Suffering, grief and the existence of God

Suffering, grief and the existence of God

I am regularly amazed at the ability of my 2 1/2 year-old daughter to communicate.

Don’t get me wrong:  not all her attempts to communicate succeed.  At the dinner table, she may (with no little passion) share a thought that none of the other five of us can decipher.

But even when her words remain an enigma, they nevertheless succeed to endear her to us.  My five-year-old son will respond, “Awwwww . . . Julianne is sooo cute!”

In those (and many other) little moments I often pause to take in the undeserved privilege of my family:  daily I truly marvel at my family’s health–physically and spiritually.  And I recall the sagacious yet ever-sobering counsel of Ecclesiastes:

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Encouragement for the failing, frail and fearful

Encouragement for the failing, frail and fearful

Defeat.  Loneliness.  Regret.  Failure.  Anxiety.  Confusion.  Shame.  Conflict.  Despair. Insignificance.  Loss.

Who does not regularly experience at least some of these hardships?

When experiencing them, where, then, does one go to be encouraged–to find true solace and comfort?

(No mere amusement or anesthetic, but true encouragement.)

Here’s where the Christian goes.

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Good Friday we know, but Holy Saturday–what’s that?

Good Friday we know, but Holy Saturday–what’s that?

In the last book of the Bible, called Revelation, in the fifth chapter, John takes a selfie.

As the title Revelation implies, the book claims to describe what was revealed by/about Jesus to John, “who testifies to everything he saw” (1.2).  Accordingly, John uses the phrase “(Then) I saw” (or “I looked”) well over forty times, while inviting his reader to “Behold!” (or “Look!”) around 25 times.

And what John and the reader behold is truly extraordinary.

But twice in Revelation John, as he’s replaying for us the footage of all that he saw, turns the camera (as it were) away from all these truly extraordinary sights to take a brief selfie, in order to capture his own reaction.

Why does he do this?  If we can answer this, we understand the significance of Holy Saturday.

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Can a woman teach in church?

Can a woman teach in church?

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It should come as no surprise that some of the best teachers I know are women.

In fact, in terms of pure communication ability, I’ve wondered on more than a few occasions if women (on average) surpass men.

Of the churches I know, most all of them have women doing some sort of teaching–e.g., teaching children (in Sunday school or in “children’s church”) or possibly teaching other women.  But many churches in America even today, in the 21st century, still do not allow women to teach in the same way that a man might teach.

To many, both inside and outside the church, this is not merely confusing but deeply disconcerting.

If women are just as capable as men at teaching, why is this?  Why in one fell swoop would a church both devalue gifted women and deprive needy congregations of great teaching?

How is this a win for anyone?

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Inequality: the key to flourishing Christian community

Inequality: the key to flourishing Christian community

More than 175 years ago the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville published his two-volume work Democracy in America.  Based on his nine-month visit to the States in 1831, it offers lively and incredibly penetrating reflections on political theory and the American cultural landscape.

Still highly regarded today, Democracy in America continues to astonish modern readers by its relevance.

Not least is Tocqueville’s discussion of equality as it relates to “individualism,” where he warns of the incredible dangers of equality.

What?  Wait–the dangers of equality?  How could equality ever be a bad thing?  What’s he talking about?

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Why egalitarianism = inequality. Always.

Why egalitarianism = inequality. Always.

Some time ago I watched a two-year-old have a temper tantrum at a hotel pool.  It was a textbook meltdown.  His parents stood there at a complete loss for what to do.  (As a parent, I’ve been there myself.)

My family and I had also been enjoying the pool, and I had been sitting next to the parents chatting with them.  The mom had a PhD and had published both scholarly and popular work in her field, and the dad had an MBA from an elite business school and was currently a manager of a major money market fund.  Their net financial worth was easily in the tens of millions of dollars.  They had impressive social and political connections.

At one point during the child’s tantrum the mom turned to the dad and within my earshot said, “Why do I feel like our son is running the family?”

It’s an interesting question:  according to commonplace criteria for power, these parents (individually and together) towered over their toddler:  financially, academically, developmentally, socially, institutionally it was no contest; the power asymmetry–the hierarchy–was off the charts.

But if so, why was the little guy in charge?  Why did the parents feel so powerless?

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Hierarchy in the Bible and the hope of egalitarianism

Hierarchy in the Bible and the hope of egalitarianism

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Though a follower of Jesus, I have to admit that there are a good number of things that I simply don’t like about the Bible.

Though having grown up in a Christian home, I can remember when I first read Genesis as a young adult and came to the story of the flood and was undone by the sweeping loss of life.

In addition to the flood narrative, my immediate response is to recoil at the Bible’s highly constrictive sexual norms and, more generally, its cost of discipleship (i.e., to “gouge out one’s eye”), the barbaric conquest of Canaan, the strictness of Torah (“eye for eye”), the anger of Yahweh in the Old Testament and the threats of hell by Jesus in the New Testament, the institution of slavery, and, alas, the undeniably hierarchical gender norms established for marital and ecclesial life.

We briefly surveyed some of these texts on gender norms in a previous post and concluded that on both cursory and close readings, these texts undoubtedly prescribe hierarchical relations for both married life and church life.  We concluded the post in a quandary:

How are we to respond to these texts?

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