A THOUGHT ON BJUnity

Here are two stories:

First Story–

In 1993, a co-worker at BJU Press needed blood. Because I am O negative (universal donor), I naturally hopped over to the blood bank to donate. A few days later, they called me up, asked me to come in, and shattered my world: “Your blood was positive for HIV.” A re-test showed the same result. Brian was tested and found to be negative. We went to see Dr. Bob III.

I love Dr. Bob III. This was one of the Most Difficult Moments of my life, and he was there. He did not ask how this could have happened, nor did he judge me when I told him. He (figuratively) held my hand through ten days of nightmare until the health department called me back and said, “Sorry. It seems you react to the protein in the test. We apologize.”

Dr. Bob III was kind and fatherly in my fear, rejoiced with me in my happiness, and I have been grateful in all the years since.

Second Story—

Very recently, I had a problem in my marriage. I approached my husband on a very serious level and explained a few things to him. He heard me and said, “What else?” and “Is there anything else I can work on?” and “How can I love you better?” and “Please don’t hesitate to tell me when things like this come up, because I often don’t see what you’re feeling.”

The point from the first story is that I love Dr. Bob III, and the point from the second story is that it is important that a person who is being corrected be open to the correction and keep apologizing as long and as often as necessary to make things right.

BJU is often nit-picked about things that are little nothings, that don’t matter. When that happens, nothing needs to be done, and a comment such as, “Thanks for your input,” is sufficient. But when there is a real wrong to be corrected, it needs to be. Apologies are often appropriate, and sometimes the person needs to say—as my husband said to me—“Is there anything else?”

A few years ago, Dr. Stephen Jones apologized for BJU’s formerly racist stance vis-à-vis African-Americans. There is no use saying that “racist” is too harsh a word. It is an accurate word. The apology was appropriate and well stated, and although particular steps that I might take were I in charge of making a more culturally diverse community at BJU have not been taken, at least the words were spoken. It is the South after all, and there are still separate proms there.

(Funny story: When I was teaching at a public middle school in Hawaii, I asked one of my classes what they thought about racially-segregated proms. They all voted for separate proms, and I was horrified until one student raised his hand and said, “But Miss, if there aren’t separate proms, none of the white kids will get to dance.” Different place, different perspective.)

Now we have a different issue. Now there is an answer to the question, “And is there anything else I can change?” The answer is yes, and the people bringing the question have organized under BJUnity.

BJUnity is a group of former (and perhaps current) students and faculty who are homosexual. They are asking for three things:

1. Dr. Bob III to apologize for previous harsh statements against homosexuals, particularly statements indicating that homosexuality could be eradicated were all homosexuals to be stoned to death.

2. BJU to tone down the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric relating to sexuality.

3. Concerned and needy individuals to seek professional help and counseling, or, if suicide is contemplated, to contact 911 or the Trevor Project immediately.

As to the first point, Dr. Bob III does need to apologize for statements indicating that the “problem would be solved” if homosexuals were stoned “poste haste.” I don’t know what problem he was referring to, but even if he were speaking in general terms of The Sin Of Homosexuality, I am certain that no sin would ever be eradicated by the execution of all those currently engaged in it. (I can myself imagine gossiping wildly about all the gossipers who were just summarily executed.)

(Thank God we are dealing with Dr. Bob III here and not his father, may he rest in peace. Dr. Junior was a case, and I mean that, though I have fond memories of him. The fondest: We’re at Artist Series, up in the Rodeheaver balcony, and Dr. Junior pulls out a bag of candies and offers them to a couple of college boys, and the boys look at him all wide-eyed and say, “We can’t eat in here. It’s the rules,” and Junior looks back like, “I am the rules, have a candy.” Oh, and who can forget when he jumped out of the birthday cake?!)

(More parentheses: having fond memories about someone does not make him virtuous in every situation. I have a few fond memories of a man who beat me regularly and used this pet name: “You fucking whore.” Not to compare Dr. Junior to that former friend of mine, I’m just saying, sometimes you have to look past your fondness to see an important issue.)

An apology does not have to be like this: “I have changed my mind about what the Bible says, and I no longer believe homosexuality to be a sin, and I am sorry that I ever said that.” That would not be an apology. That would be a lie, and plus, he would lose his beautiful home, because the Trustees would have a corporate aneurysm, and they are very nice old people and we don’t want anything bad to happen to any of them.

An apology can be like this: “I am sorry I said that. I was wrong. Please forgive me,” and the people forgiving should just up and forgive and not nit-pick thus: “What exactly are you sorry about?” They should be gracious—and I think they are. Their web site is well spoken and organized. Their comments clear and not belligerant (unlike some of the less [at least to me] effective work of DoRightBJU).

On the second point—the chapel platform rhetoric—I think BJUnity is asking for a toning down of the fire-and-brimstone shouting that pinpoints and targets this particular behavior above and beyond any other particular behavior.

Seriously, there are so many things that Leviticus pronounces upon that we are not ever going to hear from the pulpit. For example, you will never hear a sermon on Leviticus 18:19, “Men, you must never ever have sexual intercourse with your wife when she is having her period. It is forbidden in Leviticus!” followed by an altar call.

I mean, come on, people, we are talking about people who do not even keep the Sabbath, but take their church bulletin to Shoney’s after church for 10% off the all-you-can-gluttonously-eat bar.

We pick, we choose: we determined somewhere in the march of church history that this particular sin was worse than all others, more deviant, more repulsive, more creepy, more degenerate, and that we would never ever budge in our stance against it and against those who practice it.

And when we pick and choose, we leave out those sins that we do, because those are not as bad—because we do them and we are very nice people—but Jesus doesn’t let us off.

Jesus says, “Whoso looketh.” Not whoso fantasizes or whoso grabs or whoso meets “by accident” in Asheville on the weekend. And in that “looketh” He nails the millions of Christian men who would have to be lined up and executed because they can’t keep their eyes off their computer screens. That’s not called abomination—that’s called Every Man’s Battle, dontcha know, while women weep and families are destroyed and men explain that they’re just weak and God made them that way and they can’t help it, and it isn’t a choice, and you should understand this is a hunger I can’t control, and I was born this way.

It is time for us to say sorry. It is time for us to say we don’t understand homosexuality, and we don’t get that particular urge, and we think your behavior is creepy, and we hope and beg and plead with you not to lure or entice or recruit our young people (in your evil, rampaging “agenda” that you only made up with the specific view of Destroying America), but we are sorry for calling you fags, and we are sorry we made your sin look more heinous than ours.

I am not homosexual. But I have my own sins. And really, my own sins are more awful, because it is more awful for a mother to cut her child down with harsh words than it is for a consenting adult couple to do whatever-they-do in the privacy of their own bedroom. It is more awful for a wife to look down her uppity-intellectual nose at her works-with-his-hands husband who doesn’t have an interest in theological minutiae that turn on Greek plurals.

The third point is that LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning) students and faculty (men and women who married to be “normal” when in actual fact . . . ) ought to get professional counseling, and if in crisis or contemplating suicide should contact the Trevor Project.

The point, I think (and I’m just guessing; I haven’t talked with anyone at BJUnity), is that it is important not to get your counseling from someone who wants to beat or pray the gay out of you. Maybe—maybe—God will at some point toggle the switch for you, but right now, in your present, when you think everyone hates you and everyone knows, or if they don’t know, you are afraid that if they find out they will despise you and shun you and mock you—right now, you need someone to say, “It’s okay. I’m here for you. You’re going to be okay.”

You’re going to be okay. Do. Not. Hurt. Yourself.

In sum, the stated goals of BJUnity are calm, reasoned goals, and each of them could save lives.

You know, don’t you, that Christian girls abort your grandchildren because they are afraid of you—that you will freak out, disown them, humiliate them in public, castigate, gossip, hate, bring it up til kingdom come instead of offering love, acceptance, forgiveness, peace, diapers and booties.

And you know, don’t you, that Christian young people kill themselves because they reach a place of hopelessness, lostness, despair because—for whatever reasons, and those reasons may be complex and they may not all be inborn—they feel sexual attraction to someone of their own gender and you can’t–you just can’t–give that other person a hug and say, “Welcome. Come, eat with us. What do you do for a living?”

No more of this. No more fear. Swallow your hate and your own fear (of being humiliated, of “losing” your children, of having people look at you across the congregation and then whisper to their pew-mate, “Look, that’s the one whose son went gay”) and be loving.

To the people who say, “But what about Romans 1? What about Leviticus 18? What about—?” I say, you cannot even see clearly to take this mote out of your fellow-believer’s sexuality because you are walking around with a log in your eye. To his own master he stands or falls. What about, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” The what abouts are endless. Just be kind.

I’m ashamed of myself that I didn’t sign the petition for the apology on race relations, and thanks are due to Dr. Stephen Jones (and please God may he recover his strength) for attempting to right the wrong perpetrated by the University against African-Americans for so long and blamed on Southern Culture.

But now here we have another opportunity to do the right thing—to be kind, to be nice, to say to students and faculty: “We love you. Jesus loves you,” etc.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve been forced to think about this for a long time. Too many people in my history, my life, my world are homosexual for me to avoid thinking about it.

No one is saying that BJU or Dr. Bob III or Dr. Stephen Jones or anyone needs to change their view on what the Bible teaches. No one is saying that the First Amendment right of Free Speech should be denied to any of these. But, what is being said is this: Please, we beg you, to refrain from speech of such harshness and immovability that people are killing themselves over your interpretation of what the Bible means.

Don’t worry—there will always be sins to rant about from the Chapel Platform. There are plenty of 250 pound faculty to rant at about gluttony, plenty of gossips in the offices, plenty of men lording it over their wives in ungodly domineering fashion, plenty of rude b*%&# women undermining their husbands in front of their children, plenty of students flaunting their rule-breaking on Facebook (“COLDPLAY FOREVER!”), plenty of girls marrying foolishly, and plenty of people profiting from the lottery . . . oh wait, that only used to be a sin. (No, no, says the person who takes this money, it’s only a sin to play the lottery. It’s not at all a sin to accept as a gift from the STATE [and you call yourself a Republican!] part of the money that was wasted on the lottery by someone who beggared his wife and children.)

One final comment: recently, during the DoRight episode, which I did not support–and which I thought was ill-conceived, though I understand the basis of the concern, it was brought to my attention that What BJU does is Nobody’s Business. This, of course, is not true. It is my business what my school does, even if I no longer attend and no longer work there. It is my business what is done in the name of my Savior. It is my business to make statements that might in some small way make it easier for children to walk through their lives, and it is my business if the children of my friends and fellow-alumni are reaching such depths of despair that they want to die. And so I write this.

Sharon Hambrick lives in California with her family. She holds a B.S. in History/Social Science from San Diego Christian College and a M.A. in Church History from Bob Jones University. She is the author of 11 children’s books published by Journeyforth, a division of BJU Press. She is currently in her third year of law studies at Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy, and yes, she is afraid of being tossed out of all these places for this post, but sometimes you have to say what you have to say, and really, you should not be afraid to say, “Be Nice.”

A THOUGHT ON KAZUO UEDA

It’s not everyday a feature on NPR lays me out cold, squeezes my heart, and causes me to rethink my entire life, but the story of Kazuo Ueda did just that.

Professor Ueda lives in the hills of Southern Japan. While studying German, he fell hopelessly, deeply in love. With Yiddish. So much so that he spent decades studying Yiddish—including taking several trips to Israel—for the sheer joy of realizing that a mish-mash tongue gathered up from Russian, German, and Hebrew, so forgotten that even few Jews understand it, could be untangled, ironed out and translated into Japanese.

Working alone, in every spare moment, Kazuo Ueda compiled the Japanese-Yiddish dictionary. Think about that. Think about that a lot.

There is no reason for a Japanese-Yiddish dictionary to exist except that Mr. Uedo wanted it to exist, toiled for decades for it to exist, gave of himself for it to exist. And now, what couldn’t be, is.

Lonely work done over a lifetime to produce a work of art that perhaps very few people will ever know about or care about. That most people will look at and say, “Why’d you do that?” or “What in the world?” or even “What a waste; think of the important work he could have done instead.”

You may be doing this sort of work. The seemingly small, seemingly—at least to others—unimportant task that you are joyfully pouring your life into. Others might have chosen to abort—you chose to carry that special needs child. Others might have left the injured soldier—you chose to stay: you chose to honor sacrifice with the kind of love that says, “Nothing is different; I married you, not your legs.” Others might have given in to the mid-life crisis, the come hither, the “no one needs to know.” You chose to wrench your mind and heart back home, even when home seems boring, even though you feel you want and deserve so much more.

You chose to keep grandma home, to go to grad school, to help at the shelter, to work extra hours to pay for village wells on the other side of the world, to sweep the corners no one sees. To do whatever you’ve chosen to do that others think is unnecessary, over the top, patently nuts. You’re doing an Ueda. Keep it up.

For the Christian, the truth is we need to become experts at this kind of intense, decades-long translation effort. The lifelong work of translating the Gospel–delivered long ago and usually presented in Shakespearean–into New Millenium American, into Contemporary Kid-ese, into 2012 Teenage-ian. We need to do this with care, with precision, with love.

We need to translate, “Their sins I will remember no more” into “Forgiveness means your alcoholism won’t be held against you; your gluttony won’t be held against you; your homosexuality, pornography, tax evasion, going 100 on I-95 and killing a family won’t be held against you because the price of that has been paid. Come to Jesus.”

We have to translate “God is love” into “Sally-ese” or “Johnny-ese” and say, “Yes, you told me to drop dead, and that hurts my heart, but just so you know, God won’t hold that against you, because Jesus already paid for that. That’s the Gospel. Come to Jesus.” Of course he’s still grounded—duh—and maybe during those lonely hours in his room, he’ll think about what you just said. Maybe he won’t. Doesn’t matter. You translated correctly.

Truth is, I usually separate my “grace talk” from my “Mommy talk,” and the “Are you kidding me? What were you thinking, son?” almost always wins when I am confronted with one more stupid-kid-behavior that could never in a million years have been prepped for. I need to work on my translation skills. I need to diagram my sentences with a lot more care.

The Japanese-Yiddish dictionary is 1,300 pages long and has 28,000 entries. Ouch. Meaning, Professor Ueda didn’t give up when the puzzle was intricate, the untangling difficult, or when he was tired or not feeling well. He kept at this lonely, joyful work knowing the world would not stand up and cheer. Knowing the world would say, “What the–?”

He plodded along, researched, stuck to it, lost his health to it (he now has Parkinson’s), and in the end, he finished his work. The dictionary is complete. It costs $700. Considering the work and the few copies available, this is a steal. You yourself have paid over $100 for a run-of-the-mill textbook some publishing house put out in two years by hiring out the chapters to experts who already knew the stuff. Here, one man, with painstaking care, took a topic (literally) no one had ever (ever!) imagined, and threw down. He looked at impossible and took the challenge. He looked at this Everest, set his face to the summit, and climbed.

Which is exactly what I need to be doing. Now. Half the time–truth be told–I’m flummoxed, defeated, sitting in my chair reading or studying when I need to be doing some serious, intricate translation with my children. What does it mean, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?” if I’m always and forever mistranslating that into “Hurry up! Work harder! Eat slower! Clean faster!” What does it mean, “I have overcome the world,” if I’m always saying, “I can’t help it. I’m not strong enough. I can’t control myself”? What does it mean, “Whosoever,” if I’m always saying, “Sorry, you’re too pagan, you’re too Muslim, you’re too gay”?

It’s time to do some Uedas and translate better, clearer, with exact precision, with more care so that the people we are speaking to can understand us. So they can hear Jesus speaking.

We need to be translating Jesus faithfully, precisely and with love to the block bully, to the Muslim family next-door, to the gay couple in the back row.

And not just away from home, but right at home, where the difficulties are, the really tricky problems, the most painful crises. That’s where the toughest translation happens, where you really have to grit your teeth, face the untangleable and realize that the hardest parts are the most important.

That’s where you translate the Gospel thus: “I never thought you’d abort my grandchild, but that doesn’t change my love for you, and Jesus has already paid for that. Where do we go from here?” That’s when (after you finish sobbing and pick yourself off the floor and search for breath) you say, “I’m sorry you’re leaving me, but Jesus already paid for that, so I’m going to lean on Him and go from here instead of badgering you about it endlessly.” That’s when your son tells you he’s gay and you don’t collapse into a heap of sobs, but give him a bear hug, thank him for telling you, and reiterate the enormous amount of love you have for him, without shouting and calling down fire and brimstone. Remember, Jesus only ever yelled at Pharisees, only ever trashed a Temple, so don’t you go and mistranslate Him to needy sinners.

Remember: It doesn’t matter if no one buys the book. It matters that the translation is done with care, with precision.

Thirteen hundred pages, 28,000 entries, twenty years. No one said it was going to be easy to plod on, to untangle the untangleable, to communicate the eternal, to translate grace til Kingdom Come. Kazuo Ueda has given us a pattern of patience, a visual of perseverance.

So, mazel tov, Professor. A shaynem dank.

Ranting Like a Lady

First of all, I’m going to out with it and admit that I mistake Douglas Wilson and Douglas Phillips all the time. One is a writer on things Reformed and the other is a proponent of little boys playing with massive slingshots while wearing replica World War I uniforms and defending their sisters’ honor.

I have no problem with boys sticking up for their sisters, but the thing that best defends a girl’s honor is a two-letter word she herself utters. If necessary, she should accompany it by a swift and powerful knee. If either of these tactics don’t work—and even if they do, if the situation warrants—she can call 911 and hail the cavalry.

Yes, I’m talking about Mr. Phillips. He also does a big song-and-dance about “Women and Children First” relating to the sadly underboated evacuation of the Titanic, and while it’s good and lovely that the rich ladies got off, the point about that evacuation is that on that dark night of fear it became apparent that (1) Charlie Sheen is right—“Plan Better!” and (2) the one-percent always win, except perhaps Mr. Astor, but he was a man with an eye to the future and knew that he would transform his posthumous street cred by his act of feigned nonchalance. Really, if there’s not spot for you in the lifeboat, you may as well go down like a man, smoking, if at all possible.

But wait! Hundreds of women went down like ladies into their icy liquid collective grave. Let’s see, did they don lace and bonnets? Is there a way to die like a lady? We can’t ask Mr. Phillips that question. For questions of how to do any particular thing like a lady, we must ask Mr. Wilson, author of the oddly-titled blog, Blog and Mablog. (That title alone gives me the shivers. It alerts me that here is a person who will make a joke about “knee-high miah” and think it’s funny.)

A particular Blog and Mablog post, “Competing Like a Lady,” recently appeared on my Facebook feed. Repulsed by the content, I left it alone for a few days, grumbling occasionally about the writer’s cruelty and hatefulness.

That’s not true. I actually grumbled about Doug Phillips’s cruelty and hatefulness, because I thought he had written the nonsense I’m about to discuss. But I was wrong. The nonsense is actually the brainchild of Doug Wilson, a smart Reformed guy of the Type A variety.

(Note to my non-Christian readers: “Reformed” refers to those who follow the teachings of John Calvin, a 16th century theologian who believed in predestination, among other things. Typically, non-Reformed Christians believe that God does not predestine anyone to heaven or hell, but that people make their own decision to follow Jesus Christ without God “making” them do so. There are smart people on both sides, but some Reformed smoke and drink, and some Baptists handle snakes, if that helps you decide with whom you want to ally yourself when you convert.)

It may be important to know that smart Type A Calvinists tend to think that because they have their theology all starched and ironed, they can go around proclaiming whatever-the-heck they want about anything and everything. Like I do, you may know a number of Reformed people who, because they imagine themselves to be smarter than your average Baptist, think they should go around venting the contents of the rest of their brain. They’ve taken Calvin’s idea that all vocations are holy and stretched it to mean, “Anything I want to vomit onto a blog is holy.” In this case, Mr. Wilson is mistaken.

In “Competing Like a Lady,” Mr. Wilson takes issue with the behavior of women in sports.

For starters, he decries the unladylike behavior of young women who slap each other on the butt during basketball games. Men may slap each other on the butt when excited during an athletic contest, but women should not. This particular behavior reeks of manliness, and is patently Unladylike.

I think we should carry this over into general life. I long to see Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum do a butt-slap after one of them skewers Mr. Gingrich in a debate. Of course, were Mrs. Palin and Mrs. Bachman to participate in a debate at some point in the future, they would be confined to brushing each other’s hair and giggling. It’s important to keep these distinctives.

Swaggering, according to Mr. Wilson, is off limits for girls, but is okay for men. Of course, all women know intuitively that swaggering is not nearly as effective as the subtly-askance look with narrowed eyelids, but whether such a thing is more godly than outright swagger has yet to be determined.

Back to basketball, Mr. Wilson is good enough to let us know that he doesn’t mind if girls are taught to toss a ball through a hoop, as long as they do it in a ladylike manner.

Basketball is definitely out altogether then, because throwing the ball through the hoop is the goal, not the essential matter of the game. The game is all about running and blocking and faking and passing and dribbling and yelling. Too, you really cannot get up a good bame of b-ball without a great lot of sweat.

While sweating has often been seen as a masculine thing to do, we really must take note here that good old fashioned sweat is a human-body (as opposed to male-body) function that cools the skin in times of overheating. Interestingly, God placed this mechanism in both genders, go figure.

Mr. Wilson is affronted that the butt-slapping incident was observed at a Christian camp. I imagine he felt the girls at the camp should have been schooled in saying, “Very lovely shot,” and “What an exciting field goal you just accomplished.”

He mentions that the girls were “generally acting as unladylike as they could.” This statement boggles the mind. As unladylike as they could? Were they engaging in stereotypically-male pursuits such as belching, or were they perhaps making fart sounds in that way boys know how to do with their armpits? I’m pretty sure they weren’t putting their hands in each other’s crotches, and I only mention it here, because football (along with hockey and undeclared war) is the most masculine sport ever invented, and in that super-unladylike game, the quarterback is always and forever putting his hands in the center’s crotch. So, there you have it—“crotching” is unladylike and definitely only for men. But you knew that.

He continues: “While having nothing against girls learning how to put a ball through a hoop, we have a great objection to girls learning anything from instruction that couldn’t care less about protecting and preserving their femininity.”

I love the royal we there, because it underscores the idea that Mr. Wilson is going to decide what is good and what is evil, what is godly and what is not, what is ladylike and feminine and what is ugly and uncalled-for.

Ladylikeness, then, seems to be what women should strive for. Graceful mannerisms, the steady calm of quiet serenity, the ability to intuit and then act on the needs of others, fluid movements, beauty: these seem to be the qualities Mr. Wilson wants to see in women, even when they are tossing balls through hoops.

Even more interesting, he equates “ladylikeness” with “femininity.” The girls who were “as unladylike as possible” were not “protecting their femininity.”

This is a disconnect, isn’t it? Ladylikeness—to behave like a (presumably) English Lady (was there ever any other kind?)—isn’t the same thing as femininity. Femininity is essential to women. It is their feminine-ness, their womanhood, their person. It has nothing to do with Victorian values (To keep your blinders on about Victorian values, don’t read any history of the upper classes, particularly about Victoria’s eldest son.).

Most women in history have not had the leisure to walk around being gracious and quietly serene. They have been working their hands raw trying to keep body and soul together, with very little regard for whether they were sweating at the time. I’ve been reading more Russian history than English lately, so I may be wrong here, but I do think I will have to admit it to be unlikely that kitchen maids and shopgirls went around slapping each other’s butts. Speaking of the Russians, I am very sure that Russian women would never be referred to as “ladies” in the English sense. There just simply was never enough indoor plumbing over there, at least until Victoria’s granddaughter Alix took the throne, and you know what happened to her.

Back to “Competing Like a Lady.” Mr. Wilson has the grace to note that the old way of protecting femininity was to keep the girls as far away from sports contests as possible. He notes that this is the old-fashioned way, props to him.

Except that, if we’re looking at things from a wide historical view, the whole idea of sports is fairly new. For most of our history, we’ve had to work, haven’t we? I have a photograph of my grandmother’s basketball team taken around 1912, but even Mr. Wilson will have to admit that that is ancient history when it comes to team sports. So any discussion of godliness in relation to who plays what game or in what way these sports are played by which gender is surely a very new discipline.

Never mind that. Mr. Wilson is prepared to answer all our questions in one short blog post. He declares that some sports are for women and some for men. He cautions that we must be careful not to “throw” girls into sports as though they were merely guys in a different weight class.

So much is wrong with the sentence, as if girls see themselves as underweight men, as if men should see them so. As if, when a girl plays a sport she is defining her femininity. To think such a thing is nonsensical. If we were to follow this line of thinking, a girl should never play a cello (Horrors, her legs are spread! How could she possibly be modest and ladylike?). I imagine there are any number of other activities that would have to be tossed out were we to begin thinking that every activity we pursued had to be done in a ladylike manner.

Mr. Wilson does not like the idea that girls are taught to be aggressive in sports. “Guys are naturally aggressive,” so apparently girls should not be. Clearly, this man has never been to a four-hour purse sale. The truth is that some men are aggressive and others aren’t. Some girls are aggressive and others aren’t. Sometimes it depends on whether the last two pieces of cake are exactly the same size, or if one is slightly larger.

Mr. Wilson tells us that “the genius of certain sports favors women, and the genius of others favors the men. Some occupy the middle, with men and women both able to participate. But if they are both participating, they should be developing their own distinctives.”

He then falls all over himself to determine which sports favor women and which sports favor men. As if it is the sport that determines who should play it rather than the human being determining which sport he or she wishes to play!

Mr. Wilson determines that ice skating is for girls, even though men do it better. Men have more oommph (his word) in their triple axel, but the women are still better. What? He compounds his nastiness here by explaining that “male figure skaters, like male ballet dancers exude a ‘nagging aura.’” Note that men skate better, but because they are exuding an aura while they do it, the women are better. Huh?

Actually, Mr. Wilson, men who figure skate don’t exude anything, certainly not an aura. I think what you mean here is that it gives you the heebie-jeebies to watch them skate and dance. Since nothing is mentioned about the tight clothing, I’m going to assume you’re not bothered by the puff and flounce of the costumes, but simply by the physicality of the performances themselves. In short, you don’t care to watch them for whatever reason of your own. You prefer to watch (what you call) the inferior skating of the women over (what you call) the superior skating of the men. Are you not just admitting that you like to watch girls twirl and jump more than you like to watch men twirl and jump?

To each his own. I like to watch both men and women figure skate, but then, I didn’t become Reformed until my thirties.

Clearly, Mr. Wilson’s statement that “the girls are better,” is rooted in personal preference, not measured by athletic prowess or standards of beautiful dance. It is not enough for him that these men are strong enough to lift a woman into the air and twirl her around while skating on ice (or dancing on a platform) before thousands of spectators. No, that isn’t sufficient manliness. Maybe it is the grace and beauty that turns him off, as if all men should be graceless, lumbering thugs. I can’t see why that would be.

The elephant in the room here, I suppose, is that Mr. Wilson thinks men who interact with these sports are effeminate or homosexual. That it is somehow “girly” to do a triple toe-loop with your body on ice in front of an audience whereas it would not be “girly” to do the same thing with your motorcycle or skateboard on a ramp or dirt track.

So then, is the body itself “girly” while machines are somehow masculine?

Gymnastics are also girly—tell that to the ancient Greeks. Tell that to the Chinese athlete who courageously endured his rings exercise and then powerfully dismounted onto a broken ankle a number of years ago at the Olympic Games.

Whoa, look at those arms. Nothing girly there.

But, look, there I go myself—equating power and endurance with men, as if power and endurance are somehow (as Mr. Wilson would have it) masculine in nature, while women are to sit still and glow, and—presumably—applaud their men being non-girly, as if to be non-girly is better than being girly.

Sports that favor men, according to Mr. Wilson, lean to overt tests of strength and speed. Like boxing, or shot put. “Right thinking” women won’t even try these sports. I’m going to make a difference here between boxing and shot put, as these sports are entirely different. No right thinking man should consider boxing either, and most don’t. We don’t even have to know about Muhammed Ali’s boxing-induced disabilities to know that it is a bad idea to get punched in the head for a living. However, it is not a bad idea to punch a bag for strength training. This is good for men and women of all ages. Muscle is good for you, and if you want to work on yours by punching something, go for it. I don’t imagine there is anything manly or womanly about punching a bag. It is just hanging there, after all. Hit the darn thing.

So much could be said right here about what strength-requiring activities are womanly and which are manly. Steam-cleaning, for example, is difficult. It takes a long time and the steam-cleaner is heavy. If you’re doing the stairs, you have to drag it along with you. The water-container has to be filled and emptied, filled and emptied many times over the course of your afternoon seeing how absolutely gross and disgusting your carpet really is. But is this a masculine activity? I like to steam clean. So does one of my sons. Others in the house don’t care to do this, some male, some female.

Laundry is a very heavy activity. Hampers full of clothes coming and going up and down stairs is surely a strength-requiring activity, as is grocery shopping. Once a month we do an $800 grocery shop. It takes several hours and involves three grocery carts. You have to put the groceries in the cart, then take them out of the cart and put them on the counter at the register. Then you load them into bags, put the bags into the carts, roll the carts out to the car, unload the bags into the car, then drive home and unload the bags into the kitchen, then put it all away. It is an extremely tedious and time-consuming strength-requiring activity, and yet I have never once heard grocery shopping described as a masculine activity. And if it is defined as a masculine activity, when I do it, must I somehow “shop like a lady,” and if so, what is required to meet this standard?

On to the shot put: shot put is different. How far can you throw a metal ball is a valid question, and it is answered by experience in throwing the thing. Why this would be a male exercise and not a female exercise is unknown. However, if it is masculine to throw a ball for distance, we need quickly to scrub “ball toss” from all field day programs that include little girls. Can’t start too young with protecting femininity.

Mr. Wilson allows that there are sports “in the middle,” in which either gender may participate, but if they do, they must do so in a gender-distinctive manner. He thinks of the differences between men’s lacross and women’s lacrosse. I had to look up the rules to find out what he was talking about. It seems that boys lacrosse is a contact sport, while girls lacrosse is a noncontact sport. I don’t know why that would mean girls would play with less aggressiveness, ferocity, competitive spirit, or skill. Just because men (see above note about football) like to touch each other so much more than girls do should not lessen the value of the rules the girls play by.

Mr. Wilson then notes that boys learn valuable things from sport—discipline, stamina, priorities. Girls can learn these things too, and they should have the opportunity to learn them, but only as a tool to help them grow “into a confident and self-assured Christian ladies.” This assumes, obviously, that the only function of sports training is to further a particular agenda about (let’s be honest) wife-training and mother-molding. But really, maybe the girls just wanna have fun. Or maybe they want to get a scholarship. Or maybe they want a gold medal. Why does it always have to be about becoming a certain type of “lady”?

Qualities that girls must not forget in their sports playing include modesty. Mr. Wilson mentions beach volleyball. I’m sorry, but Mr. Wilson, you watch beach volleyball? Really? Beach volleyball—at least at the Olympic level—is played in little tiny bikinis. And I’ll agree that very few people should be allowed to display themselves in this way, and that fewer Reformed authors should watch them. And while we’re avoiding watching women in bikinis, I’m going to make a blanket rule about that and put Soul Surfer on the forbidden list. In a beach volleyball match, there are only four girls in bikinis, while in Soul Surfer, there were zillions (see my review), and from what I understand about men, it probably doesn’t matter that one girl is missing an arm.

As far as swimming pool clothing, which Mr. Wilson decries, it seems that swimmers wear bathing suits in the pool. Little tiny men’s Speedos do not trouble him (consistent with the fact that he is not troubled by the men’s tight ice-skating clothing). It is possible that I missed his post about competing like a gentleman in which he prescribes Bermuda shorts and tank tops for Olympic swimmers, and in which he forbids world-class male athletes from shaving their body hair to eliminate any possible friction. Whatever about that, he is deeply troubled that girls on the swim team wear swimsuits, and I can only tell him that these competitions are advertised ahead of time, that no one is forced to allow their child to swim on these teams, and that he need not view these girls if he will avail himself of the simple technique of staying away from the pool.

All of this would be nothing, however, if Mr. Wilson had not tacked his final, unforgiveable statement onto the end of his silly post. He says:

“Run this thought experiment on yourself. Without mentioning any names, or pointing in any particular direction, say the phrase lesbian basketball coach to yourself. Does any particular profile come to mind? And do you want your daughter to look anything like that?”

Here, Mr. Wilson loses all connection to reason. I do not know to whom he is referring, but I don’t have to. I can picture what he is saying. He is conjuring an image of a woman who makes her living as an athlete—she’s a coach. She’s a hard worker, a stern commander. She’s gotten where she is by grit, by sweat, by outdoing her competition, by sheer gut effort. She’s a winner. She recruits her team, assembles her team, trains her team. She gets up at all hours with them when they need her. She runs lines with them and shoots hoops with them. She works hard with them, laughs and cries with them, wins and loses with them. She yells at them, consoles them, coaxes them, bribes them, honors them, bestows scholarships on them. When they win, she is honored. She is loved. Do I want my daughters to look like that? To interact like that, to succeed like that? Duh, yeah.

He powers that last paragraph by throwing in the word “lesbian,” to scare you into thinking that if your little girl acts like that, she’s going to stop having crushes on boys and start having them on girls. He fails to note that the coaching is the woman’s job–so naturally she works very hard at it, and while he might be more comfortable were she to be a scullery maid (a very dirty job requiring extremely hard work and lots of sweat) or a seamstress (requiring intense concentration, hard work, long hours, and often stabbing with needles), because of her passion and success, she’s risen to the ranks of coaching, so that she is paid to play the game she loves. What is better than that? To assume that your daughter’s gender identification and sexual orientation will be altered or informed by the lady who coaches the team is something of a stretch.

The worst thing about this paragraph, however, is that it is so hateful of the woman herself because of her sexuality. He’s not saying, “Look at that woman coach; she’s manly, and that’s ugly,” he’s saying, “Look at that lesbian coach; she’s disgusting.” He’s simmered his whole argument down to a polarity: on one side is the sweet, graceful, girly-girl. She’s virtuous. She’s godly. And on the other side is a fiercely-competitive professional coach, who happens to identify as lesbian. She’s ugly. She’s ungodly. You don’t want your daughter to look like her.

So, it comes down to appearances. Really?

The real problem here is the whole concept of “ladylikeness” as a virtue. None of Bathsheba’s qualities in Proverbs 31 (see my posts on this) are soft and delicate. She’s always working, always interacting, always producing good for her husband, her family, her servants, her community, and her business. She’s less like the ladies who do Pinterest and more like the lesbian basketball coach who is out there working hard to instill discipline, teamwork, and success into her team.

Ladylikeness is not a Christian virtue. It is a set of manners passed down from mothers who have the leisure to worry about such things to daughters similarly situated. Other mothers have had to instill self-confidence, self-preservation, and plain old hard work into their girls. While it may be more pleasant for men like Mr. Wilson to interact with women like this, and while he may find it easier to deal with girls who speak softly, wear non-edgy clothing, and don’t play too rough, it can’t be considered “Christian.”

Grace and fluidity of speech and action are certainly helpful if one wants to move around smoothly in the world. Whether it can be called “Christian” to quantify this and impress it on others, is less certain.

Further, these qualities are not manly or womanly, and here is where Mr. Wilson makes another serious error. He contrasts “ladylikeness” with “masculinity,” when the opposite of “ladylikeness” would be “servantgirllikeness.” “Gentlemanliness” is not the opposite of “ladylikeness.” Gentlemanliness and ladylikeness are the same thing. They tell us that someone of a refined class, with refined manners is here. They are not opposites. Mr. Wilson contrasts ladylikeness with ugliness, coarseness, and lesbianism, as if a lesbian is necessarily without grace, without kindness, without manners. He tosses her off as someone repulsive, not to be considered as a role model, not to be seen as a woman, not valuable as a person. He dismisses her with disgust.

We can leave the lesbianism out of it, and confine our consideration to pious Christian women. The truth is, when you define godly womanhood as ladylikeness, you marginalize women who are just as devoted to Jesus, but simply unable to fit into these behavioral strictures. Such a marginalization of people whom you don’t like the look of is simply wrong. Too many Christian women who lack an overt girliness, and too many Christian men who can’t seem to meet the testosterone-flooded requirements of Today’s Christian He-Man are tossed aside here as ungodly, inferior, second-rate, not what you want your kids to look like. This is misguided at best.

But Mr. Wilson’s post is not misguided, I don’t think. It’s just mean. It was a quickly-seared morsel tossed to those who think like him, and I’m only sorry I had the misfortune to read it.

To grow in godly manhood, be like Jesus. To grow in godly womanhood, be like Jesus.

I would also suggest some good old-fashioned butt slapping, especially if you drop in a sweet three at the buzzer.

FOOTBALL and the CHRISTIAN LIFE

In preparation for the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks, I’d like to offer a few insights gained today from watching the championship games. No, I’m not talking about the fact that the pants are way too tight. Nor am I talking about how primitive it is still to have chains run out onto the field to see if the offense has gained a first down. (What if the chain placement is wrong? What if they don’t run straight? Can’t they put a GPS chip in the ball so it lights up when it crosses the first-down? Seriously, people, cars can park themselves and we are measuring first downs like cave men!)

I’m talking about the parallels between football and the Christian life. Or what should be parallels, but often aren’t.

(By the way, this type of thinking may help you if you don’t think you should watch football on Sunday, but your spouse is going to watch and you want to be with him/her. You can sanctify it by keeping your mind on things above while watching the game and being sweet about it.)

Here’s what I mean:

In football, you just keep moving forward. You don’t look back at the fumble in the last quarter, the missed tackle on the last drive. You set your face like flint toward the goal line and you progress toward it with determination. With energy. You shake off the missed field goal, the dropped ball, the facemasking, and you put one foot in front of the other. What happened in 1945 or 1987 or 2004 or yesterday doesn’t matter. Keep moving.

In the Christian life, this is often not the case. In some settings, if you dropped the ball in 1962, you’re simply thrown out of the game, dismissed, tossed aside. Not only is 1962 held against you, but in some places, it will actually define you. (“You know, he could have been a deacon, but his first wife left him for another man!” Never mind that he has been married to his current wife for thirty-five years, taught Sunday school since 1970, and led hundreds of people to Jesus.)

In football, your opponent is always focused on getting the ball from you. Always. He will take advantage of any lack of focus, any slip-and-fall. He will reach right into your arms and grab for it.

In the Christian walk, the parallel is obvious. The ball is your Faith in Christ. The enemy knows you have salvation, but he wants you to doubt it. Don’t. Hang on to that ball. Run away from your opponent. Get your friends to knock him out of the way for you. Have someone cover for you, block for you, and do a happy dance in the end zone with you when you overcome.

If he can’t get the ball from you, he will try to stop you from going one yard farther. He will knock you down and knock you down hard. He is not worried about whether you’ll be hurt, get dirty, or quit the game. He doesn’t care that you really want to win. He doesn’t care who is at home cheering for you. He wants to stop you, and he will do whatever he can to accomplish that. Keep going. Don’t be stopped. Take one more step. And another.

Stay in bounds. There’s a rulebook, Buster!

In football, after third down, when the punting team goes onto the field, people on the sidelines rush up to the quarterback and squirt Gatorade into his mouth. They throw a jacket around his shoulders. They attend to him so he can get back out there on the next possession. They pat him on the back. They say good job.

Sometimes this doesn’t happen in Christianity. Sometimes you work for seventeen years in the nursery, and no one ever says thanks. Or knows your name. You sang in the Easter cantata every year since 1975. You drove the bus for ten years. You still “ush” even though it hurts you to walk up and down the aisles since your arthritis kicked in. Thank you, friend. Thank you so much.

Speaking of Gatorade, it’s full of electrolytes. It recharges you. It’s energizing. It’s not just a slap on the back and a word of thanks. It’s a pumper-upper. It’s a you-can-still-do-it. It’s a Go You sort of drink. Hand one out. Hurry.

In football, when you get hurt, you can lie there on the field until someone comes to help you.

This is sometimes the case in Christianity, but sometimes (sadly) not. Sometimes when you get hurt, people will let you bleed all over the place—“You made your bed, now lie in it!” or “You should have known not to take an adjustable rate, silly!” or “I told you you’d get lung cancer if you didn’t stop smoking!” They don’t come running.

Sometimes in Christianity, when someone is hurt, other Christians don’t even want to be seen to be on the same team as the hurt believer. They’ll rush to their cars and leave the stadium completely as your cry gets weaker, “Help me. I need you. Please.” Then, if a nice guy from the opposing team comes over and offers to help the hurt person up, why do you wonder why the offered hand is grasped?

In football, if you’re really hurt and you have to be helped off the field, the audience gets to its feet and applauds you. You poured your heart into that play, but you got smacked down. You got trashed. You got your helmet ripped off and the wind knocked out of you. No one says, “What a loser, he can’t even take a hit from a 330-pound defensive lineman.” No one says, “Stupid quarterback, can’t take a direct hit from Clay Matthews.” No one says, “Wassamattayou, Joe Theisman, can’t you walk with a broken leg?” (I still remember that moment. Shivers. If you don’t know, youtube it. Super cringe-worthy.)

In Christianity, when you get totalled on the field, people don’t typically cheer: “Woo-hoo! Maintained her integrity half-way through college, then got blindsided by Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins! Look, she’s down for the count, wait…wait…yes, she’s getting up!”

In Christianity, by the time she’s getting up, everyone is embarrassed at the fall and looking the other way. (“Shh, don’t talk to her. Don’t you know she had an abortion at Berkeley?”)

In football, the closer you get to the goal line, the more intense the opposition is. If you’re lined up on your opponent’s one-yard line and it’s first and goal-to-go, he is not going to say, “Well, here you are. You’re about to get a touchdown, so I might as well step aside.” He’s going to throw every single defensive tool he has right at you. Most of them weigh over 300 pounds, don’t like you, and have a few things to say about your mother. Be careful as you’re getting close to graduation, wedding day, retirement, whatever. Walk circumspectly, not fearfully, and remember that your opponent is still just as fierce as ever.

In football, the goal is simple. Get the ball to the end zone. Just get it there. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be without fumbles, without interceptions, without slipping in the mud, without being blindsided, facemasked, interfered with. You can get the ball there by running, by passing, by (we learned recently) doing a front-flip over the blocker, or even by throwing a Hail Mary!

In Christianity, all you do is keep living through it.

You hope, of course, that your life will be like a 99-yard kickoff return for the touchdown. Or full of glory where you are the star quarterback or the irreplacable running back—the OJ, I mean the Walter Payton, wait, I mean the Emmit Smith, stop, I mean…never mind. You get the point. You can and will be replaced. And in the meantime, you’ll fumble the ball. You’ll get sacked and intercepted. You’ll be interfered with (just when you were going to catch the game winner!), and you’ll interfere with others. You’ll exhibit unsportsmanlike conduct. You’ll lose your temper and yell at the ref. You’ll get hurt and have to be carried off the field.

And then, of course, you might lose your skills. You might get traded. A new kid just drafted might take your position. He might get paid more. Way more. People who never cheered for you in that position may now cheer their heads off every week to see him do that thing you did for years. You might feel sidelined. Let go. Retired.

You might wonder if it was worth it.

It was.

Look around at the great crowd of witnesses in the stands. They’re all cheering for you as you walk (or stumble or crawl) rejoicing off the field.

Oh, and one more thing. In football, the girls don’t get to play. I think you know what I think about that.

A THOUGHT ON REDEEMING SANTA CLAUS

Anyone who knows me knows of my longstanding problem with Santa Claus. Kid you not, I lost a teaching job once because I told a bunch of 2nd graders at a Christian school that he was not real. I know, I know, “How could you?”

The reason I could and did is that until that very moment, I literally did not know that kids believed. As in truly and wholeheartedly believed. I don’t remember ever believing that Santa Claus was real, though I remember packages under the tree “from Santa,” but c’mon, I recognized my mom’s and my grandma’s handwriting, not to mention that the wrapping paper was identical to the paper I had used to wrap my own gifts in! (My grandma continued to write “from Santa” until her last Christmas, when she was 94 and I was 47!) (It is possible I did believe, but I do not remember this.)

Brian and I had to teach the children about Santa Claus when they were each about four years old, just so they would know what people were talking about. We were always very careful to say, “Now, remember, some kids think he’s real, so just be nice about it. If they say, ‘What do you want Santa to bring?’ you can say your parents buy your gifts.”

Then there was that sublime moment in April, 2005, when, upon seeing a news photo of John Paul II’s body laid out in all its papal regalia, our seven-year-old daughter announced, “Look, Mama! Santa Claus is dead!”

However, I have decided to throw in the towel, because some battles can’t be won or even waged with any decency. The reason the moment has now come is that today, while doing dishes (in itself sort of miraculous), I have closure on a Santa Thought I’ve struggled with for a long time, and here it is:

He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake!

You see, Santa Claus has Godlike qualities—omniscience (he knows everything), omnipotence (he can do anything), and omnipresence (he can be everywhere all at once, at least one night a year), but then we tell you later that he isn’t real.

No wonder kids don’t believe the next story we give them about the real God—they think He’s going to turn out to be a myth-for-children too.

Today’s thought was this: what if we go ahead and use Santa Claus as a picture of God. Settle down, you yourself use a Pilgrim progressing down a road, or a Lion and a bunch of little British kids to tell The Story—or more recently, a boy with a wand.

The first thing we need to do is get rid of Santa’s works orientation. You know the drill: if you’re not good, you won’t get any presents. Or, cut that out, or Santa will leave you coal in your stocking. Except, of course, Santa does leave presents and doesn’t leave coal. Even if you’re bad. Let’s redeem that.

Let’s co-opt Santa and slather him with grace and make him a Christmas parable.

What if we flat-out told our kids: Santa is a made-up story to show how good God is and especially how good God was on the First Christmas, when Jesus was born.

God is good and he gives good gifts to everyone who believes in him. It doesn’t even matter if you’re good or bad, because your badness is forgiven. That’s why Santa Claus can bring presents to even kids who disobey because they believe in him.

God is like that. When you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior-Brother, God is your Father, and He will always give you good gifts, no matter what. He will always protect you and keep you. One way we think about that at Christmas time is by using the story of Santa Claus. Now, sometimes we don’t have a lot of money to get your great things. Some Christmases you just get socks and a new toothbrush, but that doesn’t mean we love you less, just like it doesn’t mean God loves you less when things are not going so great. It just means that’s all the money there is, and notice that socks and toothbrushes are good things. They are little blessings that you need to be well and happy.

Okay, it needs tweaking, but give me a break—I only thought of it a few hours ago.

What if Christian kids were able to say to their friends from non-Christian homes, “Nope, we don’t have to be good to get good gifts. We are never threatened with coal in our stockings. We are always promised good gifts for Christmas, as much as our parents can afford and are good for us so we don’t get spoiled. Because Santa is a picture of how God loves us, and gives us good gifts. We don’t have to earn His gifts. We get them because He is good, not because we are. We celebrate this story on Christmas, because Christmas was the time God sent His biggest-ever gift, His Son Jesus.”

Okay, granted, no kid will ever say that. But we could say it, if we wanted to. If we wanted to do something good with and for the Santa Claus story, and I’m not saying we should. Only that if you do, this is one idea that might be helpful in making the American Cultural part of Christmas mesh more smoothly with the religious celebration part.

Also, it opens up a way to talk to your young nieces and nephews in a sweet, happy-Christmas way that will offend no one.

Maybe even Santa Claus can be made redemptive, flying reindeer and all. Give me your thoughts.

SKIPPING THE OT AGAIN IN 2012

In 2011, I skipped the Old Testament. Not completely, of course. I worked on a Bible Study of Proverbs 31, in which I am still in only the beginning stages. I worked through Psalm 119 for a class assignment. I heard sermons. I did a lot of Old Testament bedtime story telling. But I lived in the New Covenant, and that has made all the difference.

The more I looked in the New Covenant, the more I saw Jesus, and the more I saw Jesus, the more I saw grace, and the more I saw grace, the more I realized how easy is His burden, and how light is His load.

So I’m done feeling guilty. Old things have passed away and behold, all things are become new. From that first “No!” I must have spat at my mother in 1961 to the last wicked thought I will think on my last day on this planet. It’s already forgiven. Jesus bore it—I’m not going to.

Done begging for grace—grace is already lavishly given to me. I’m going to expect it, look for it, wallow in it. There is already provision, already mercy, already Presence, already gifts, already giftedness. When you beg for Jesus to “be with you,” what are you thinking? Are you accusing Him of not being where He promised to be when He said He would never leave you or forsake you? He’s with you, Believer. He’s there. Make a gigantic point of resting in that. Meditating on that. Especially if the road is bumpy, cluttered up with rocks, and you can’t see very far. Press into Him and know His nearness when you’re feeling bad, scared, uncertain, devastated, despaired.

Done listening to sermons that sit in law, scream law, badger people to do better, to do more, to repent harder, repent more repentingly, to sin less. My goodness, Sir, you have only sixty minutes a week—stop focusing on people and start focusing on Jesus!

Done splitting theological hairs until they can’t be seen under a microscope. Jesus never does this—he just hands out bread and wine and water and healing and forgiveness. To everyone. Even homosexuals. Even abortion survivors. Even abortion doctors. Even you.

Done separating from other Body parts who think differently about the Holy Spirit, about translation, about music, about gender issues, about what is meant by “descended into Hell,” about eschatology, about the Nicene or the Apostles, about Heidleberg/Westminster/Luther, about 1517, 1611, or 1689, or 1927!

Scholars we have with us always—let them fight over the details, the tenses, the evil of saying “Communion” when “Lord’s Supper” is what is meant, and other microscopity (one dip or three, sprinkled or immersed, backward or forward, shaken or stirred). I’m done.

Done guilting myself over what ten percent means, what “submission” means and who is owed it, what “honoring” means and who is owed it, what family means, and how that is defined, what the Sabbath is and what you can and cannot do on that day, what duty is owed to a particular pastor (do you owe obedience to only the Senior Preaching Pastor or also to the Executive Pastor who keeps the books? The Youth Pastor? The Music Minister?), a particular building when and if the doors are open, and about who may attend when the speaker is a woman (note that her ministry goes on; it’s only the hearers who are limited).

(Side note on giving: people who think God isn’t prospering them don’t have to give anything—they are only to give as the Lord has prospered them. Preach that, Pastor, when you tell your people God doesn’t promise to prosper them temporally!)

Done listening to negativity from anyone, including me. Done looking at myself in the mirror and criticizing, wishing, coveting. Done remembering negativity from years and decades long gone from people I don’t—or hardly ever—speak to or even remember. Done hating over that. Done coping. Done dealing. It Is Finished—paid for—and I’m done with it.

Done listening to others criticize those who do not believe in Jesus. They can’t believe unless God gives them faith. I hear people jumping all over unbelievers for their faith in evolution, their beliefs about abortion or homosexuality, their unbelief in things we Christians hold precious—the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Resurrection. Hello? These things can’t be believed. They are not believable without the gift of faith. Why do you wonder why an unbeliever doesn’t believe? It’s because he’s in unbelief (are you getting the drift?), so he can’t believe, so he’s not a believer, so he’s an unbeliever! Of course he doesn’t believe in the Virgin Birth—no one CAN believe this unless God grants faith. Think about it, dummy. It’s not believable—it’s only faithable, and this faith is not of yourself—it is a gift of God. (End of rant.)

Done self-loathing over perceived failing, perceived lack of faithfulness, perceived or even real sin. Done self-loathing over not meeting up to other people’s expectation, meeting up to my own arbitrary expectations. Done trying to fix things that can’t be fixed.

(Parenthetical sidenote: I will, however, continue to correct you for your use of the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s House to jaw away about your politics. Can we keep the Lord’s Day holy and talk about Jesus in His House? Just fyi—stop it, already. People in the House have needs, need compassion, need ten dollars, need a hug. What they don’t need right this minute is your take on Iowa and New Hampshire!)

I’ll be resting in self-acceptance, in God’s acceptance of me, in righteousness and holiness and peace.

I’ll be taking on the easy yoke of faith and the light burden of trusting Him. Learning from Jesus to be set apart (holy, sanctified) for His own use.

You too. Be grace-ful to others, not requiring slavish one-two-three-check-it-off obedience to the Law, which was only given, you know, to show us that we could not keep it, that we needed a Savior. And in the fulness of time, He came. Be grace-ful to the unbeliever, showing him the Love of Jesus, not the Law of Moses. Rejoice that your sins are forgiven because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When you wake up in the morning, think: “I am God’s beloved. He totally loves me. I am fully forgiven of all my sins: past, present, future. I am ready, willing, and gifted to do all that is set before me.” Then when you stumble into the bathroom and look in the mirror, think: “For me the Savior died.” At night, do this all again. And in the in-between times, when you feel the pressure rising (rising…), remember that He loves you and He promises to be there, always, to the end of the world.

Rest in grace, expect provision, be assured of His Presence, His love, His favor every day, all the time. And spend most of your time in the New Covenant. Don’t worry. God won’t mind. He is pleased when you focus on His Son. If you find yourself saying, “But I have to read the whole Bible every year,” ask yourself why that is and get back to me on that.