Friday, January 6, 2012

Redemption, Paper Tigers, a Real Man

I have a couple of links to share today:

1. John Shore had an excellent post yesterday entitled From a Christian Woman Who Chose Abortion. My impression is that the point of the post is not that abortion is an acceptable choice for a Christian woman to make. Rather, it’s about humility and treating people with understanding and compassion rather than judging them. The woman who wrote to John once stood in front of her church and boldly proclaimed that she would never have an abortion. Later, however, she found herself is dire straits. She says:

“I had just had a baby; he was four months old when my father died after spending a month on life support. I didn’t even know I was pregnant until about a week after my father’s funeral. I had been given every kind of sedative and tranquilizer medication during that month and after the funeral. I was left with a broken mother, three kids under six years of age, a husband out of work, and a very shaky marriage. I had complications with all my pregnancies, but no one told me my life was at risk. No one said, ‘It’s your life, or your baby.’ I prayed, ‘Dear Lord, I cannot do this. What am I suppose to do? Do I give up my three children, and my mother who needs me desperately right now?’ Because I knew that, in the mental state I was in, I would not make it through another pregnancy. So I quickly made the arrangements and went through the process like a robot.”

On whether or not she made the right decision, I can see both sides. On the one hand, her choice was certainly understandable, since she was in dire straits—-financially, in terms of her health, etc. Pregnancy takes a toll, and raising another child is quite costly, especially when the family is already struggling financially. On the other hand, if abortion is murder, would it not be unacceptable even in dire straits, since we don’t tolerate infanticide regardless of what the situation is? But John did not tell her that her decision was right. He was telling her that she could move on from this—-confident about God’s love for her.

I especially appreciated the following statement that John made:

“You were young when you went before your church to say how you would never have an abortion. That’s such a young thing to do: it’s so immature, so obviously an effort to be praised, to belong, to assert a winning identity. And it’s so informed by one of the primary defining qualities of youth: moral certainty. Young people can only see right and wrong in clear, black-and-white terms; they haven’t yet developed an appreciation for the infinite means by which moral blacks-and-whites become infinite shades of grey. The real failure with your experience lies with the adults who encouraged and allowed you to make such an insipid speech. An actually mature person would have told you to sit down, and be quiet. Who wants to hear a young person bragging about their moral superiority? The only reason they let you make that speech is because it served their own agenda: they essentially used you as propaganda, and no two ways about it. That’s a shame on them—but no shame to you. You’re not guilty of anything there except being young. And that (thank God!) is no crime.”

I like this statement because I hate it when conservative evangelicals act like they’re so morally superior. But, in a sense, this was also a mirror in front of my face. It’s easy for me to make dogmatic moral pronouncements, without taking into consideration the weight of issues: dire straits in which people may find themselves, shades of gray, etc. Hopefully, I’m growing in this area.

2. Bruce Gerenscer has an excellent post, God a Jokester or Do Candidates for President Have a Hearing Problem?

It’s about how candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann talk like they have some divine mandate to run for President. We’ve seen this sort of thing before. William Martin, in With God On Our Side, says that Pat Robertson said that God told him he (Pat Robertson) would become President. And Mike Huckabee in 2008 said that God was blessing his campaign for the Presidency. But we see how these campaigns turned out!

I get sick of conservative evangelicals claiming to have a divine mandate, or some special knowledge about what God wants. What am I to conclude? That opposing them is opposing God? It gratifies me, therefore, when their endeavors fail (at least their endeavors for power, not their attempts to, say, help the poor). It reveals them to be the paper tigers that they are!

3. Susan Wise Bauer reviews Mark Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage. I appreciated some of the following lines:

“His definition of manliness is surprisingly Southern; in the very first chapter, he explains that he came back to the church as a young man because he finally found a congregation with a manly pastor (he had been in the military and bow-hunted) and masculine men (farmers, hunters, and one guy with 13 children). Men are to be tough in business (there will be no questioning of American economic norms in this book) and tender with women and children, who are weak. Wives are ‘crystal goblets,’ beautiful and fragile; men are ‘thermoses,’ strong and protective. Men are to lead, women to submit, although submission is carefully redefined as ‘respect’ and leadership as ‘taking responsibility.’ Men, Driscoll says, are meant to be breadwinners…[Driscoll states:] ‘First, a guy needs to grow up by moving out of his parents’ house, paying his own bills, worshipping his God, and taking care of himself. Second, a man is then able to pursue a noble woman in a noble way.’ Actually, most good Israelite boys tended to stay home until their fathers brought them their brides.”

I seriously doubt that I would fit Driscoll’s definition of a real man. I don’t bow hunt. I’m not the ruthless, assertive type. At this moment, I’m not financially independent. Should I work on some of these things? I think so. I’m on a path towards a career, even if I have not arrived yet. And perhaps I should work on being less timid and at least a little more assertive, although I should also maintain a gentle, friendly quality that can put people at ease. If I can find a way of being that works for me, and that helps me and other people, then why should I worry about whether I fit Driscoll’s definition of a real man? What would be the point of me beating up on myself? In my opinion, not living up to Mark Driscoll’s standards does not equal disappointing God.

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