Category Archives: Justice
I typically try to stay away from “The Gospel Coalition” website because of the negative energy it stirs up in me. But this post is so sickening and revealing that I believe it must be pointed out, read and wrestled with. Trying to get in on the 50 Shades of Grey bandwagon Jared Wilson offered a quote from Douglas Wilson about rape and rape fantasy. In their understanding of God’s design: “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” But that is not even the worst part. Douglas Wilson goes on to say:
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine.
Did you catch that? The authority of men has been “banished” presumably by the evil, devilish liberation of women in church and broader culture and this is to blame for the pathological desires of the rapist. As if the victims of rape are not already blamed enough. But for Wilson and Wilson this is the subconscious crying out for the creational norm, blah, blah,blah. I have heard all this drivel before. Never mind that the fact that the porn world is full of submission/BDSM fantasies of men submitting to and being dominated by women. How would Wilson and Wilson explain that? Lord knows they would probably find some way to blame that on women too.
Unfortunately this is where one ends up when a literalist reading 1 Timothy 2 (and the questionable exegesis of Genesis 3 found therein) is applied to sexual ethics:
I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty (1 Timothy 2:8-15).
Woman ate the apple and is to blame for creation’s bondage to death and decay. Then she got a job at Apple and is to blame for bondage fantasies in men and women. A myriad of problems are presented to the church today by fundamentalists, literalist readings of the biblical text and one of those problems is the inherently selective nature of biblical literalism.
Passages like 1 Timothy 2 demand to be weighed over against the trajectory of the biblical witness and especially other New Testament passages concerning the “role of women.” When Paul instructs “any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head – it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved” (1Cor 11:5) he is nonetheless assuming that women will be praying and prophesying in church. In Romans 16 Paul asks the Roman church to welcome Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, who was entrusted to deliver Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul instructs the church there to give to her whatever she requires. In the same chapter of Romans Paul asks the recipients of his letter to greet his friends Priscilla and her husband Aquila who Paul says risked their necks for his life. Still in Romans 16 Paul mentions a woman named Mary and another named Junia, a relative of Paul’s. Paul says she was imprisoned with him, prominent among the apostles, and in Christ before he was. In Philippians 4, Paul mentions women who struggled beside him in the work of the gospel.
As far as domestic and sexual relationships between men and women Ephesians 5 calls for mutual submission (even though the focus from so-called complementarians is always on women submitting to their husbands). Furthermore 1 Corinthians 7 offers what Scot McKnight has eloquently called “the gospel-reshaping denial of authority in the marriage bed.” This call to mutuality evident in the overall trajectory of the New Testament Witness leaves little room for Wilson & Wilson’s ‘conquering, colonizing’ language and it renders absolutely inexcusable their subtle blaming of women for a culture that fetishizes rape.
I am thinking deeply this morning about the death of Rodney King. Indeed as this article indicates, King’s caught on camera ordeal and the riots that ensued months later in LA served as a catalyst for reform in police procedures in LA and around the country.
I am also thinking how King has inadvertently touched my life with his life and struggles. I was 14 and just still transitioning from New Kids on the Block to more aggressive forms of music when the tape of Rodney King’s beating made its way into my family’s living room.
A little over a year later, officers Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were acquitted of assault charges. It was April 29, 1992. That day the LA Riots began in protest to the verdict. For six days the city burned. There were 53 casualties of the riots and thousands of injuries.
In November of that year Ice Cube released The Predator. It was a brilliant, violent and frightening summery of the American Zeitgeist. The album references, King the trial and the riots repeatedly. Somewhere in the course of that year between the video and the verdict, I had begun listening to Hip Hop, in particular the omnipresent gangster rap of the early 90’s. I am sure that teenage rebellion, allegorical identification with the angst young urban youth, MTV and the 15 inch subwoofers in the car of my childhood best friend all had an impact on my burgeoning taste in music.
But none of that can sufficiently account for what happened when I heard Ice Cube’s “Predator” album. It was the first hip hop album – the first album in any genre really – that I thoroughly devoured. I listened to it day and night. On my headphones into the wee hours of the night it was playing. I fell asleep listening to it:
I have often said that I discovered God under the lilac tree just outside our bedroom window listening to Ice Cube. While there is a lot more to my story than that. The statement is only partially hyperbolic.
I am not kidding whatsoever when I say that listening to this album fostered the birth of my awareness and my concern for, racism, economic disparity, abuse of power and injustice. It is at least part of the reason I ended up in seminary. It is definitely directly related to why I found myself taking electives in the Hebrew Prophets when I could in undergrad and seminary.
Like the prophet Isaiah, Ice cube was part of a larger collective, a tradition of voices that pronounced judgment and yes provided comfort for people suffering from many afflictions. Both men wrote to warn and also empower a people who had been dragged away from their homeland enslaved and impoverished. There are of course ways in which the historical context and message are dissimilar. But both Ice Cube and Isaiah surveyed their land and saw “a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly!” And certainly Ice Cube, like the prophet Isaiah, was a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, whose eyes had seen the disparity between the Holy and the way we live. As Ice Cube was fond of saying and would later put into a song on a subsequent album, “They wont call me N!**er when I get to Heaven.”
In the end it is Isaiah who has provided me with what I have come to believe is God’s answer, God’s eschatological or ultimate vision for a world torn apart by racism, classism, ageism, sexism, religious bigotry and persecution and a seemingly endless list of other injustices. God’s vision for a day when badges and batons will cease to be wield as weapons. A day when by God’s grace we will all do one better than just getting along. Isaiah provides nothing short of God’s vision for Heaven on earth:
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:2-4).
Perhaps there are two types of people in this world: Those who believe there are two types of people in this world and those of us who think that life is just a bit more complicated than that. It seems to me that the former group have a tight reign on most religious, political, scientific and social discourse in this country. Us/them dichotomies abound. Such dichotomies so saturate the air we breathe that perhaps we no longer recognize the stench.
I know that my people, Christians of all stripes – conservative, liberal, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestants with all of are sectarian extravagance – have often led the way in this game, sometimes with violent pronouncements of who is in and who is out. But it is a guilt we all share. Read the thread on almost any facebook status or blog about any controversial issue to see that there are people – both men and women, in a kaleidoscope of skin colors, Christians as well as people of other faith commitments and rational empiricists united in their suspicions of faith commitments – who seem all too comfortable to proclaim (whether explicitly or implicitly) that the world would be a better place if we could just be rid of the “other.”
Sometimes this even becomes part of our sacred stories: ‘My God will get you’ instead of ‘Lord have mercy and compassion on us all.’ Sometimes our sickness of heart is allowed to grow so uncontrollably out of bounds we have the audacity to call our hatred hope.
But the hope of my people – and I truly believe the hope of the world – has been expressed so succinctly by a Hebrew prophet named Isaiah:
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
This week – this Holy Week – Christians of all stripes – conservative, liberal, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestants with all of are sectarian extravagance – remember, mourn and celebrate the events of this climactic week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We declare our belief that that the restorative work Isaiah so longed for – the restorative work we all so long for – has been and is being done in and through him. This week we declare our belief that to him – not us – belongs the judgment of the nations for the sake of this worlds restoration: swords into plowshares, spears into pruning-hooks, tanks and f15′s into Combine harvesters. Our job until then is to live as he lived, beckoning all to the table that is a foretaste of the feast he establishes on that mountain.
So let us put down our us/them language of culture wars, even if we are outnumbered on all sides by people who refuse to put down the tools and language of war: On the blogs, the facebook status and even in the pews. Our job, our call, our gift is to love. While there is a spectrum of color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation as well as a multiplicity of beliefs in this world, there is only one type of person, one type of humanity: the humanity that God loves so much that it has become inextricably intertwined with the divine in the person of Jesus. In him all things were made and it is in him – not in the divisive language of war – that we live and move and have our being.
Lord I believe. Only help my unbelief. And please let the hope of resurrection be renewed again in my heart – in all of our hearts – this Holy Week.
“The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. – “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damned them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. – “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in A Testament of Hope
“A large segment of Protestant liberalism defined man only in terms of his essential nature, his creative capacity for good. Neo-orthodoxy tended to define man only in terms of his existential nature, his capacity for evil. An adequate understanding of man is found neither in the thesis of liberalism nor in the antithesis of neo-orthodoxy, but in a synthesis which reconciles the truth of both.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. – “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in A Testament of Hope
“At that time Duke University was somewhat withdrawn from what went on in the world. But that changed abruptly on 4 April 1968. We were sitting with theologians from all over the country in one of the university halls at a ‘Theology of Hope Conference’. I was just arguing with Van Harvey about the distinction between Geschichte and Historie when Harvey Cox burst into the room crying ‘Martin King has been shot’. We immediately broke off the conference, and participants hurried home, for by the same evening shops and businesses in the American cities were going up in flames. The black population rose with a cry of rage, while whites tried to protect themselves. Then the unbelievable happened: 400 students sat down in the quadrangle of Duke University and mourned for Martin Luther King for six days and six nights, in rain and heat. At the end of the week of shame and mourning, black students from a college nearby came and danced through the rows of white students and we all sang together: ’We shall overcome.’ From that day, the blacks in Durham became more self confident and the conscience of whites woke up.” ~ Jürgen Moltmann – “Black Theology for Whites” in Experiences in Theology
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King – The Trumpet of Conscience