Best of the Rest (Dec. 10th)
Here’s some of what I’ve been reading this week. It’s a big one.
The American Jesus talks about putting the X Back Into Xmas:
The scene in the stable that first Christmas wasn’t a gift exchange. It was a moment in which God gave freely, out of a heart of sacrificial love so that the world could be made new. Imagine for a second if we took this same approach to Christmas. Imagine if the criteria for buying gifts at Christmas wasn’t whether or not something appeared on someone’s wish list, but whether or not the giving of the gift could, even in just a small way, change the life of someone in need. Imagine if Christmas wasn’t a time for retailers to break new sales records, but a time in which charities, soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters had their yearly needs covered because the people of God gave freely, out of a heart of sacrificial love so that the world could be made new. If there is a war on Christmas, it’s because we started it with our greed, materialism, and pride.
Sticking with Christmas, A Deeper Story talks about some Christmas cliches and for those who aren’t familiar with the real Saint Nicholas, he was a beast. Krista Dalton gets controversial when says to leave to celebrate Christmas but keep Isaiah 7 out of it.
Alan Hirsch talks about making disciples. Everyone is a disciple of something, and in the North American case we are mostly disciples of consumerism. It didn’t directly tie into Christmas but it is definitely related. Sometimes A Light provides 15 reasons why she stayed in the church despite a lot of issues.
I appreciate what the popular blog Church Marketing Sucks says about our ability to tell our story: “We’ve got the greatest story ever told, but we don’t know how to tell it. The church has a problem communicating, and it’s time to change.” Let’s face it, historically the church has been slow to move when it comes to embracing new technology. In some cases this is due to philosophical concerns, but nowadays my experience shows that it is more commonly tied to budgetary concerns.
The Ruthless Monk discusses why “just tell your story” is not as good of advice for evangelism as we’re often told.
Rachel Heath talks about building walls around walls in order to protect herself from vulnerability and how this is contrary to Jesus. Bonus points that she uses an Age of Empires analogy. Similarly, Christina Gibson shares a tough store of risky adoption, and Psych Central debates the meaning of being a “strong” person.
In academic parlance, this technique is called Othering. In charity and in the church, we often turn “the poor” into this group we cannot identify with on any scale larger than pity. And pity is a tremendously dangerous thing in the world of social justice. Pity can very easily function as a dehumanizing tool – it turns the pitied person into a helpless object that needs “saving,” rather than a fully functional human being who is caught in a system of poverty and oppression. Pity of a people group makes their life circumstances an inherent part of their being, rather than part of a system in which everyone is complicit. It not only erases the pitied, but it erases our own complicity in the issue.
Jesus Creed asks if evolution is a must-win issue. In other words, why do so many American conservatives care so much about how God created the earth? The Jesus Creed also asked some tough questions about what the Bible actually says about Hell.
Christian Piatt writing for the Mennonite World Review argues that women are the key to church’s future. Jessica Bowman continues a series about cross-gender friendships and what healthy but not legalistic boundaries look like. Emily Maynard for churchleaders.com argues that it is stupid and unhealthy to blame women for a man’s lust. And in one of my favourites this week, Beth Felker Jones writes for the Christianity Today’s Women’s Her.meneutics about why Driscoll’s criticism of Twilight as porn for girls is actually ironic because he promotes the same way of thinking as Twilight:
Let me explain what I mean. My biggest worry about Twilight is that Bella, the main character, lives a life completely centered on the guy she loves. The love she has for Edward is all-consuming. Absorbing. Total. Her mother worries that Bella orbits around Edward. The girl-in-love is a satellite, circling round the boy, and she wants to give up everything—family, friends, education, the possibility of motherhood, her humanity, even her soul—for his sake. The supernatural aspects of the story feed the passion of course, for Bella and for Twilight fans, but it is this mundane fantasy—girl-who-finds-a-boy-to-be-her-everything—that is the heartbeat of Twilight. What is most terrifying here is not the supernatural but the stuff of fallen nature, the story in which women are made not for God but for men.
I believe that Driscoll’s teachings about gender—teachings that take cultural stereotypes about femininity and masculinity and call them “God’s will”—feed the same beast that allows Twilight to flourish. To focus critique of Twilight on the fact that it is a vampire story gives a free pass to the mistake at the heart of the story, that in which a boyfriend or husband is confused with a savior.