Monthly Archives: December 2006

An Episcopal Parable

The Most Reverend Jefferts-Shori, Presiding Bishopessa of The Episcopal Church, dontcha know.The Episcopal Church of the USA (hereafter, “ECUSA”) is a poster child for religious egalitarianism.  For any who ever cared enough to look, its progress from women’s ordination to gay ordination to utter apostasy is writ large in recent history. 

The few remaining conservatives within the Episcopal Church are still saying “Huh? How’d this happen?”  And, what they’ll accept as an answer is pretty squishy – sort of correct, but not too correct.  Otherwise they’d lay themselves open to the question “Well, why didn’t you object [or resist, or fight back, or flee] sooner?”  The remaining conservatives in ECUSA are simply too few, too late, and still too compromised by modern departures from Apostolic faith for them to do much more than complain. 

For the past decade, I have been warning my evangelical brethren that every cock-eyed thing they’ve seen in the Episcopal Church was already sprouting in their own back yards, that all they needed to do to predict the future evolution of American evangelicalism was to look at the Episcopal Church for the past 25 years or so. 

Because they are my friends and because they love me, they usually receive these warnings with goodwill, happy to praise me for insight into the Episcopal debacle, but otherwise dismissive when I point to the same spiritual breaches within American evangelicalism.  After all, Episcopal Christianity is the home of all that ritualistic mumbo-jumbo, all those tinkling bells and exotic smells, all that liturgy, for crying out loud.  Who wouldn’t go off the rails? 

“We believe the Bible!  We’re evangelistic!  We [fill in this space with whatever virtue is supposedly absent from those wacky Episcopalians].

Though I am 59 and have already enjoyed one myocardial infarction, I stand by my earlier predictions, that within my lifetime flagship evangelical churches will be ordaining anyone without respect to sex, marriage or remarriage, sexual orientation, or any “expression” of any of these.  Here’s my latest evidence.

First exhibit: the newly minted female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Shori.   She’s the interestingly costumed person pictured in the graphic above.  When candidates for this office were being discussed prior the June 2006 Episcopal General Convention, most thought her sex was her leading qualification.  Evidently, so did the House of Bishops who elected her.

 She brings not only her sex but her pansexual values, along with a version of “the faith” so off the reservation that an NPR correspondent’s follow-up question during an interview was “So, you’re a Unitarian, right?” 

The only difference between Shori-faith and what passed for Christian faith 40 years ago in the Episcopal church is the range of what Episcopals were willing to repudiate in the Apostolic deposit of faith.  Back then, when they said “We don’t believe any of that crap!” the crap they didn’t believe amounted to Pauline teaching on the sexes.  Today, “that crap” covers all those things plus these: (1) the Bible as God’s word, (2) the sufficiency and exclusivity of salvation by faith in Jesus, (3) the Trinity, and (4) the eternal incarnation of the Son of God as a human male.  An Episcopal priest at the Stand Firm website documents from Shori’s own statements her commitment to Pelagianism, Marcionism, Pluralism, Universalism, and Gnosticism. 

Second exhibit: Wayne Grudem’s recent book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?   The question mark in the title appears to be literal until you begin reading Grudem’s text.  For, when Grudem lays out his analysis of evangelical feminism – naming names and quoting their writings – there is no question at all.  In fact, Grudem’s exposition shows how ludicrous it is to say that evangelical feminism is a path to liberalism.  It is, on the contrary, identical to liberalism, and Grudem’s copious citations and quotations from evangelical feminist leaders makes the case airtight. 

The liberalism of evangelical feminists is identical to the liberalism in the Episcopal Church that has brought it to its present sordid state.  What makes evangelicals think that if they walk the path the Episcopals have walked for the past 30 years that they will NOT wind up in the same swamp? 

Twice in the past 40 years, religious liberalism has been checked and reversed in American denominational structures:  most recently in the Southern Baptist Convention during the Nineties, and before that in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in the mid-Seventies.  The Southern Baptists took a bit longer, but their polity made reform a slower project.  The Missouri Synod Lutherans got the job done in just two conventions. 

For those who want an fresh case study in same-song-‘nuther-verse denominational evolution, tune your monitors to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  What makes their present evolution so fascinating is that they were born of a separation from apostasy in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  In the history section of the PCA website, we read

[The PCA] separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) in opposition to the long-developing theological liberalism which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.  Additionally, the PCA held to the traditional position on the role of women in church offices.

This last-mentioned distinctive is enshrined in the PCA’s Book of Church Order, in Part I, Chapter 7, Paragraph 2:

7-2.      The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders and deacons.  Within the class of elder are the two orders of teaching elders and ruling elders.  The elders jointly have the government and spiritual oversight of the Church, including teaching.  Only those elders who are specially gifted, called and trained by God to preach may serve as teaching elders.  The office of deacon is not one of rule, but rather of service both to the physical and spiritual needs of the people.  In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only.

Now, consider this page from the website of Loch Raven PCA Church.  It identifies eleven deacons, and the names of seven of them appear to be the names of females.

Further, consider the work of Tim and David Bayly, both credentialed in the PCA, whose blogging has documented the granting of a platform in official PCA settings for Carolyn Custis James’ pro-egalitarian agenda.  Their efforts provide evidence for the same two errors that eventually lead to the utter demise of the Episcopal Church:  (1) a toleration for heterodoxy which grew into a toleration of heresy, and (2) an unwillingness to discipline individual leaders or congregations that departed from supposedly “official” standards of church order and doctrine.  The Bayly brothers point to both sorts of departures, but beyond their lonely voices in the wilderness, I detect no movement from the PCA’s slumbering shepherds.

At this point, there is considerable room for hope.  But for the present, room is about all that is hopeful. The more time that passes with no action to reverse these trends within the PCA, the more likely it will go the way of the Episcopal Church, rather than emulating the reforms of the Southern Baptists and the Missouri Synod Lutherans.

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Wiener Wackiness

One of Vienna’s new “gender-neutral” signsGender light has finally dawned for the gender-oppressed in Vienna, Austria.   According to an AFP story at Brietbart.com the city of Vienna has finally launched an initiative to raise awareness about  gender equality.  In the process, thousands of oppressed and marginalized women  will now be able to cross the streets and use exits in safety and confidence.  Co-incidentally, hundreds of  thousands of males will now be able to take seats on subways, trams, and buses  which were formerly designated for elderly, pregnant, or child-toting women. 

Vienna’s “Gender Mainstreaming Project” is supposed “to give both genders the same exposure and ensure an equal distribution of chances, opportunities, and duties by changing the gender of figures pictured on familiar signs,” a spokesperson for the Wiener Rathaus (Vienna City Hall)  stated.  “Because it clashes with fixed visual habits, the campaign compels people to think, look, and act different,” said Sonja Wehsely, city councilor in charge of women’s affairs. Under the new guidelines now being implemented across the city, signs that formerly used male characters will have their female equivalent, while the opposite will also be true. 

Marvelous improvement in quality of life for the women of Vienna is just around the corner.  Uncounted hundreds of thousands of females have been stranded on street corners, discouraged from crossing at safe moments, because the sign that signaled them to do so was an ideograph of a man.  Now many thousands of female lives will now be saved, as women no longer get run over by trams, busses, and garbage trucks in Vienna’s streets.  Gutters that used to run red with female blood can now be cleaned.  The city’s landfills will no longer be gorged with the crushed and broken bodies of female pedestrians who gauged incorrectly when best to cross the street.

The public decency department of the Wiener* Polizei (Viennese Police Department) will add several thousand new staff, to manage the expected rise in disorderly conduct events in the use of public restrooms.  Both sexes are expected to react testily to the presence of the opposite sex in public toilets formerly marked for one sex or the other. 

“Yes, it will be dicey for a while,” said Alosius Schlagobersfürgehirne, Direktor des Wiener WC und Pissoir** Amt (Viennese Water Closet and Public Pisser Authority).  “But, these times of civic turmoil advance us toward the day when all can relive themselves in the company of anyone without a care.  Surely that goal is worth the effort!” he exclaimed.

The reactions from Vienna’s men was mixed.  “Well, it’s certainly going to be an improvement to have women crossing the streets with us,” said one middle-aged Wiener.*  “It will improve the appearance of the crowds in the middle of the streets to see female figures there who are not dashing for their lives or being crushed by streetcars because of their pedestrian indecisiveness.” Other men hailed the new availability of seats on public transportation formerly reserved for pregnant and elderly women. 

Some members of Vienna’s gay community were less sanguine.  “Undoubtedly, the presence of women in the middle of the streets and in the pissoirs is going to change the social dynamics,” said a local tourist guide who specializes in GLBT clientele. “Many GLBT citizens will have to learn a whole new protocol for social interaction in those places,” he explained.

On the other hand, Dominetta Donnerblixenmachen, Dominatrix of the City of Vienna’s GLBT Affairs Office, sees the new gender mainstream project as merely the first step toward mainstreaming all the genders, not just the merely biological ones. 

“The new signage is an advance, of course,” she said.  “But, there is nothing in the current ideographs to signal anything beyond body parts.”  Donnerblixenmachen has already set up a task force to design ideographs which represent gay, lesbian, transsexual, and bisexual persons.  “When we have a fair consensus in our communities, we’ll present them to the Viennese City Council for inclusion in all the usual places — public transportation and toilets, street crossings, and boarding stations for trains.” 

The more “organic” gender-inclusive signage for Vienna’s public squareDonnerblixenmachen displayed the current front runner for more gender-inclusive signage, an ideograph with a female form sporting a moustache, and a male ideograph with breasts and voluptuous lips.  “It’s a more organic approach to communication,” Donnerblixenmachen explained.  “This design was put forth by the La Cage Aux Folles Coalition for Sexual Sanity.  Presently it has the support of about 57 percent of the GLBT community we have surveyed.”

A more spiritual provocation for thinking about genderOn the other hand, Donnerblixenmachen explained, “others are campaigning for a less organic approach.”  She displayed an alternate signage, similar to the one Vienna is already deploying, except that an abstract symbol for “male” is imposed on a female ideograph, and vice versa.  “If the Rathaus imagines that the current signage will get people to thinking, they will think all the harder with this more purely spiritual signage.”

One segment of Vienna’s population will be exempt from gender mainstreaming.  AFP reports that a roadworks sign picturing a woman in a skirt digging into a pile of dirt and used on a campaign poster for the gender mainstream project will not see the light of day because of “traffic regulations.”  Project activists are busy researching just what this means, with a view to ensuring that all genders have equal access to the ditch-digging sectors of the economy.

PETA’s purely symbolic signage that omits references to human beingsMeanwhile, the local chapter of PETA continues to wage an unremitting campaign against “the anthropocentric chauvinism” of the gender mainstreaming project.  “Why have symbols of humans at all?  Even if the city uses signs for dozens of genders that are conceivable, they’re still human!” says Fifi Hundeundkatzeundvögelundsoweiter. “Species justice requires that we use only abstract symbols for all the genders.”  The local chapter of PETA has taken up a campaign to replace all the ideographs in the city that presently depict humans with signs that suggest all genders in purely symbolic form.  

Will Vienna’s cutting edge gender mainstreaming project spread beyong the Wienerwald?  History suggests it may.  A century ago, a psychiatrist named Sigmund Freud attempted to catalog the features of Vienna’s pscho-sexual aberrations.  In an understandable ego-centric error, he supposed he was observing a general pattern of human psychology, rather than the idiosyncracies of a post-empire mass neurosis confined mostly to Vienna within the Guertel.  But, in a surprise still affecting the West, Freud’s error became established as the premier psychological model of Western Europe and the  Americas. Today entire university schools of psychiatry suppose all humanity is substantially identical to the navel-gazing neurotics of fin de siecle Vienna.

With a precedent like that, can gender mainstreaming for the rest of the West be far behind?


*The German name of Vienna is “Wien,” pronounced “veen,” as German W’s have the same consonantal sound as the American or British letter “v.”  Thus, in German, “Wiener” [pronounced “veener”] is not a hot dog, but a male resident of Wien (i.e. Vienna).  A female resident of  Vienna is a Wienerin. 

**Pissoir is a mild French vulgarism used throughout Europe to label public latrines for men, though it would appear they may now be used by women in Vienna.

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Christians for Biblical Anarchy

Christians for Biblical AnarchyMy friend Michael over at the Complementarian Christian Coalition Forum has delivered himself of a cogent bit of polemic against religious feminism (aka evangelical egalitarians).  Applying their usual arguments against patriarchy (including the patriarchy inherent in the Biblical worldview) to the governmental institution of the police, he lays out how and why we should form a new organization:  Christians for Biblical Anarchy.

 A sample to whet your appetite:

You know, I was thinking. Policemen do a lot of terrible things. Some
let their power and authority go to their heads. They can intimidate
people and abuse them. And they can even legally carry around the
tools to do this! We all know how they will gang up on and beat up
people they pull over. They even do it in front of their own
dashboard video cameras, as we’ve all seen. How arrogant and out of
control can you get? (I saw a new one yesterday.)  

Read it all here

I’d propose an organizational meeting for the Christians for Biblical Anarchy, but  … hmmm.  That’s kind of counter-intuitive, no?  Kind of like the whole idea of Biblical equality. 

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The Camel’s Nose

Standard Camel’s NoseEveryone knows the story of the Arab and his camel, how he allowed the camel on a cold night to put his nose into the tent in order to keep warm.  By morning, the tent was full of camel, and the Arab was outside in the cold.

This is a parable for the development of many Christian organizations.  For reasons too large for this blog to explore, the Christian version of this parable always casts the orthodox in the role of the Arab, the heterodox and heretics in the role of camels.  The parable is unfolding in our day with those who are reappraising classical, orthodox, and Biblical notions of sex, these playing the roles of camels to Arabs who are the custodians of the tents (denominations, mission boards, and seminaries). 

A modern camel’s nose to the PCA tentCase in point: Carolyn Custis James and her increasing occupation of the tents named “evangelical Christianity” generally and the “Presbyterian Church in America” specifically.  In the latter case, a few lonesome voices  have repeatedly called for PCA institutions to repent of providing her venues to spread her egalitarian agenda in an ostensibly traditionalist denomination.  So far, no cigar.  Or, rather, it’s been more and more of the James’ nose in the PCA tent. 

It would sound ludicrous to speculate on how long it will take the PCA to shed its complentarian policies.  A generation?  Less?  Things move fairly fast these days.  There are those exceptional cases of the Missouri Synod Lutherans and the Southern Baptists who pulled back from the brink of worldliness.  But, in the past century of the evolution of Christianity in America, they are the glaring exceptions, not the rule.

At any rate, for those who like to watch these things develop, keep your eye on the PCA as the conservatives within it continue down a trail trodden by the mainline denominations from which the PCA separated only a generation ago.  And, keep your ear tuned to those intrepid Bayly Brothers, whose voices crying in the Presbyterian wilderness may one day finally be heeded.  Or not.

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Who’s dating Jesus?

He’s Jesus’ bride?Agnieszka Tennant’s recent essay in Christianity Today entitled “Dating Jesus” is a mixed bag, mostly for what it does not say.  Where she speaks to her topic, I’d agree with her, though with more urgency than she displays.  But, still … as far as it goes, what she says is spot on.

Her criticism boils down to this:  Christian women, aided and abetted by popular evangelical writers and some church ministries, are going overboard with the Bible’s bridal imagery.  And, she acknowledges that this mistake is not exactly new.  Neither is reading the Song of Solomon and other biblical passages as erotically charged letters addressed directly to the reader.

In support of the antiquity of this error, Tennant points to bridal imagery in the vows of Medieval nuns whose vows of celibacy are construed as spiritual marriages. On the modern scene, Tennant alludes to unnamed female writers who urge their female readers to go on dates with Jesus or to have “Tea with Jesus,” wearing their wedding dresses to the affairs. 

When it comes time to sum up her critique, Tennant tells us this:

I have little patience for taking biblical metaphors too far and giving one’s relationship with God an air of irreverent chumminess. Somehow, the scenario in which “his princess” shaves her legs for a date with Jesus seems to leave little room for fear of God. And consider how unhelpful this misreading must be to single women who are hormonally awake. The cruel message they get is: If Jesus is really your husband, what’s your problem? Be satisfied!

As I said. well and good.  But, is it sufficient (as a critique, I mean) for Tennant to tell us that “she has little patience” with this kind of thing?  Why should it matter that it seems to be irreverent chumminess to her.  And why is her special concern only for the single woman who is hormonally awake?  

What’s wrong with Tennant’s critique is simply this:  it’s myopic. And, it’s myopic in a way that’s typical of modern egalitarian evangelicals:  the whole “problem” is considered purely from a woman’s perspective, a kind of gender-affirmative action, if you will.  Oddly, for women to co-opt the Bible’s bridal imagery for their own personal feminine spirituality seems fine to many evangelical women.  Indeed, Tennant seems to object only to those who go overboard with this sort of stuff.  Going overboard offends Tennant’s sensibilities.  Otherwise, we suppose, construing or attempting to live out one’s spiritual life in terms of bridal or spousal concepts is okay.

Of far greater consequence is the impact of this kind of thing on men in the church.  Leon Podles work The Church Impotent: the Feminization of Christianity  propounds two theses: (1) that the application of bridal imagery to the personal spirituality of  Christians has had the effect of driving men out of the church, and that (2) the chief culprit is Bernard of Clairvaux, whose preaching and discipleship ministry was largely responsible for injecting bridal imagery into the personal devotions of Christians in the West.  Podles gets challenged on pinning this tail on Bernard’s bridal donkey; but, even if Podles is inaccurate in that charge, his case for man-unfriendly bridal spirituality in both Catholic and Protestant communions is difficult to dispute.

Podles is Roman Catholic, but reading his book gives one who grew up in a thoroughly low-church Protestant environment the willies.  Often, you’d think he were speaking of the Sunday School at First Baptist Church back in the 1950s, or the revivalist tent meetings of a half-century before that.  The saccharine sentimentality of old gospel songs is aimed straight for the feminine heart, and in the mouths of men these songs are emasculating.  

Fast forward, now, to the “Jesus is my boyfriend” choruses so popular in evangelical settings today.  Imagine the spiritual impact on men who are prompted to sing “I cry your name out in the night, I want to feel my arms around you, I long to hear you call my name, I want to be your Holy Bride.” 

I actually watched an assembly of Christians crooning these and similar lyrics in a dimly lit sanctuary (resembled a night-club lounge) as they appeared on the wall.  By my estimation two-thirds of the people present were women, and by the sound of it all, the only voices who were singing were the female ones, except for the male crooner on stage, moaning these lyrics into the ever-phallic microphone.  Glancing around, I saw mostly still male faces, or occasionally ones which seemed to be mumbling something.  

There are strong and potent reasons why this kind of thing is toxic to the spiritual life of both men and women.  But, how it is toxic differs depending on the sex of the worshiper.  For women, to eroticize their relationship with the LORD goes a long way toward idolatry. It has this same effect with men plus this additional disaster: a wholesale repudiation of their created masculinity.  Men are not and never will be “brides” without severe distortion of their personal identity.  

Someone somewhere in my hearing once said “Jesus has a bride, not a harem.” Relating to Jesus as a romantic, or erotic, or spousal, lover is simply not permitted by the Biblical texts.  That alone should give pause to any who suppose it to provide an “option” for one’s personal spirituality.  For men and for churches that hope to evangelize and disciple men there is an additional liability.  Men not only sense the perverseness of such thinking, a majority of them get right up out of their pews and flee for the door.  Permanently.   

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Man, the glory of God, Worship wars

Me Tarzan, You Jane

Me Tarzan, You Jane, Them Bad GuysMany “gender truths” found in general revelation have a high degree of “Duh!” connected to them.  They are so blindingly obvious (see below) that it’s comic to find someone spending gobs of time and money to articulate something like this:

“ … women feel dependent on men.”

“Females are smaller and weaker than males so, women and their offspring are prone to being the victims of predators, and violence.”

“It is that instinctive need to rely on a man which makes women so afraid of abandonment. Perhaps that is why women are more attuned to their partner’s moods and curious about tiny aspects of his life. And they are much better than men at spotting liars.”

Do you suppose the person who expressed these ideas was some knuckle-dragging patriarchalist?  Nope.  It was Dr. Nick Neave, evolutionary psychologist at Northumbria University in Great Britain, that nation of patriarchalist chest-thumpers.  And he published these thoughts in that reactionary, patriarchalist, woman-hating rag called The Daily Mail.  Read all of it here or here

Now, when you consult the entire article, you find Dr. Neave falling all over himself with apologies for having to convey such radically non-PC, seemingly contra-feminist ideas.  Tsk tsk.  The risks some men take for science! 

It reminds me of the labors of sociologist Dr. Stephen Goldberg, whose 1974 book entitled The Inevitability of Patriarchy met 67 rejections from publishers before he found one willing to risk printing it.  When he published a revised version of the book in order to answer the challenges his first effort generated over the next 20 years, he re-titled the book Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance.  The readers’ reviews of the first and second versions of Goldberg’s work are predictable and funny to read.

Two points to make on this occasion:

General revelation does not tell lies.  One may ignore it, of course, as secular and religious feminists must.  And, one may misreport the message of the cosmos, as secular and religious feminists ordinarily do.  Goldberg and Neave – insofar as they take the data of Mother Nature at face value – should be commended for listening to Nature rather than constantly correcting her. 

The Book of Nature is intelligible only when read in light of the Book of God.  Goldberg and Neave attempt to explain the data of human relationships (i.e. that they are stubbornly – Goldberg would say “inevitably” – patriarchal) by recourse to an evolutionary dynamic, a kind of scientific determinism that may be described but never overturned.  Contradicting this view is the account of the patriarchal nature of human relationships found in the Bible.  At best, Neave’s and Goldberg’s account is “inevitably irritating” (one Amazon reviewer’s characterization of Goldberg’s work) to egalitarian sensibilities.  Only the Bible’s account is comprehensively coherent, for it amounts to the Creator’s commentary on His own work. 

Those who embrace both the data of general revelation and the Bible’s account of it will find men like Goldberg and Neave helpful, for they testify to the “hard-wiring” of human relationships as God designed them.  Also, they have no Christian or Biblical axes to grind and cannot be charged with Christian or Biblical bias in their reporting of what Mother Nature tells all of us, even if it’s really regrettable news to an egalitarian. 

BACKDATE:  Joe Garagoli of the San Francisco Chronicle made a similar report back in August, 2006, which may be read here and here. He begins his story with these words:

Louann Brizendine’s feminist ideals were forged in the 1970s, so the UCSF neuropsychiatrist is aware that some parts of her new book, “The Female Brain,” sound politically incorrect.

Could it be that the feminist parts of Brizendine’s book are, like Neave’s and Goldberg’s, ignoring the contra-feminist implications of their research?

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