limitless childbearing.
And another thing--please leave politics out of church. We're not all republicans (or democrats). We're certainly not all fans of Sarah Palin.
I may elaborate on these and other church-related topics in the future, but in case it's a while, I needed to get it off my chest now...and get the word out. So pastors, please do your homework and encourage your flock to do the same. It's an uncomfortable place sorting through truth and error within the larger church world (and there are those who are overzealous and hyperjudgemental - I'm not advocating that), but please let's not turn a blind eye to, or unwittingly promote theologies which are unscriptural and abusive. Let's examine our own hearts - as leaders, as churches, as individual Christians who are, as the old saying goes, the only Bible some people will ever read.
One last thing...let your people go, and even tell them to leave, when necessary. After all, they're not really yours anyway. They're God's. And where they go, they are still part of the body of Christ, so please don't act like changing churches is akin to spiritual adultery. That's not Biblical. It also divides and wounds. Wouldn't you rather have them growing elsewhere than withering in your care?
Heroines or Hypocrites?
Out with evangelical media spokespeople Falwell and Dobson, in with Palin and Prejean. Am I the only one who doesn’t see this as an improvement? It’s a shame the evangelical everyman (or woman) can’t get fair representation. Finally the press moves the spotlight off the dying (if not dead) old guard religious right white male figureheads, but only to hand the microphone to the contemporary conservative beauty queens of power and pomp, respectively. Of course it’s their peculiar positions–in both senses of the word–that make their stories worth printing. The politics of celebrity. The celebrityhood of politicians. Evangelicals in public positions are inherently different from the rest of us, and that’s not necessarily bad, but there is the question of whether what they are doing in the world (which is watching) is actually in harmony with the Christian faith and values they claim to represent.
So Palin didn’t get elected VP. Thank God! She can actually stay in the same part of the world as her teenaged daughter who is a new mom, and perhaps have a little spare time (which I’m assuming governors have slightly more of than VPs) to spend with her special needs baby, not to mention her husband and her other three children.
So Prejean was fired from her “job” as Miss California. Hallelujah! I heard she’s a new Christian–maybe now she can find her identity in Christ instead of selling her sexuality (to the point of pageant officials paying for her breast implants and her sending topless photos in January to her sponsor to ask if she was in good enough shape for the pageant–I am not linking the source because it would be…well…inappropriate). I haven’t written the Prejean Paradox yet but someone else did (and the comments are worth reading as well): Her.meneutics: The Other Miss California Controversy.
Also, to elevate Prejean (in particular) to the level of a heroine detracts from the believers in other countries and eras who have been persecuted, imprisoned and even martyred–not for speaking political views–but for living out their faith. Discrimination is wrong, and even if it did occur in what I consider an embarrassing example, wouldn’t it be more Christlike and a better witness for our voices to be heard the loudest where prejudice doesn’t just dethrone, but it actually dehumanizes? Like say in Georgia, where segregation endures on prom night.
Palin Paradox II
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I'm sorry, I can't help myself but rant some more. As is often the case, I see things very differently from my fellow evangelicals, but this time it's with an ironic twist, since my view on women is a fuzzy hybrid of egalitarian and complementarian (I'll go into that in another post someday).
Here are my thoughts in response to this from Challies:
Where did this idea come from that what supposedly applies to Christian women in the church and at home doesn't apply to them in the world? That's not logical or consistent and God is both.
Also, the compartmentalization (separating her calling as world leader from her role as wife and mother) is, on an opposite pole, reminiscent of what happened during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal when people were saying that his role of President was completely separate from his personal life.
A woman with five children, one of whom has special needs, and another who is expecting a baby, already has a calling, and it's right there with her kids. If she had another calling on her life (for this season), then why did she go and start a family? I read that she gave birth to her first child 8 months after she got married, so I suppose you could argue she didn't intend to have a family, but to go and have four kids after that, all the while pursuing government offices, seems to be the ultimate in irresponsibility. Like trying to have your cake and eat it, too.
Or, I could be wrong. She could be super woman and have two simultaneous callings on her life and not need to sleep to function properly. If Deborah (in Judges) had young children, I stand corrected.
Let me just add that I don't know her heart, or who she is, and I could very well be wrong in my assessment, but from what I know of the Lord and my own experience as a wife and mother (and a person with other callings--not for this season), my discernment says that something is very wrong here and it's appalling how Christians are using doublespeak to defend it. It's also embarrassing, as though we're so desperate to keep "the other side" from inflicting their immorality on society, we'll do anything to have one of our own in power, even if it means undermining the very values we claim to care most about.
The Palin Paradox
Evangelicals are gushing over Sarah Palin because she's one of their own--her voting record and credentials align perfectly with the conservative Christian platform...but do I spy an 800 pound gorilla in the room? How can it be that a woman, a wife, and a mother is actually being praised for stepping into the highest eschelon of leadership, and working outside the home instead of being a full-time mother to her children, including a baby who has Down's Syndrome?
I have two problems with Palin as VP. One is my personal view and the other is the hypocrisy of her being supported by evangelicals. The two are interconnected, so let's start with the second.
As a whole, evangelicals have not looked favorably upon women in leadership (over men) or mothers of young children working outside the home. And yet, along comes Sarah, seeking to be tall but in no way plain, and suddenly it's not only okay for her to go against what has been touted (and beaten over women's heads) as Biblical values, but it's actually praised! What's up with the double standard? Is there some exception clause I'm not aware of that says women can be exempted from their "biblical" roles if they can achieve a position of political power that enables them to legislate "biblical" values?
The quotes I put around "biblical" beg the question of whether I think they're biblical or not. So glad you asked. Yes and no. And this brings us to my personal problem with Palin as VP. I believe women can and should be in leadership both in the church and outside it. I believe they can teach men, but I'm not convinced they can shepherd them--then again, in countries like China, women pastors are the norm, so the jury is still out. My understanding of the Bible (and the women in the Bible) is what leads me this position. But there is a catch.
I do not believe that women with young children should pursue full-time careers outside the home for any other reason than financial necessity. A woman with children that has a husband who can provide for their family has been given a gift. That gift is called motherhood and it's a full-time job, especially when the children are young. The more children she has, the more responsibilities there are in her job. So what is a Christian woman with five kids, one of whom is about to have a baby in her teenagerhood, and another of whom is an infant with special needs, choosing to run a state, let alone vying for the leadership of an entire country?
My view is that a woman with such ambitions has two choices. Either not having kids or not pursuing her career goals until after she's raised her children (or at least seen them through their childhood). Having her cake (to the tune of 5 kids!) and eating it too (to the tune of being vice president of a nation) is not a healthy option. I speak from experience as a well-educated, former professional (student) turned stay-at-home mome of three.
Sarah Palin seems like a gifted and loving woman, but she has made a tragic mistake that will have repercussions on her family. Is it not possible that her daughter's choice to be sexually active was a result of a mother who wasn't there for her the way she needed? After all, we're talking about a Christian family who obviously raised their kids in church and taught them Biblical values, so why the departure from what she knew was right? Yes, teenagers can be rebellious and this has happened to daughters of stay-at-home moms also. But in this case, it didn't. It happened to a woman who chose to lead other people instead of her family. Or do you think it's possible to do both? Could she actually be a Super Mom?
Another thing that irks me. I read somewhere that she doesn't believe in birth control. Well, I don't believe in using the pill (because of its abortifacient properties and the health dangers of artificial hormones) but I believe in an omnipotent God that is sovereign and whose will cannot be blocked by contraception or even vasectomies. There's nothing wrong with family planning as long as one does it with the realization that God could override it.
But if someone--Sarah Palin, in this case--believes that it's wrong for her to do anything to prevent future pregnancies, then it is completely irresponsible of her to pursue two of the biggest jobs anyone could ever hold--mother of a large family and leader of a large nation (or even state or city). Pregnancy, childbirth, newborn care, breastfeeding, early childhood development...that's a 12 (or more) hour a day job that all women struggle through without doing anything else! If you're planning to make your life an endless cycle of all the above, when can you find time for another 12 (or more) hour a day job? You can't.
Nor do I feel comfortable with the idea of the potential President of the United States getting pregnant with a 6th child while caring for five others, including one with special needs...not to mention her relationship with her husband, which as all mothers know, needs extra nurturing when children come into the picture.
The Palin Paradox truly boggles the mind and wrenches the heart.
UPDATE: The New York Times ran this story tonight which addresses a lot of what I was talking about, albeit from their liberal slant, but it's a pretty balanced piece. It also reminded me that I would say this same stuff if it were Palin's husband (or a husband/dad with young kids) running for high office, though as a mother, I feel more passionately about her role.