Social Justice: Not Compatible with Christianity?

If you’ve been paying any attention to American Christianity lately, you’ve probably heard of the “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel“.  If you’ve taken the time to read it, chances are you’ve found at least part of it to be confused and/or concerning, and when you consider that thousands of prominent Evangelical (in this post Evangelical means any Christian group who affirms any form of Biblical-Inerrancy, which yes, still refers to a broad range of viewpoints, but at least narrows it down a little) it becomes especially alarming.  If you still haven’t read it and would like to, you can find it here.

While it is well-organized and not particularly dense, “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel” is somewhat lengthy so I’m not going to over the entire thing today.  I will look at a few highlights and compare them with the Bible (which they claim to have based it on) and reality.  I’ll then briefly summarize why Social Justice is integral to the Gospel and the ministry of Jesus, the principles on which Christians supposedly follow.

  • (Stated Purpose): “We invite others who share our concerns and convictions to unite with us in reasserting our unwavering commitment to the teachings of God’s Word articulated in this statement.” So far nothing inherently wrong, but as we’ll see their purpose comes to clash with the content of their statement.
  • “We deny that the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching” Well, it appears we’re running into problems right on the first page.  First, let’s take a moment with what each of these ideologies actually is.
    • Intersectionality: “An analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.” (Wikipedia)  It appears that intersectionality is not a set ideology, but rather a problem-solving method for discerning how aspects of society can oppress the marginalized in society.  Saying this contradicts scriptures is like saying using a calculator or psychology contradicts it, far too generalized too actually mean anything.  In addition, we can consistently find in both the New and Old Testaments teachings and commandments to lift up the marginalized in society, specifically forming a key part of Jesus’ ministry.
    • Radical feminism: “A perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts.” (Wikipedia)  First of all, it’s important to note that no perspective within feminism believes or calls for women ruling over or being treated “more equal” than men.  If someone believes and/or acts upon that, they are no longer a feminist.  Throughout most of Church history, we have seen Christians striving to change society (and often succeeding) for better or worse.  And hopefully, now we all view men and women as equal and believe they should be treated as such.  Again, nothing un-Christian here, though you are welcome to disagree with this approach to feminism personally (I myself tend to lean more towards traditional Liberal feminism with a tinge of Black and Marxist feminism).
    • Critical race theory: “A theoretical framework in the social sciences that uses critical theory to examine society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power.” (Wikipedia)  This denial just has some nasty racial subtext.  It’s essentially calling for freedom from accountability of Christianity’s racist past.  No, not all Christians supported slavery, and while they were also at the forefront of the abolition movement, just as many if not arguably more supported it.  The problem is Scripture can be twisted to mean almost anything you want, often leading to oppression/exclusion.  So denying a research method that seeks to examine racism in society betrays underlying beliefs of the documents’ creators.
  • “WE AFFIRM that God created every person equally in his own image. As divine image-bearers, all people have inestimable value and dignity before God and deserve honor, respect and protection.”  No complaints here, I actually like this one.
  • “We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standard of righteousness.”  There’s a difference between literal biblical and Christian righteousness.  One often calls for violence and oppression, the other will always call for peace.  Once again, the problem with following a “biblical” model of righteousness is that the Bible can be twisted into almost whatever you want, evidenced best in the slavery/abolition debate.  Both justified themselves with Scripture, but clearly only one was Christian.
  • “WE DENY that any obligation that does not arise from God’s commandments can be legitimately imposed on Christians as a prescription for righteous living.”  Unfortunately, the Abrahamic law does not cover all possible legal or moral issues, and some of it clearly very wrong (as Jesus himself taught).  There are many things that nearly all Christians (and people in general) consider wrong, but are not explicitly covered in the Bible.  Once again, this denial is an attempt to escape accountability, because “if it’s not explicitly there they should not be bound legally by it.”
  • “WE AFFIRM that all people are connected to Adam both naturally and federally.” Please define and justify the statement “connected to Adam…federally”.
  • “WE DENY that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel.”  Yes, the gospel books are themselves complete.  However, the Gospel itself is the Good News, which can be summed by both the Great Commandment (Love God, Love others) and the Great Commission (Go forth and spread the Good News).  I would think the Great Commandment includes Social Justice, and the Great Commission is not really directly related to, being in itself concerned with evangelism.
  • “Further, all who are united to Christ are also united to one another regardless of age, ethnicity, or sex. All believers are being conformed to the image of Christ.”  While noticeably lacking in a few demographics, I have not contention with this statement.
  • “We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.” Technically true but laws and regulations can reduce sinful behavior, especially that which bring harm to others.
  • WE AFFIRM that heresy is a denial of or departure from a doctrine that is essential to the Christian faith.”  I really don’t see what this section is doing in a statement on Social Justice.  The only reason I could think of is the authors are basically saying “If you don’t agree with us, you’re not a real Christian”.  So to the other 40,000+ Christian denominations out there, many of whom view Social Justice as a positive force or for some even an integral part of Christianity, sorry.  I guess according to these guys your fake.
  • Most of the “Sexuality and Marriage” section Regardless of what you think about subjects such as gay marriage, we really need to stop saying sexual orientation is a choice (because it’s not).  In addition, their statements on gender expression are wrong, because “male” and “female” does not mean the same thing in every part of the world.  Western gender norms are quite different than those we would see in biblical times, as well.  And conversion therapy?  Just no.
  •  The entire “Complementarianism” section: Separate but equal is not equal.
  • “All that is good, honest, just, and beautiful in various ethnic backgrounds and experiences can be celebrated as the fruit of God’s grace.” Fair enough. It’s an old concept, but it checks out.  Move along.
  • “WE AFFIRM that racism is a sin” I hope so.
  • “We deny that systemic racism is in any way compatible with the core principles of historic evangelical convictions.” Here it is, literal, explicit, they’re saying it themselves, no subtext required denial of Christianity’s role in racism.  No, racism is not Christian, and no, not all Christians back then were racist but racism and slavery were most definitely convictions of not just evangelical Christianity but other groups as well for hundreds of years.  This is an explicit denial, not an apology or even an explanation!
  • “Historically, such things [Discussions of Racism] tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.” So the church discussing racism will ultimately lead to departure from the good news…not sure I follow.

 

Ok, so maybe I looked at more than a few points, but it was kinda’ hard not to.

Is an interest in Social Justice actually newfound in Christianity?  If you know your history (or have access to Google), it appears not: “The Gospel,” preached abolitionist Gilbert Haven in 1863, “is not confined to a repentance and faith that have no connection with social or civil duties. The Evangel of Christ is an all-embracing theme.” (https://www.dallasnews.com)

A recurring theme in many Biblical teachings is caring for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, and lifting them out these situations.

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Mathew 25:40, NRSV)

A significant part of Jesus’ ministry involved social justice.  His teachings were radical and viewed as “heresy” by many of the leading religious leaders at the time.  I truly hope this document represents a minority belief in American Christianity, but it’s over 8,000 signers (at the time of this writing) suggest otherwise.  To reject social justice is to reject the Gospel itself.

 

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Not Gnostism

This post is going to be dedicated to resolving a misconception that’s come up several times in multiple groups and churches I’ve been a part of/attended.  It’s going to deal with Church History, an area that’s often not taught or mistaught because frankly, it’s not of interest or even relevant to most people.  And that’s perfectly fine, but it interests me and if you’re reading my blog it must interest you or you’re very bored and have nothing better to do.  Now, let’s look at the issue at hand.

Multiple times now, from multiple groups, individuals, and churches, I’ve heard people claims the Johannes letters (1, 2, 3 John in the New Testament) are in condemnation of Gnosticism “running rampant” in the early church.  A couple of times (though not nearly as often) I’ve heard this said about a few of the Pauline Epistles as well.  This bothers me because not only does it reflect a lack of accurate knowledge of Church History it also shows a misunderstanding of what Gnosticism is in and of itself.  Here’s why:

  1. Gnosticism did not even exist at the time this letters were written: That’s right, Gnosticism truly didn’t exist until the early third century one to two hundred years after these letters were written.  You could argue that the individuals/groups being criticized held “proto-gnosticist” beliefs, but that’s an entirely different thing and difficult if not impossible to prove.
  2. Gnosticism initially coexisted with other Christian beliefs: Gnostic Christians and other Christian groups did not conflict until the end of the 4th century, when the proto-orthodox church began to determine orthodox and heterodox.  The early Christian church did not have cohesive beliefs, and many of the more predominant at the time “orthodox” beliefs are not held by most (especially western) Christians today.
  3. Paul himself was a Proto-Gnosticist: Paul was (and to a few today is) held as the “father of gnosticism”.  Now, this really is entirely accurate (as I’ll explain in the next bullet) but he definitely held proto-gnosticist beliefs.  He advocated asceticism, was (at least for the time) radically feminist, and even went so far as to testify before an early Christian court that his Christian knowledge was superior to others because Jesus came to him in a vision (aka “secret knowledge”) and he was opposed to legalism and traditional Jewish customs/regulations.  All of these (and I’m sure there’s others) were hallmark beliefs of proto-Gnosticism, and the early Gnostic Christians held Paul’s letters in high regard.  Now, this is not to say Paul was a Gnostic (he would have probably been sharply opposed to later-on Gnosticism) but it is unlikely in his letters when he rebuked false teachers and doctrine (which is ironic considering some of that comes from forged letters) he was addressing proto-gnosticists.
  4. Gnosticism isn’t inherently Christian and doesn’t represent a single belief set: While the early development of Gnosticism is closely associated with Christianity, the two are by no means mutually exclusive.  In fact mainstream Gnosticism shares more in common with Judaism and also stems from dozens of other religions and philosophies.  In addition Gnosticism is not a single religion, it’s like calling Hinduism a religion, it’s extremely misleading.  Gnosticism represented a range of beliefs, some branches of which had no connection with Christianity at all.  Back when Gnosticism was even really a thing (though I am aware there are a few Gnostics today) they didn’t call themselves Gnostics, just as the early Christians didn’t initially call themselves “Christians”.

Hopefully I’ve shed light on this issue, even if it doesn’t really bother most people (which is fine), but it bothered me so I decided to write a short rant on it.  Yes, the Pauline and Johannine epistles did feature rebukes of teachings viewed as false or heretical by their authors (though depending on the issue not necessarily the early Church) but it would literally have been impossible for it to be a refutation of Gnosticism, and at least in Paul’s case it is unlikely he would have criticized the then extant emerging ideologies of proto-Gnosticism.  If anyone knows where this misconception originated from, please let me know, because I tried googling it and found very little, so you’d make my day if you did.  That’s it for this post, so have a good rest of your day.

 

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Hey Game Developers: Make Your Video Game Trailers like This If You Want Me to Buy Them

Hey everyone, this week I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite video game trailers and discuss why I love them.  Two AP English classes have made me fairly critical, and unfortunately/fortunately I overanalyze stuff now, which in fairness works with this post.

Before I get started, I’m going to briefly touch upon what types of games I like.  The first thing I look for in a game is a great story and characters, and it’s pretty rare for me to play/enjoy a game that doesn’t at least have some effort put into the writing and story.  The second thing I look for, or rather listen for (pun totally intended), is a good soundtrack.  If I’m going to be spending a decent chunk of time playing something, I want there to be a memorable score (or in some cases curated actual music) that is emotionally evocative and fits well with the purpose of a scene.  This explains why many of my favorite games have larger soundtracks, with each scene having at least a unique arranged BGM (background music).   After music, I look for graphics/gameplay.  A key part of a good video game is immersion, and clunky gameplay and graphics can easily get in the way of this.  I don’t care if the graphics are photorealistic, but I do want them to have effort put into them and fit the tone of the game.  Lastly, I look for replay value.  I don’t usually replay games, and I don’t really actively look for this in a game.  However, in the rare case when I do find a game with good replay value, that’s always a plus.  More bang for my buck.

Having discussed that, there is a difference between a good game and a good game trailer.  They’re two completely different art forms.  Video game trailers used to be an afterthought thrown together at the end of a game’s development cycle.  Now whole studios exist just for the sake of creating trailers, and trailers can sometimes make or break a game.  So here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite video game trailers:

  • Banner Saga (Launch Trailer)

A fine example of a cinematic trailer that showcases some of the game’s best moments without spoiling the plot.  Set to an evocative track (That unfortunately never made it into the final game.  At least the final OST is still fantastic) this trailer excellently portrays the dramatic contrast between bleak and beautiful that is the Banner Saga.

  • This War of Mine (Teaser Trailer)

The teaser trailer for This War of Mine does an excellent job of setting up your expectations and then dashing them.  Sure, it’s a “war game” but definitely not in the traditional sense.   While it’s absent in the beginning the end of the trailer does a nice job of showing off the pencil-sketch aesthetic of the games.  Also, the trailer is set to the beginning of Gyöngyhajú Lány, an iconic Eastern European Prog-Rock song, which conveys a sense of “iconic-ness” to aware audiences.

  • Tropico 6 (Announcement Trailer):

While this game may not be out yet, Tropico 6’s announcement trailer gives us a pretty good idea of what to expect without showing any actual gameplay footage.  More of the absurdist, satirical Dictator-Simulator gameplay and story, all the while subtly teasing new features.  It even manages to take a few subtle jabs at the current political clime, cementing it as “relevant” (of course who knows if they’ll be relevant when the game comes out, development cycles are rife with delays these days).

  • The Pillars of the Earth (Launch Trailer)

Several times this launch trailer reminds you of it’s narrative-based and novel-derived gameplay.  And while it could be argued that adventure games like this are basically interactive cutscenes, remarkably this entire trailer consists solely of actual gameplay footage (all of which looks great).

  • Telltale’s Walking Dead: The Final Season (General Trailer)

By not focusing on zombies, and rather on people, Telltale reminds the audience of what their series is all about.  It does an excellent job of making an ordinarily mundane nursery rhyme into something unnerving.  It also hints at the unsettling differences between our world’s childhood and that of the apocalypses’.   And finally, it ends with a “throwback” image, which immediately feels familiar to series fans, and frankly, anyone who’s ever been on the internet, raising hopes that it will be a return to form after the (mostly) terrible third season.

  • Sunless Skies (Early Access Trailer #2)

Fast-paced and filled with rapid-fire images, the Albion Region trailer for Sunless Skies shows off the games ability to balance the absurd and serious.

  • Final Fantasy XV (PS4 Trailer)

This trailer may have too much going on, but that’s exactly what makes it great.  Final Fantasy XV is a big game that mashes together a traditional fantasy world with realism.  The PS4 trailer does a good job of showing off the gameplay, story, major characters, and stunning graphics of the game.

  • Banner Saga 3 (Music Preview)

What, I’m not allowed to do the same series twice?  I can’t help if Stoic is really good at making trailers!  I love how this trailer focuses on the music of the game, all while managing to sneak a few fleeting glimpses of new footage in at the same time.

 

That’s all I have for this post!  Thanks for taking the time to read (and watch), make sure to link to or name your favorite game trailer in the comments!

 

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Support me on Patreon!

Hey everyone, I’ve opened up a Patreon for my blog!  What this means is that you’ll continue to have ad-free unrestricted viewing of all of my past, present, and future posts.  What this also means is that you can now use the secure, trusted Patreon platform to support me and my blog.  While relatively inexpensive, maintaining my blog is not free, and it can also take a great deal of time and research and to write some of my posts.  From now on I am going to make sure to write at least a post a week (barring any unfortunate accidents) even if it’s just some random rambling or weird/funny personal anecdote.  You can pledge as little as $1 a month to me or in theory as much as you want (though I’ve created a recommended cap of $25).  Any amount is helpful and will allow me to continue to provide quality content and even expand what I already have in the future.  If you are unable to pledge any money (or for whatever reason don’t want to) you are still free to read my blog free of charge.  I do not currently have any incentives attached to the Patron tiers, but I am working to introduce some in the future (such as T-shirts, early access to posts, etc.).  You can become one of my Patrons or learn more by clicking the link below.

 

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A Brief Clarification on Universal Healthcare

Hey everyone, today I’m going to briefly discuss a few objections to Universal Health Care in the United States of America.  This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive list, nor is it in any way meant to say that there are no concerns regarding Universal Health Care.  I also am not advocating any specific method Universal Healthcare should be implemented–I’m not a healthcare expert or a Politician, so I’m not particularly qualified to do so.  However, I can address a few misunderstandings and hopefully promote a discussion on how to fix the healthcare crisis in the US.

  1. Universal Healthcare Is a Step Close to a Communist America: First, I would like to discuss the difference between Communism and Socialism, because while there is overlap between the two they are two entirely different concepts, such as a hot dog and a sandwich.  Communism is government ownership of the means of production, such as factories, mines, and farms.  Socialism is the redistribution of wealth.  While “redistribution of wealth” may sound scary, all it means is that funds provided through taxes are used to provide a service to citizens.  If you support public schools, fire departments, and even a military, then you support “the redistribution of wealth”.  More importantly, having socialized policies does not make a country a socialist country.  Our country has had socialized policies before socialism was even a thing (And so has virtually any country with a government, because that’s what a government does, provide services.  Well, part of what it does).  Likewise, just because a country like Denmark has capitalist policies (such as private ownership of property and means of production) does not make it a capitalist country.
  2. America Already Has Systems in Place to Provide Healthcare for Those Who Truly Need It: Yes, America does have services such as Medicare and Medicaid that provide health care to millions of needy Americans.  These services are far better than nothing and truly do a lot of good.  However, they are inadequate and alienate many needy people.  A large part of the problem is the Poverty Threshold.  Those who fall at or below the Poverty Threshold are legally considered to be in a state of “Absolute Poverty” and qualify for certain types of government aid.  Those who are slightly above the Poverty Threshold may qualify for reduced or partial aid.  What makes the Poverty Threshold problematic, however, is the formula behind it.  The current formula for the Poverty Threshold has existed since the 1950’s, and is “Cost_Of_Foodx3”.  Back in the 1950’s, food was the largest expense for a family, and this formula largely worked.  However, this is no longer the case.  Advances in storage and transportation, as well as agricultural technology, have lead to food being one of the cheapest expenses for a family.  Changing society and economy has caused things such as insurances, childcare, and debt to become a much larger expense.  Because food is no longer the largest expense for families, this formula no longer holds up in today’s world.  It causes millions of Americans who fall into the category of “Relative Poverty” (meaning they make less than the average amount for comparably sized family units) instead of “Absolute Poverty”, where they should probably belong.  Because of this, they no longer have access to the same benefits, even if they need them, or only have access to insufficient benefits.
  3. America Cannot Afford Universal Healthcare: Actually, it can, and it would potentially be cheaper than the hodgepodge of solutions we have now.  According to a 2018 (meaning recent) Harvard Study, America spends proportionately more on Healthcare per resident than other developed countries (the overwhelming majority of which have Universal Healthcare) yet has “the shortest life expectancy and highest infant and maternal mortality rates among any of its peers”.  This is not saying that the exact systems these other countries have would work in America, but is saying there’s a strong correlation between Universal Health Care and an overall higher standard of living.  It also shows that a single-payer system universally (pun totally intended) actually costs less than a mixture of subsidized and private healthcare we have today.  Another issue is decreasing regulation on the prices of medication.  With many types of medication, there is very little (if any) regulation on the cost Labs can charge for medications.  While they are going to have to charge more money than it costs to produce the medication to make up research costs (research is expensive and lengthy) they are charging exorbitantly more, sometimes exponentially greater.  Many of these medications are sustainably sold in other countries at lower, more affordable rates.

Hopefully, for the three issues I discussed tonight you’ll come out with a greater understanding of them.  Some of you may even disagree with Universal Health Care as the solution, but I hope that at least you recognize the need for a solution.

“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.” Deuteronomy 15:7

 

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An Apology for the Lack of Posts

Hey everyone, I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies for the utter lack of blog posts in the past couple of months.  Due to a salmagundi of different reasons, I’ve been busy and while I probably could have found the time to at least throw together a post of some sort I did not.  With that being said, I have a miscellany of ideas I’m looking forward to writing about, some fun, some serious, and some that are way out of the ballpark.  You can look forward to topics ranging from theology to culture to movies to books to TV shows to Church history to random musings to more.  Thanks again for being patient, and I’ll see you (well, figuratively speaking) again next week!

 

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The Purpose of the Church

Hey guys, I’m back from my unannounced and unplanned hiatus, AKA I was busy for a few weeks.  Today’s post is going to be over a brief, but important topic.

While most churches (and denominations) do fulfill the Bible’s calling for the purpose of the Church, sometimes we as believers tend to forget them, or hyperfocus on one of them (when all are equally important).  Perhaps you’ve never even thought of what the purpose of the church is.  I’ve divided the purpose of the Church into three main missions.  Yes, I’m sure many of you can think of other further purposes (Why not leave your thoughts in the comment section below) but for clarity and brevity’s sake, I’ve gone with three.  Three’s also a good number, so why not.  Oh, and when I say the Church I mean the institution of the Church, not the Church as in all of Christianity.  Also, the following three are in no particular order.

  1. Growing Together in Faith: While it’s more than possible to be a follower of Christ and not attend a church (in fact for some this may be best) for most attending a church of some form is an enriching experience.  Being around other believers, discussing the Bible, and just living life together is good.  A good sermon can challenge you, to either change an aspect of the way you live or to further seek out what the preacher meant and what the scriptures say.  I could go on further, but this is a bit of a summary post, so I won’t.
  2. Fulfilling the Great Commission: Jesus calls for believers to “Go forth and make disciples”.  Being a part of a church makes this much easier.  Most churches have a myriad variety of outreach and evangelism opportunities.  You could do this on your own, but organizing and enacting on the same scale just isn’t practical or feasible.  In addition, activities tend to be funner (oh yes, I just got conjugated ‘fun’ like that) when you do them with others.  This coming from an introvert.
  3. Fulfilling the Great Commandment: Jesus didn’t just give us the Great Commission, he also gave us the Great Commandment: “Love God, Love Others”.  This is the summary of the Law that applies to us Christians according to the New Covenant.  Not only are we supposed to seek a relationship with God, but also with others.  We are called for improving our community, and helping others, regardless of if they are different than us, regardless of if we agree with them. (See my earlier post for more on this topic).  Who is our neighbor?  Frankly, everyone.  There are many organizations out there dedicated to the mission of social work, Christian, non-christian and secular.  Social Work and community service may not have been invented by Christianity, but it is certainly a tenant we are supposed to live by.  As a church, you should be involved in your community, and if possible for your congregation, the wider world.

So that’s my take on the purpose of the church.  These functions will look different from church to church, from culture to culture, but I believe in some form they should be present.  “Let God’s Will be Done, On Earth as it is in Heaven“.  The Church should ideally be a reflection of what Heaven will one day look like, and by building each other up, sharing His message, and helping others, we can achieve this.

 

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On Introversion

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone wrongly use or define the word introversion, I would have an unspecified, but large pile of change somewhere in my room.  Just as I am guilty of properly using obscure and big words properly but mispronouncing them, many people are guilty of pronouncing words right but using them improperly.  So in this brief (at least in comparison to my last two posts) I will attempt to explain introversion.

First, I would like to clarify, introversion does not mean antisocial or not liking to spend time with people and being extroverted does not mean being social and being a people-person.  Instead, Introversion and Extroversion refer to how we recharge our social energies.  Just as people have physical energy, which largely comes from eating and sleeping, people have several types of “psychic” (not the ESP kind, the Psychology kind) energies, such as spiritual, sexual, moral.  Social also happens to be one of them.  Introverts and Extroverts both have social energy (in fact many Introverts technically have more of it than extroverts) but they differ in how the refuel when exhausted.

Introverts refuel their social energy by being alone.  The ways they recharge vary greatly, ranging from reading to TV to being outside to playing a sport to even being online.  Many (if not most) introverts like being around people, and may even act “hyper-social” for short amounts of time.  However, after an extended amount of time around other people, they need to be alone or risk “shutting down” or in extended cases even depressed.

Extroverts, on the other hand, recharge their social energy by being around other people.  They still need some alone time once in a grand while, but they thrive being around other people.  If not around others for a long period of time, they will often find themselves tired.  It’s important to note that no person is 100% introverted or extroverted.  Everyone is a mix of the two, falling somewhere along the spectrum, usually further along one end.

So, what kind of introvert am I?  On literally every MBTI (Myer-Briggs) and Neris Type Explorer I’ve taken, I have the blessing and curse of being an INFJ (on a side note if you’re curious of what your personality type is you can find out here).  One of the rarest types in the world, the INFJ has the unique privilege of being a bundle of contradictions.  You see, among other things, INFJ’s are what is known as “emotionally extroverted”.  This means that while they are really good at reading other people’s emotions, like really good, they are often clueless of their own.  This is why they need to spend alone time so they can spend time “introspecting” and subconsciously analyzing their own feelings.  INFJ’s often seem to be extroverts until they “shut-down”.  They are arguably one of the most introverted types out there, despite how much of people persons they are.  So why go into this detail about myself, in spite of the fact I dislike talking about myself?  To prove a point.  There are different types of introverts, and we become emotionally drained for different reasons.  Introversion isn’t just about emotions though.

Because of the “common-knowledge” belief that introverts are anti-social, there hasn’t been as much research into them as extroverts. However, in recent years it’s become apparent that there’s a disparity between how Psychologists and some introverts describe introversion.  Not all introverts are emotionally introverted.  Jonathan Cheek, a researcher at Wellesley College has in fact observed 4 types of introverts: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Reserved.  As we learn more and more about introverts, it becomes more and more clear we only understand the tip of the iceberg.

So what’s the takeaway from this?  What introversion actually means.  Yes, introverts need more alone time than extroverts, and yes, some are anti-social (just as some extroverts are anti-social) but that doesn’t mean that introversion and being anti-social are mutually exclusive.  That’s it for now, enjoy the rest of your day.  Or don’t.  Your choice.

 

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Why I Support Female Pastors: Or, That Feminism Post: Part Two

When I decided to write a post about Feminism, I decided to write it through a lens that many of readers would easily recognize, and maybe even find relevant to their own experiences.  Few issues within the Church today face as much contention as female authority, and by examining God’s timeless word and pulling His teachings out of it, I hope to clarify what is really a simple quandary with a simple truth.  If you didn’t read last week’s post, I strongly suggest you read it before continuing here, because it lays the groundwork for what I’ll be discussing here.  You can read it here or by scrolling down on my homepage.

My last post focused on the Old Testament, and honestly, I probably could’ve written a whole series on that alone just because of how much material is in there.  This week’s post will focus on the New Testament,  which is thankfully slimmer and a bit more straight-forward to read.  That being said, I still probably won’t address every applicable verse and/or passage, but I do hope to look into some of the most relevant and contested ones.  If there are any verses you think I left out that should have been included, or if you have a different interpretation of them, feel free to comment at the bottom of the page and I’d be to address/discuss them with you.

First, I’d like to point out the fact that yes, there are no female pastors in the Bible.  I’d also like to point out the fact there are no male pastors either, except Jesus.  The Greek word we get pastor from, poimēn, means Shephard.  Only once in the entire New Testament is this word ever used as a noun to describe someone, and that one time is to describe Jesus.  So in reality, the Bible did not have today’s current concept of pastor we have.  That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with today’s concept of a pastor, though.  In fact, I think it’s great, and it’s merely an evolution of the ministerial role to fit today’s needs.  So while you can argue that there were no female pastors in the Bible, you do have to acknowledge that there were no male as well.

Some of you may be wondering if there were no pastors in the Bible, then where on earth did we even get the idea from?  Well, for those of you who were thinking that; that’s a very good question!   For those of you who weren’t thinking that, are you sure you’re not just skimming this blog post?  In the New Testament, we see two early church leadership roles described by Paul: The Minister, and the Deacon.  The Minister is fairly similar to the current concept of a Pastor, they would teach their congregation.  The Deacon was a delegate who the Minister would assign various tasks two to lighten their load.  Parallels to this structure can be seen in the Old Testament, with Moses and the Levites.

So, what about female pastors and deacons?  Well, I’m glad you asked, because I have several clear examples I’ve found in the Scriptures:

  1. Phoebe: In Romans 16, Paul commends to the Church in Rome “our sister Phoebe who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea.”.  The word servant here is important, because in Greek it is the word Diakonos.  However, the fact that this word is translated to servant is a bit odd.  Diakonos is used in 23 other places throughout the New Testament, including by Paul to describe himself.  What is this word translated to?  Minister.  So why then, is it translated to “servant”, when in so many other places, in the same context, is used as Minister?  The answer is, translator’s bias.   Whether on purpose, or more likely just tradition, this keyword has been mistranslated, to much error.
  2. Priscilla: In the same passage, Paul addresses Priscilla and Aquila, who “held a church in their home”.  Aquila is a man’s name, while Priscilla is a woman’s name.  During this time period, in just about every culture, you listed a man’s name first in an address, because they were the head of their house.  However, here we see Paul address the women first, not just as the head of their house, but as the head of their church.  While both were Ministers in their church, we clearly see that Priscilla is the dominant one, at least in Paul’s opinion.  And again, only two chapters only, we see Priscilla and Aquila take Paul aside and address him on a theological issue.  Again, Priscilla is mentioned first in this passage, explicitly denoting a dominant role.  This is a powerful example of how God calls both Men and Women to leadership roles of all kinds, and of the difference between Christ and Culture.
  3. Junia: In verse seven of Chapter 16, Paul addresses Andronicus and Junia who are of note among the apostles.  In the early Church, to be called an apostle was one of the highest honors, and reflected a great level of devotion to the Lord.  We see here that while not the greatest of the Apostles, Junia was of note among them.

Now, I will address a few “commandments” of Paul that at first glance seem to forbid women from leadership positions.  Firstly, 1 Corinthians 14:34 was probably not written by Paul.  This verse calls for women to be “silent and submissive” and not teach “in accordance with the law”.  While still included in some modern translations, this verse is widely regarded as a forgery by most Biblical scholars.  It does not appear in earlier manuscripts of the letter, differs in writing style from Paul, and seemingly contradicts his other teachings (we just got done talking about his praise for female pastors and deacons).  So this verse should not be used in arguments, and honestly shouldn’t even be in the bible, as it’s authenticity is sketchy at best.

Another letter (Timothy) by Paul calls for women to not teach men.  This letter is actually calling for women to not be in pastoral positions, but it is very important to understand the context.  Most of Paul’s letters were not originally intended to be shared, they were personal letters to certain people or to specific churches.  This is one of those examples.  In the city Timothy was in, women in leadership roles were often associated with cult priestesses, who engaged in bizarre and certainly not Christian teachings and rituals.  As Christianity was new and attempting to set itself apart from the pagan traditions and religions that coexisted alongside it, anything that could undermine this effort is moot.  Converts and people who heard of Christianity in this city would assume that it was no different.  That is why having a female pastor in this situation would serve as a distraction and detract from Christianity’s message.  It is also important to realize that Paul says he is not currently allowing women to be pastors in this location.  He fully intends to integrate this in the future, just not at the moment.  This is the same reason as to why Paul tells women to cover their hair in Timothy, because in the city he was in any women not wearing head coverings was pretty much assumed to be a cult prostitute.  Again, Christianity was meant to be set apart, they would not want it to be confused with other religions.

If you read last week’s post, then you might remember how I discussed that before the Fall men and women were equal to each other.  As any scholar of the Bible will tell you, God intends for humanity to be returned to the Eden model.  This isn’t just in terms of our relationship with God, but also with our relationship with each other.  Paul affirms this in Galatians:

 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond-servant nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. 

In Christ, we are all equal, not any higher or lower than each other.  We can also see this Jesus’s own teachings and actions, he treated men and women the same, talking to all in a similar manner.  Some of his most devoted followers were women, such as Mary and Mary-Magdalene.  So great was their faith that after Jesus’s resurrection they were first to be informed by the angel, not any of his male followers.  This is a strong statement, especially in the ancient world, because women were usually regarded as unreliable witnesses.  We can see clearly that Paul is trying to continue the good work started by Jesus, which is not just evangelism, but also positive social change.

Now that I’ve gone over what the bible has to say, I’m going to spend a little time here at the end to go over inconsistencies in the arguments and policies of those who are opposed to female pastors or women in other leadership roles.  Many churches, such as the Southern Baptist Convention (I only use them because they are the denomination I am most familiar with) allow women to have pastoral equivalent roles, such as Worship leader or Missionary, or even as a Children’s pastor.  They don’t however, allow for women to be head pastors.  This makes no logical sense, because assuming that Paul is against women in authority they shouldn’t have any of these roles, not just some of them.  Others may be fine with a woman being their boss at work but would be against a woman having equal or dominant authority in a family.  These policies and beliefs reek of hypocrisy and double standards and only cause harm.

You see, even if you truly do believe in traditional gender roles, you actually do your church and Christianity a disservice.  There are many talented women out there, just as there are talented men, and by not allowing them to have leadership roles, you hurt your church and thus the Church by wasting that skill.  And think of the hurt you cause these women, as many feel called to ministry and other leadership roles by the Lord, but are in turn spurned (rhyme completely unintended) from their calling.  The sheer unjustness and travesty of these types of situations just appall me, and it has to stop.  We wonder why people today are leaving Christianity in great numbers, especially in areas like Europe.  Look no further than issues like this, for while hardly the sole reason why they are certainly a part of the problem.

Now, a moment of clarification.  I’m all for empowering women, but there’s also nothing wrong with men in authority.  Men are equally skilled and competent, and most male pastors and deacons I’ve met actively strive to follow the Word and live a Godly life.  There’s nothing wrong with men being in the dominant role in a family or workplace either, all I mean to say is that this is not the only way and is not explicitly or implicitly called for by God, and the best way would be in equal authority.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part post, and even if I didn’t change your mind, I hope at least it made you think.  And to the non-Christians reading this, I hope you realize that not all Christians are sexist, nor are the teachings of the Bible.  Instead, we see that sexism is wrong, and comes from sin.  My hope is that someday all Christians and all other people as well can agree on this.

 

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Why I Support Female Pastors: Or, That Feminism Post: Part One

Growing up in several evangelical churches, a phrase I have often heard is “Christ and Culture”.   This phrase generally refers to the difference (real or imagined) between biblical values/lifestyle and those of a secular or atheistic lifestyle.  While “Christ and Culture” is not a phrase you often see applied to the church itself, that is exactly what I intend to do today.

If by chance you have not picked up on it yet, today (or whatever day you happen to be reading this) I plan on talking about the ordination of women and in extension supposed “gender” roles assigned or intended for men and women.  Before I go further, I have a few things to clarify.  While the topics discussed in this post are going to focus primarily on the teachings of evangelical Christianity, I am by no means saying that all evangelical denominations and Christians are opposed to the ordination of women (The Lutheran church and most United European churches do for example).  Likewise, not all mainline denominations and Christians support the ordination of women (such as the Catholic church and Edit: I was informed the United Methodist Church does ordain women and always has.  My apologies for this error.most United Methodist churches).  There is a great variation of beliefs in denominations (and nondenominational churches), however, the general consensus of evangelical churches is that women should not be head pastors and that God instructs men and women to follow strict roles.  With that clarification set aside, I will now move on.

In the beginning….well, a lot of stuff happened, but arguably one of the most important things was the creation of humanity.  Living, breathing, completely self-aware and sentient creatures who were capable of having a relationship with God.  And at first, there was just one, man.  The first man’s name was Adam, and God tasked him with the upkeep of the garden (of Eden) and with naming all the creatures that resided in it.  After this was done, God saw that man was lonely, and thus enacted the next part of his plan.  It was not good for man to be alone, so he created a “helper” (more on that word in a minute) for him.

A bit of a side note, but I’ve always found this interesting: God didn’t necessarily make women from Adam’s rib.  In fact, the word used in Genesis refers to any biopsy, or more literally “section of flesh”.  While it’s quite possible women was made from one of Adam’s ribs, this is one of those things like the forbidden fruit being an apple, we really just don’t know.

Anyways, time to get back on topic.  The word most often translated as “helper” has raised a lot contention.  Often used to justify a complementary (but not inherently diminutive) role for women, “helper” is interpreted as an assisting role.  However, when we examine the actual word in question we see this is not the case.  The word most commonly translated as helper is ēzer k’negdô which literally means “help-meet”.  Again, in a literal context, this would refer to someone who met you where you were and lifted you out of your troubles through, well, help.  Literally, it refers to an equal role.  However, when we actually examine the context and parallel uses of ēzer things get even more interesting.  The word ēzer k’negdô is used many other times throughout the Bible, but never in a diminutive sense.  Elsewhere it is translated as “rescuer” and “savior” within similar contexts.  God himself is referred to as ēzer (salvation) several times.  So why then, is women referred to as the diminutive “helper”?   All evidence points to a cultural bias in the original English translators (*cough* *cough*, KJV, literally one of the word Bible translations available) that has been inadvertently emulated to this day.

Another interesting thing we see here early in Genesis is that both man and women are created in the image of God (tzelem Elohim).  It is not “man is created in the image of God” and then “woman is created in the image of man”.  No, both are created in the image of God!  To suggest that one is greater or more fit than the other borders on blasphemy in light of this.

So, I’ve examined the Biblical creation account to show that man and women were created equally and one is not created to be in subjugation to the other.  Now, I will examine the Fall and Original Sin to show where traditional gender roles came from.  While very few would say that sin was Eve’s fault, I would like to refute that argument nevertheless.  God has told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit and had commanded him to relay this to Eve as well.  Which he never did!  In addition, we see in Genesis 3:6 that Adam was right with her when she ate the fruit “….She took of its fruit and ate, and also gave some to her husband who was with her” (ESV).

Now, on to the consequences, or results of sin.  Also in Genesis 3, we see God tell Adam and Eve what the results of their sin would be.  For clarity’s sake, I’ve listed them out for you (though you’re welcome to pull out your own Bible if you’d like):

  1. Raising children would be tiresome work
  2. The Husband Will Rule Over the Wife
  3. As they are cast out of the Garden, they will now have to work for sustenance
  4. As they are sinners, spiritual death is now a threat

All four of these are important, but for the purpose of this post the first two I will focus on.  Often translated as “childbirth will be painful”, verse 18 is better translated as “rearing children will be toil”.  This is another example of weird translations of words in spite of context.  And next, “The Husband Will Rule Over the Wife”.  Neither of these consequences existed before the fall.  As I previously mentioned, both were created in the image of God.  So does this mean that this is what God wants?  No!  Look back at consequence number 4, does God want us to suffer permanent Spiritual death?  Of course not!  That’s why he sent his son.  To suggest that God wants us to participate in sin is silly, and glamorizes sin itself.  In the early chapters of Genesis, we are slowly introduced to various types of sin (such as murder with Cain and Abel), and patriarchy is one of them.

Well, it only took a thousand words to get through Genesis, so now we’re finally going to move on to another: Job.  Now wait, what does Job have to do with feminism?  Isn’t that the poem about the guy who had a really bad day?  Well, you’re certainly not wrong about that last point.  Historians believe that Job is the earliest written book in the Bible.  So, a reading of Job offers us a unique perspective into the early(ish) history and culture of mankind.  It is especially helpful in examining God’s intent, as Job is one of the godliest men in the Bible.  In chapter 42, after God blesses Job once again, he distributes his inheritance among his children.  But interestingly enough, he gives an equal share to his daughters!  This flies in the face of old world tradition.  You never gave your daughters our inheritance, you gave it to your sons! And while his sons also received an equal share in the inheritance, they are never even mentioned by name, in contrast to his daughters.  This also flies in the face of traditional Hebrew chronology, which at this time was based on of important men only (as the family name was passed down through men).  So the fact that the earliest-written Biblical account primarily mentions a man’s daughters as his successors is a pretty big deal. 

Finally, we will examine female prophets in the old testament.  The bible, especially the old testament, did not have the current concept of a pastor or priest that we have today.  The new testament has ministers, but the old testament had prophets.  Prophets took on many forms and spoke many messages.  But their primary purpose was to speak God’s will to his often-disobedient people.  And interestingly, there were exactly seven female prophets in the old testament (for those of you who have never attended church or studied the Bible, the number seven is kinda’ a big deal).  These prophets were: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Isaiah’s wife (we don’t know her name), Huldah,  Noadiah, Esther.  (There were other women who could have fit the prophetic role, but they are not explicitly referred to as prophetesses).  Now, I would love to talk about each of these individuals but for time’s sake, I will focus on one: Deborah (who is conveniently pictured above).

For those who may be a bit rusty on their bible stories, Deborah was a Judge, which was basically a Warrior-Priest that settled disputes in the time before Israel’s kings.  They could preach God’s Word and kick-butt.  So not only did Deborah teach mean, preach to men, she also led men.  In a time of war, the current commander of Israel’s rather ragtag army did not feel confident he could lead them to victory.  So Deborah agrees to help him command the army but tells him a woman will claim the victory because of this.  Indeed this was the case, as the women Jael ends up killing the enemy leader.

So that’s it for the old testament.  While I have not written up a comprehensive examination of God’s will for “gender roles” in the old testament (that would be a book, not a blog), I hope I have at least written a thorough summary.  Next week I will continue my study into the New Testament, especially the oft-misinterpreted letters of Paul.  Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to comment!

 

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