Tag Archives: Jesus

On being Pro-Life and Pro-Refugee


This has been a tough week in the U.S.  Emotions are running high, friends and family are divided on national policy and relationships are falling out over it.  Many do not want their social media feeds to be full of protests and politics.  Disagreement feels uncomfortable and stressful.

Let’s stop for a minute and look into the eyes of the refugee children pictured above.

Think about the years of traumatizing war they have endured.
The lives of loved ones lost.
The only homes they ever knew destroyed.
Their perilous flights from violence, through desserts, over treacherous seas.

I cannot help but think of my own children when I see these heart-broken faces.

This national discourse is worth the pain.
We must stick with it and resist the urge to look away.

true-religionHalf of all refugees are children.  Three quarters are women and children.  Asylum seekers to the US go through an intensive vetting process that lasts 18-24 months.  Once here, refugees are loaned money for six months to get their feet on the ground before they have to begin paying the US government back.  The chance of being killed by a refugee-turned-terrorist is one in 3.64 billion, according to the CATO Institute (study linked below).  In a December 2015 letter to Senators/representatives considering proposals to stop the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the US, former National Security officials including Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, wrote:

“Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism. Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the ISIS caliphate is their true home. We must make clear that the United States rejects this worldview by continuing to offer refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people, regardless of their religion or nationality.”

As a Beautiful Kingdom Warrior, I believe every life is precious, deserving of dignity and rights.  God’s plan of redemption and shalom is for all the nations of the world.  This is my pro-life ethic.  “America First” does not honor God’s will for all of His beloved children.

This certainly is not the first instance of a policy that has hurt refugees, but the reaction to President Trump’s EO last week is frankly unprecedented and I am encouraged to see our nation discussing immigration and the refugee crisis.  I do not want to see people shutting this conversation down.  I especially want to listen to voices of people who work in immigration, who serve refugees, who know people first-hand who have come to the U.S. to begin again here.

Much of the resistance to welcoming immigrants and refugees is based on fear rather than fact.  President Trump says that he is temporarily banning immigration for our safety.  People who agree ask us, don’t you lock your doors at night?  In Trump’s defense, Franklin Graham, prominent Evangelical and son of evangelist Billy Graham, went so far as to state that immigration is not a Biblical issue.

This simply is not true.  For example, the Hebrew word ger, the closest approximate to our word immigrant, appears 92 times in the Old Testament.

“The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB)

“You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 NLT)

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)

“The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Psalm 146:9 ESV)

“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21 NIV)

And we cannot say that Jesus does not care about refugees and immigrants.  Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled an evil, murderous tyrant as refugees to Egypt.  Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He taught us to give sacrificially for the good of others.

There are widely-held beliefs about immigration and refugees that need to be debunked.  Here are a couple helpful info-graphics to consider:

refugees-2immigration-2

immigration-3

 

I don’t believe that President Trump is our first president to negatively impact the resettlement of refugees in our country.  But I do believe that President Trump’s Refugee Ban is unchristian and is an affront to pro-life ethics.  It is a myth that this ban makes us more secure.  I strongly believe that any human being running from war should be welcomed and cared for.  And so I will use my voice to speak up and my dollars to assist humanitarian agencies helping refugees.  It feels like a drop in an ocean of need, but it is better than nothing.

 


Further Reading:

An Appeal to Choose Fact Over Fear – Communicating Across Boundaries

President Trump’s Refugee Order: 5 Things to Know  Preemptive Love Coalition

Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban – Christianity Today

The Rejection of Refugees is Manifestly Unchristian – The Brian Lehrer Show

Security is not everything – Religion News Service

We Are Followers of a Middle Eastern Refugee – Christianity Today

Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis – The CATO Institute

Immigration and the Bible – Mennonite Missions Network

Trump says Syrian refugees aren’t vetted.  We are.  Here’s what we went through. –  The Washington Post


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Was Jesus Really a Complementarian???

In an article published today on The Gospel Coalition, Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in Michigan, writes that Jesus was simultaneously pro-woman and complementarian¹.  He shares a long and beautiful list of interactions that Jesus had with women throughout his life and ministry, and then points to Jesus’ 12 male disciples as the proof that although women were of equal value to Jesus, he reserved leadership for men and was therefore complementarian (i.e. traditional, hierarchical, or patriarchal).  TGC is almost synonymous with complementarianism, posting regularly on God’s design for gender roles, even positioning gender roles as a critical part of the Gospel – generally understood to be the Good News that Jesus came to restore his creation and redeem us to right relationship with God…and to our gender roles for all eternity?   

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I certainly agree with DeYoung that Jesus’ interactions with women were revolutionary.  It is often these same interactions that plant a seed of doubt in the mind of complementarians who come around to an egalitarian² theology.  If this is how Jesus treated women at a time when Jewish men daily were thanking God that he did not make them women, why do our churches treat them any differently?

In “Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus”, DeYoung says,

Out of a cultural background that minimized the dignity of women and even depersonalized them, Jesus boldly affirmed their worth and gladly benefited from their vital ministry. He made the unusual practice of speaking freely to women, and in public no less (John 4:27; 8:10–11; Luke 7:12–13). He also frequently ministered to the needs of hurting women, like Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30–31), the woman bent over for 18 years (Luke 13:10–17), the bleeding woman (Matt. 9:20–22), and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24–30).

Jesus not only ministered to women, he allowed women to minister to him. Women anointed Jesus and he warmly received their service (Matt. 26:6–13; Luke 7:36–50). Some women helped Jesus’s ministry financially (Luke 8:2–3), while others offered hospitality (Luke 10:40; John 12:2). A number of women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, Mary and Martha—are mentioned by name in the Gospels, indicating their important place in Jesus’s ministry. Many women were among Jesus’s band of disciples. And perhaps most significantly, women were the first witnesses to the resurrection (Matt. 28:5–8; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:2–9; John 20:1–2).

DeYoung could elaborate on his mention of John 4 – the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, who Jesus ministered to despite cultural taboos (and even contradictory to the much-followed complementarian “Billy Graham Rule” of never being alone with a woman), who then went into her city as the first missionary, converting many.

He could mention that Jesus submitted, at somewhere around 30 years old, to his mother’s wish that he turn water into wine at the wedding at Cana, his first miracle.

love that women were the financial backers of Jesus’ ministry.  There is no mention in the Bible of any men doing so.  Complementarians generally assign finances to the role of males, as a source of power and authority that transcends the domestic duties of women.

At a time when women were not eligible to give witness in a court of law because of their lowly status and questionable ability in the eyes of the patriarchal culture, Jesus first appeared to women at his resurrection.  Let that sink in.  If women are not to teach men, as complementarians believe that teaching is a form of authority, and women are not to have authority over men, should they have gone back to the 12 grown men and told them, or held the Good News under their hat until Jesus spoke directly to the men who could then spread the Good News to others?

DeYoung goes on to say,

Underlying Jesus’s ministry was the radical assumption that women have enormous value and purpose. The clearest example is his mother Mary, who’s called highly favored in Luke 1:28. Moreover, Jesus used women as illustrations in his teaching, mentioning the queen of the south (Matt. 12:42), the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:26), women at the second coming (Matt. 24:41), and the woman in search of her lost coin (Luke 15:8–10). He held up the persistent widow as an example of prayerfulness (Luke 18:1–5), and the poor widow’s offering as an example of generosity (Luke 21:1–4).

Jesus addressed women tenderly as “daughters of Abraham,” placing them on the same spiritual plane as men (Luke 13:16). His teaching on divorce treated women as persons, not mere property (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), and his instruction about lust protected women from being treated as nothing more than objects of sexual desire (Matt. 5:28). And in a time where female learning was suspect, Jesus made a point to teach women on numerous occasions (Luke 10:38–4223:27–31; John 11:20ff).

I would elaborate on the story of Martha and Mary from Luke 10, in which Jesus insisted that Mary sit at his feet alongside his male disciples, learning from him rather than serving them in her subordinate female station–which was inconsistent with what DeYoung calls “God’s original design for role distinctions”.  If it was better for Mary to sit at the feet of her teacher, in the posture of a disciple, is it not better for women today to pursue their callings in the Kingdom of God than it is to remain in supportive roles, always deferring to and serving the men?

DeYoung was doing well until this point in his article.  While acknowledging that Jesus’ treatment of women was revolutionary in his patriarchal culture, he veers off course with his assertion that Jesus’ selection of an “all-male apostolic leadership” points to complimentarianism.

First of all, if Jesus is being consistent with God’s original design for male and female roles, it is important to point out that gender roles as expressed by complementarian theology were not present in humanity before the Fall.

Complementarians say that because God made Adam first, he intended that Adam would be the leader.  But Adam was not made first.  The animals were!

When God went to make an ezer kenegdo for Adam, which is often translated “suitable helper”, he was making an equal partner to yoke with Adam.  A truer translation renders ezer kenegdo “corresponding strength.”  It is not preferable to be unequally yoked in marriage, with one spouse carrying a greater load than the other.  In most appearances of the word ezer  in the OT, it is referring to God or to a warrior in battle.  Certainly not an image of domestic servitude!

When God fashioned Eve out of Adam, he declared that she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, meaning she was the same.  None of this “weaker sex” talk here.  Women are made of tough stuff!

And God did not give Adam alone authority over creation.  The mandate to be fruitful and multiply and rule the earth was given to both Adam and Eve.  We do not see a brokenness in male and female equality and partnership until sin entered the picture.

Second of all, pointing to the fact that the twelve disciples were male does not prove that Jesus would have withheld positions of authority from women for all time.  Jesus also chose only Jewish, middle-aged men.  Are Gentiles, slaves, and elderly or young people also excluded from church leadership?

There was symbolism behind Jesus choosing his original twelve disciples, pointing to the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel and the coming of their long-awaited Messiah.  These twelve were then titled apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven, but others were also later called apostles, including Paul and a woman named Junia.  The prophesied Messiah had come, and another prophecy from Joel 2:28 was also fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and landed on all who were gathered together waiting – both men and women – and they all began to prophecy.  With God’s Spirit in each of us, there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female (Galations 3:28).  We are all one in Christ and equally equipped to serve God’s Kingdom.

How is complementarian theology practiced in most churches?  When looking for leaders, half of the church is immediately disqualified because of their genitalia.  From there leaders are chosen.  It boggles the mind to see spiritually mature and qualified women barred from using their gifts for the Kingdom of God, while our culture has progressed to a place where women are able to lead in secular organizations to the great benefit of all!

God became flesh in a patriarchal world where leadership was not accessible to women.  But in the early days of the Church women played pivotal roles as leaders.  Christianity can be credited with progressing the equality of women throughout culture at large.  And so it is ironic and sad that hierarchical Christianity today is a leading force in subjugating women.  Complementarianism may seem benign to many who have not examined their life-long assumptions about gender roles, but to those of us who have been exposed to the plight of abused and marginalized women around the world and in our own backyards, we are horrified that the Church is not stepping up to honor women in the same revolutionary way that Jesus did in his day.


¹Wikipedia: “Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere…For some Christians whose complementarian view is biblically-prescribed, these separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the Church.  Complementarianism assigns primary leadership roles to men and support roles to women—based on their interpretation of certain biblical passages from a Complementarian perspective. One of its precepts is that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.”

²Wikipedia: “Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God’s sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status. This view does not just apply to gender, but to religion, skin colour and any other differences between individuals. It does not imply that all have equal skills, abilities, interests, or physiological or genetic traits. Christian egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ; have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.”


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Jesus Was a Feminist – a poem by Robin Merrill

Jesus Was a Feminist
by Robin Merrill
I’m going to tell you a secret:

Jesus was a feminist.

And yes, I know I just ticked somebody off.

I ticked this guy off just by bringing up Jesus (sorry)
and I ticked this guy off by suggesting that Jesus liked girls
(not sorry)

But I don’t believe in beating around the burning bush
and I’m tired of being bossed around by a church
that bears no resemblance to the one of holy design.

You see, I have a daughter now.  And that girl,
she’s a feminist, because nobody’s told her yet that she’s not
supposed to be.

So I bite my thumb at the preacher who told my
twelve-year-old-self
that I was going to hell for playing basketball
in short pants and short hair
with boys.

Because you know what, mister preacher man?
Nowadays we womenfolk can read
and if you open that Bible you’ve been pounding on,
you’ll find a verse that reads
There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free,
neither male nor female,
for we are all one in Christ.

I know, right?  The heresy!
And did you know that the longest conversation
Jesus has in the whole Bible is with a woman?

No sir, I’m guessing you did not know that.

Because you’re too busy telling entire congregations
not to vote for a woman because she can’t be trusted
even though God entrusted a woman to have your
precious baby Jesus
without a single drop of manhood in sight.

And I know I can’t change your mind.
You will keep telling women to obey their abusive husbands
and every time you do, you will push a woman
further away from her higher power.

But as for this woman?  I know that:
It was women who followed Jesus around, sleeping in caves.
It was women who stayed at the cross when the men grew faint.
And it was a woman who returned to find an empty grave.

So this woman is okay with it
if you don’t find me fit
to touch your pulpit
to teach your Sunday school
to lead your choir

’cause this woman
has found her own sanctuary

right here

in the quiet corners
you don’t even know about
where people read and paint and think …

There is more than one way to worship.
There is more than one way to glorify.
And tradition is never as great
as the woman who breaks it.

And I will break it gently.
Neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free …
I will break it gently.
With a feminine touch.
I will break it gently.
With faith, hope, and love.


Robin Merrill’s poetry has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor and hundres have appeared in places like Flint Hills Review, Oklahoma Review, Margie, The Café Review, and Stolen Island Review, and she was the 2013 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation of Boston.  Visit her website at robinmerrill.com. “Jesus Was a Feminist” was posted here with permission.

Listen to Robin read her poem here.


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Jesus in the Gardens: Undoing What Adam Did

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I had to share this beautiful post from Kristen Rosser, who blogs at Wordgazer’s Words.  Hers is one of my favorite blogs, with writing that is a combination of academia and art.  I highly recommend scrolling through her topic index next time you want to do some reading.  Be informed, be very informed. 🙂

Jesus in the Gardens: Undoing What Adam Did (Click the link to go to the article.)  Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

 The twelve were the main witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Christ. In the Ancient Near East and Roman cultures, the testimony of women was considered invalid. It was not accepted in court; it was not legally binding in any way. The world was simply not going to listen to women, and Jesus knew it.
So here’s what He did. His very first act upon Resurrection was to appear to the women. In fact, John tells us that though Peter and John ran ahead of Mary Magdalene on the way to the tomb, they saw nothing. Then after they left, Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Resurrected Christ. John 20:3-14. Other women also saw Him shortly afterwards– but no male saw the Lord, revealed for who He was, until that evening, eight hours or more afterwards. . .
The significance of this would not have been lost on the male disciples in that patriarchal culture. They knew that they themselves had refused to believe the women’s testimony that morning. Then when Jesus appeared to them, they realized the women had been telling the truth.
Jesus was communicating this very clearly (the fact that we miss it today is a product of our culture): “The world will not accept the testimony of your sisters, but I have just forced you to listen to it. My kingdom is to be different from the world. You are to listen to your women and allow them to testify of Me.”

Image credit:  Fra Angelico, “Jesus Apearing to the Magdalene” (1440-41), Convent of San Marco, Florence

My Virtual Spiritual Guide: Brennan Manning

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the death of author and priest Brennan Manning.  I didn’t realize it until recently, but I had read one of his books, about 11 or 12 years ago.  When I was in college, my next door neighbor in the dorm gave me a copy of a book that had been utterly life-changing for her.  Through this book, Abba’s Child, my friend had a deeply impacting experience of God’s love.  I read it and thought it was pretty good, and put it up on my shelf with all my other books.  I can’t tell you why this book didn’t stir my soul at that time.  I think I had always felt loved by God and never doubted it.  But my spiritual journey has taken some dramatic twists and turns in the decade or so since, and today’s me is flabbergasted by God’s unconditional, never-stopping, always and forever love.

Brennan Manning Quote

In typical fashion, I sucked at fasting this Lent.  I am so ashamed at my inability to be hungry for even a few hours.  Clearly, gluttony is my besetting sin.  While I did not participate in the suffering of Christ, my lack of discipline made me keenly aware of my depravity and weakness, and also of the luxury of my life.  “Fasting” for me meant skipping lunch, while much of the world clings to life on a fraction of my daily portion.  I am comfortable and warm and clothed and fed.  I am blessed beyond measure and I need to work harder at living simply so that others may simply live.  Even not fasting has made me more keenly aware of the poor and downcast and I have been struggling to reconcile my life-style with how I have been called to become a servant of all.

I’m not sure how it happened, but Brennan Manning showed up to be my Virtual Spiritual Guide for Lent.  When I’m doing my data entry job for the office, I often catch up on my favorite TV shows to pass the time.  I gave this habit up for Lent and was looking for sermons to watch on YouTube.  Somehow, I noticed a link to Brennan Manning’s classic sermon, “Abba Father,” and I remembered my friend’s book.

Watching that first sermon brought me to tears.  Watching “Our Call to Participate in the Healing Ministry of Christ” brought me to gut-wrenching, body-wracking sobs.

There is something about Manning’s grumpy-old man, gravely voice shouting at you about how much God loves you.  If you learn about Brennan’s loveless childhood and debilitating alcoholism in adulthood, these words become all the more powerful:

So this Lent, I’ve been watching all of his YouTube sermons again and again, soaking up his message about God’s incomparable love.  I’ve been working extra hours lately for the office, which translates to less time writing for the blog but more time with earphones on, listening away to my spiritual coach for this season.  I have been deeply impacted by Brennan Manning in the past month and had to share him with you, especially with those of you who are not familiar with him.  I hope you take the time to listen to one of his sermons and let the message of God’s astounding love soak into your own soul.

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P.S.  Brennan Manning is best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, after which Rich Mullins named his band (another remarkable man!).  I would love to read Manning’s autobiography, All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.