Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Least of These

(Part Synchroblog for Sanity)

Today, I am speaking primarily to those who claim the label Christian.  If you are of another faith or no faith, you are welcome to read on with the understanding that I will be referencing Christ and the Bible as an example and rationale for modern beliefs and behaviors.

The Church, as a body of imperfect individuals, is capable of acts of tremendous grace, kindness, and love.  We give to those in need.  We organize relief efforts, food banks, blood drives.  We donate money to homeless shelters and volunteer our time at soup kitchens.  We have offered prayers, support, and encouragement to those both in our faith communities and out.

In spite of this, I believe there is one group of people we are failing:  the LGBTQIA community.

I have, through the course of my entire churched life, heard so many sermons about and against homosexuality, to the point I assumed all gays were twisted, debauched individuals beyond the reach of God's salvation.  And that was my assumption as a straight individual - imagine how hopeless and helpless gay Christians feel hearing that rhetoric!

I am going to say something that will likely offend and appall my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Being gay is not a sin.

Really, it's not.  Even if you're a Side B person (one who believes homosexuals should remain sexually abstinent), you cannot honestly say with the Bible's support that the mere possession of attraction toward those of the same sex is a sin.

If you view homosexual attraction as a temptation to be fought, fine.  Pray for (not against) those who are same sex attracted (SSA), but do not tell them they are wicked because they have those attractions.

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Did you read that?  That passage is referring to Christ as our high priest and it says he was tempted in every respect as we are.  Every. respect.

Think about that for a minute.  

Now imagine Jesus Christ himself is attending your church.  In a moment of trust, he admits he is SSA.  How do you treat him?

Lest you think I am stating as fact Jesus was gay, I am not.  I am reminding us what Jesus said:

'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me. [...]Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me - you failed to do it to me.' Matthew 25:40, 45

Based on that passage alone, perhaps it's time we as the Church re-evaluate our approach to the LGBTQIA community.  Perhaps it's time we actually listen to them when they tell us our current approach of "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is hurtful.  Perhaps it's time we try to imagine what life is like in their shoes instead of making assumptions about the state of their souls.  Perhaps it's even time to apologize for continuing rhetoric that is hurtful on a soul deep level.

Perhaps it's time to view everyone as Christ in disguise, as an opportunity to minister to our Savior.

Even to the least of these. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Obligatory Post-Election Post

If you voted for Barack Obama: Congratulations, and thanks for voting!

If you voted for Mitt Romney:  Thanks for voting.  Better luck next time!

If you voted for a third party candidate:  Way to be a rebel and still vote.  Good for you!

If you chose not to vote:  I affirm your right to abstain from voting.

Ok, that's out of the way.

Republicans, Conservatives, Religious Right:  It's ok.  Really.

This election (like any election) was not God vs. Satan.  God (Romney) did not lose to Satan (Obama).  God (the Almighty) is not punishing America by "giving us what we deserve."

God is in control.  He is Love, not some masochistic puppeteer who gleefully punishes His minions for failing some cosmic test.

Barack Obama is not some anti-Christ or anti-patriot.  In fact, John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, wrote,

 "Obama may be the most explicitly Christian president in American history. If we analyze his language in the same way that historians examine the religious language of the Founding Fathers or even George W. Bush, we will find that Obama’s piety, use of the Bible, and references to Christian faith and theology put most other American presidents to shame on this front. I think there may be good reasons why some people will not vote for Obama in November, but his commitment to Christianity is not one of them."

Take the time to compare your beliefs to the President's.  Not what you think he believes (he is not, nor has ever been Muslim), or what you've heard he believes.  Take the time to research what President Obama's faith is.  Read his own words.  The similarities may surprise you.

Furthermore, if you acknowledge God's sovereignty, you must also acknowledge that Barack Obama is God's ordained President of the United States for this period of time.  Pray for him. Do not pray against him (Let his days be few and let another take his office. - Psalm 109:8 comes to mind), but for him.  Pray for his health, his family, his decisions for our country.  Pray blessings on our President, even if you disagree with his politics.

I'm pretty sure there are some Scriptures about that you don't see posted on Facebook.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fluid Modesty

What do you think of when I say the word "modest?"  In the U.S., we tend to use modest as synonymous with "covered" or "clothed," just as we use obey as a synonym for "comply."

When I was growing up, I attended a very strict, conservative Baptist school.  At school,  there was a long litany of "modest" attire for girls, but boys' "modesty" involved wearing pants, a belt, and a tucked in, collared shirt.  Ironically, a girl in the same attire was "immodest," since it was considered improper for females to wear male clothing (pants).

I received many messages about modesty during that time: in sermons, through the rules, from attitudes of faculty.  What I understood was modesty = being covered from neck to knees.  Oh, and loose is also modest.  The more shapeless, the better.

The high school girls who wore just-below-the-knee pencil skirts and blouses that actually fit instead of being baggy earned the reputation of being slutty.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Girls who, in any other setting, would have had their clothing deemed conservative and modest were given a horrible label because they did not completely hide their God-given figures under tent-like jumpers or oversized shirts.

All that to say, for years I equated modesty with "having all the naughty bits covered + more for good measure."

I'll admit it:  I was judgmental of other Christians who covered less.  Rather, I was judgmental of Christian women who covered less.  Wait, that's still not right:  I was judgmental of any woman who covered less flesh than I did.  Which was almost everyone else.

And then, I joined an intentional on-line community of Christian mothers from all different denominations.  I "met" Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Messianic believers, Quakers, Catholics...pretty much every flavor of Christian was represented in that group.  And we moms all wanted to teach our children about modesty.  But while I equated modesty with an appropriate clothing checklist, these moms generally equated modesty with the heart-attitude.

It shook my world to pieces.  How on earth could I teach my kids modesty without a checklist?!

But as I learned more about God's heart, about grace, about the individual priesthood of the believer, and about following the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I realized that I had no ties to my list other than tradition.  There is nothing inherently wrong with tradition, but tradition doesn't necessarily equal God's will.

Something that helped me let go of my list was a mama talking about modesty meaning different things in different circumstances.  For instance, your bathing attire, no matter how modest, is usually considered immodest in a church worship setting. (I do know of some Christian sects who insist females swim in dark t-shirts and long skirts, but still, sopping wet, clinging fabric is generally not considered appropriate at church.)

Obviously, what we deem "modest" is fluid, based on time, place, and circumstance.

Another dear mama spoke of the time period when she wore only long-sleeve blouses and ankle length skirts.  She had an affair, despite the abundance of flesh being covered.  This dear, Christian woman stated that she believed she was at her most seductive and immodest because of the clothing, not in spite of it.  Obviously, this is not true for every woman, but it was true for her.

Which left me wondering, what is modesty?  What does God mean when He used Paul to write that women should adorn themselves in "modest apparel?"

The word translated "modest" is the Greek word "kosmios," taken from "kosmos."  It has the idea of being well-ordered.  In that context, I believe it means women should take care to look nice, not to the extreme of narcissism, but as befitting an Image-bearer.  I think, also, that women (as wives and mothers) often get so caught up in the giving and doing for others that we leave ourselves out.  We neglect to honor the bodies God has given us by taking care of them properly.  We neglect to adorn ourselves in ways that remind us we have worth in God's eyes.  The nitty-gritty details of how and what to wear are left to the discernment of the believer and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

At this point in time, I believe modesty to be a heart issue between each believer and God.  I wear low-necked blouses and shirts a lot because I am still nursing, and those necklines provide easy access to the food source.  Another woman may be uncomfortable wearing the necklines I do, yet don a mini-skirt with no guilt whatsoever.  It is not my place to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit and heap guilt or shame upon the woman wearing a skirt I deem inappropriate.  Nor is it her place to condemn me for seemingly putting the "girls" on display when in actuality I am taking into consideration the feeding of my baby.

Modesty is still fluid.  Now, I see it as fluctuating between individuals as well as changing based on circumstances and cultures.  Follow God, and you will be fine.

Even if it means tossing your list.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

National Coming Out Day

10.11.12 is National Coming Out Day.  Therefore, I am coming out.

I am coming out as a compassionate supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.*  Gay rights are not just gay rights.  Gay rights are women's rights.  Gay rights are human rights.

Let me explain my premise that gay rights are women's rights.  Many people I know who are against gay rights are repulsed by the idea of men having sex with men. Women get a free pass for the most part.  Why?  Besides the fact that many men in the Bible had multiple wives so there was likely some kinky stuff happening in the bedroom,  the idea of a man acting like or taking the "role" of a woman in a relationship is degrading.  Again, why?  Simply put, it's misogyny.  In their minds, being a woman is degrading.  Women are second-class citizens merely by being born with a vagina instead of a penis.

Gay rights are human rights.  In the U.S., the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are guaranteed in the Constitution.  My spouse and I got married in the course of living life because we had the liberty to do so, and because it was in our pursuit of happiness.  Everyone should have that same right, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Gay marriage is not an attack on traditional marriage.  If anything, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," and traditional marriage proponents should be honored and flattered that people with same-sex attractions want to get married.  Christians especially, who hold that sex outside of marriage is a sin, should be thrilled that LGBTQ+ individuals want to marry instead of being content with co-habitating.

Honestly, anyone's sexual orientation shouldn't even be part of our conversation.  It is not my business if you like men or women.  It is not your business if I like men or women.    The only reason it is part of our conversation is because the rights inherent to the very fabric of the existence of our country are being denied to certain individuals based on sexual orientation.

And that is wrong.

*For those of you wondering how I, as an Evangelical Christian, can support gay rights, I answer this:  Jesus treated everyone with whom He came in contact in a loving, compassionate manner, Pharisees occasionally excepted.  Surely He would not expect less from His followers.  I think too often, Christianity gets overly focused on "the cause" and forgets about fulfilling Christ's command to love God and love others.  Forcing our morality on those who do not share our beliefs is not loving, nor will it do anything to further our cause.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Can You Dialogue?

Is it your Biblical conviction to spank your child(ren)?  Would you be willing to dialogue with a scholar who believes spanking is not mandated, but wants a "pro-spanker" to point out any errors he has accepted in coming to his conclusion?


Samuel Martin has actually asked several well-known proponents of corporal punishment to dialogue with him, but they have either declined or wanted to base the debate on something other than the Bible.

If you would be willing to help Samuel Martin understand how you (and ostensibly other proponents of corporal punishment) base your decision on your comprehension of Scripture, please click the link above to contact him.

Thank you for your help!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Authentic Worship

In the New Testament book of Mark, Jesus speaks to the life-worship of a widow:

Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money.

One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who's been putting money in the treasury.

All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on." (Mark 12:41-43)

This has always been portrayed by preachers I’ve heard as some giant act of faith, some huge and positive decision that the widow rejoiced in doing.  Maybe she did rejoice in putting her last two cents into God’s coffers.  But I wonder...

Did she give out of obligation and God honored her anyway?  I was taught growing up that anything done without a happy heart didn’t earn treasure in heaven.  Doing the right thing without the right attitude would result in the billowing smoke of burning wood, hay, and stubble on judgment day.

But what matters more: our feelings or our actions?

Sometimes (ok, a lot of times), I don’t feel like sweeping or mopping.  I don’t feel like folding laundry.  I don’t feel like (yet again) taking 30 minutes to an hour to prepare a nutritionally balanced meal that will be simultaneously complained over and devoured in 15 minutes or less, leaving a massive amount of dirty pots, pans, plates, and utensils in its wake.

But I do those things.  I know the consequences if I don’t.  I have obligations as a wife and mother to ensure my family has a comfortable home, clean clothes, nutritious food.

Do my feelings negate my actions?  I don’t think so.

Back to the widow.  What was she feeling?  Thinking?  I sincerely doubt she was overjoyed to drop all she had into the Temple coffers.  She probably had doubts and fears regarding her life and health.  I’ve discovered one can simultaneously trust God and feel trepidation about having daily needs met.  Trust does not eradicate doubt.  Doubt does not bury trust.  One does not obliterate the other in some sort of cosmic, quasi-spiritual duel.

In fact, I believe the very act of doubting can be counted as worship.

The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.  Psalm 103:12-13

God knows who we are.  There is no need to pretend with the Almighty.  True worship means being authentic with our feelings, our doubts and fears, then following God anyway.

In reality, Scripture says nothing about the mindset or emotions of the widow giving her last mites.  It was her act of giving that was recorded and lauded.

So when I don’t feel like listening to what God is telling me to do, when I don’t feel like I have anything left to give to my church or community, when I don’t feel like being genuine and want to pretend my faith is rock-solid instead of the gossamer web it has become, but I respond to God’s leading, give of my time and self, share my doubts...that is worship.

Whether I give from a place of peace or a place of doubt, the choice to act is what God deems important.

What will I give today?  Will it be life-worship -all that I have- or will it be something that looks good to others but comes from my wealth of perception? 

Friday, September 7, 2012

How a Home Birth Changed My View on Abortion pt. 3

So here I am.  Conflicted.  

You see, I firmly believe morality cannot be legislated.  John Calvin tried, and all he succeeded in doing was creating a lot of unnecessary laws.  The hearts of the people weren’t changed because they obeyed the laws (or didn’t).  The USA tried to legislate morality by enacting Prohibition.  By all accounts, immorality thrived beneath the law.  Obviously, Prohibition was an abject failure, hence its repeal.

I also believe my rights end where another person’s rights begin.  That means, although I have strongly held personal religious and political beliefs, I do not have the right to impose my beliefs on others.  

If we look at abortion as a moral issue (as pro-lifers tend to do), we do not have the right to impose our moral beliefs on others.  To do so would be tyrannical.

If abortion is a religious issue, we still do not have the right to impose our beliefs on others.  The Crusades and the Inquisition are accurate examples of what happens when a particular interpretation of religion or another is imposed wholesale on large groups of people.

That leaves abortion in the realm of politics.  A lot of pro-life individuals believe that pro-choice equals pro-abortion.  This is absolutely false.   Most pro-choice persons do not advocate mandatory blanket abortions for all unplanned pregnancies.  Instead, the pro-choice belief is that each woman has the right to decide whether she is willing to accept the health risks inherent to pregnancy and the responsibility of parenthood.  No one is better suited to make such a life-altering decision than she.  Thus, the issue is one of personal choice, not morality or religion.

Let me put it this way.  I do not smoke.  I believe the health risks associated with smoking outweigh any benefits.  I have family members who do smoke.  I wish they wouldn’t, because I am concerned for their future quality of life.  However, I do not ostracize or condemn these individuals.  They are adults who are making their own choices and accepting the associated risks.  I do have the right to ask them not to smoke in my home.  I do not have the right to ask them not to smoke in their homes.

Likewise, abortion is not something I would choose for myself.  However, I do not have the right to invade another woman’s private medical condition and demand she follow my moral compass. 

Where does that leave me in the abortion arena?

Currently, I am personally pro-life - I cannot think of any circumstance where I would choose abortion. 

BUT I am politically pro-choice - I cannot think of any circumstance where another woman’s body or medical condition and the associated risk or benefit is my business.

Frankly, it’s a scary place to be.  I’m in uncharted territory.  And I’m looking at political candidates with fresh eyes.  I do not want another woman -any woman- to feel the helplessness I felt in being forced to follow protocols against my will.  I never want any woman, regardless of youth, race, color, or socioeconomic status, to be without a voice in decisions regarding her own health, her own body, and her own well-being.  I want her to have a choice.

And I have my choice -an empowering home birth- to thank.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How a Home Birth Changed My View on Abortion pt. 2

I knew why I was pro-life, but what was the reasoning behind the movement?  Why did pro-choice people believe in their side so much?  So I researched.  I didn’t simply look at pro-choice and pro-life propaganda.  I read scientific articles detailing whether or not (and how early) a fetus feels pain.  I studied the concept of life and the soul from various religious points of view.  I looked at abortion philosophically.  Does anyone have an obligation to save another life, regardless of the consequences to him/herself?  Does a potential life take priority over a life already in existence?  If life is a gift, is it still a gift when coerced from an unwilling party?  

To my shame, I had never considered the mental trauma of rape and incest victims having to carry a very physical reminder of their anguish for the better part of a year.  The undesired internal exams at the hospital had felt extremely violating to me; how much more so to a rape survivor forced to endure those same exams while experiencing equally traumatic childbirth as the result of invidious sexual intercourse?  

The other thing I learned in my research was that each side tends to vilify the other.  Pro-choice groups look at pro-lifers as anti-abortionists who care more for a group of human cells with the potential for life than the woman carrying the cells and her current medical, physical, and psychological state.  Pro-lifers see pro-choice individuals as heartless fiends who want the right to murder innocent babies, because a child would slow their wild, free-love ways.  Look at the names they call each other.  Anti-choice. Baby killer.  

Ironically, pro-choicers are also more likely to support welfare programs that provide help for young, single mothers who choose to carry their babies to term.  Conversely, pro-lifers tend to oppose those programs on the grounds that a free ride from the government will simply make it easier for women to have more children in order to “work the system.”   

I had always been pro-life because, I thought, two wrongs don’t make a right.  In my thinking, the slaughter of an innocent life does not make a rape resulting in pregnancy any easier to handle.  But in actually listening to the pro-choice side, I realized they were also trying to do right.  They believed it was wrong to, in essence, commit a second rape by forcing a victim to carry a child against her will.

The following thought experiment really helped put things in perspective for me.  Let’s say a young couple, the woman in the first trimester of pregnancy, are in a horrific car accident.  The man is in a coma for several weeks, and when he finally awakens, he discovers his love has died.  As he weeps over his loss, the medical staff informs him that a radical medical procedure has allowed them to surgically alter him while he was in the coma.  He now has an artificial uterus and his unborn child has been successfully transplanted inside.  What he needs to decide soon is whether or not he will bring the pregnancy to term.  Obviously, carrying to term will put the man’s health at risk.  The dangers of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and other pregnancy-related complications are very real.  Also, the baby would have to be delivered by c-section, a surgery which carries its own set of possible life-threatening complications.

The man did not ask to have the uterus implanted.  Neither do females who are born with them.  The man did not ask to have the fetus implanted.  Neither do women who have unplanned pregnancies.  Does the man now have the obligation to carry the fetus to term, even though it was put there without his consent?  Do women have that obligation? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

How a Home Birth Changed My View on Abortion pt. 1

If you had asked me a year ago where I stood on women’s reproductive rights, I was adamantly, militantly on the pro-life/anti-abortion side.  I am adopted, the product of a sexual predator grooming a teen, waiting until she was statutorily legal before coercing sex from her.  I am Christian, believing life begins at conception.  There was no argument, no wiggle room.  To me, abortion under any circumstance was murder, and murder should be stopped.

Until I, together with my husband, planned a home birth.  We had done our research.  We had selected an extremely competent and experienced midwife who had also delivered most of her own offspring at home.  I had undergone medical tests to ascertain whether I would be a good candidate for home birth, and I had 4 previous vaginal births.  My husband and I felt the topic had been thoroughly analyzed and we had made the best decision for me, for us.

But then, well-meaning, concerned, opposing voices began speaking to our personal choice.  “Isn’t it dangerous?”  “Why don’t you want a doctor present?”  “Why wouldn’t you want the safety of a hospital?”  “What if something goes wrong during labor?”  “What if something is wrong with the baby?”  “I’m scared to death for you; I really wish you’d reconsider giving birth in a hospital.”

Frankly, I found it insulting.  Did these people actually believe we had just decided on a whim to give birth at home without doing any research?  Did these people actually believe they had a right to decide where and how I was to give birth?  Shrouding their criticism under the guise of concern honestly made it worse for me;  my loved ones apparently did not trust me to make a choice that so profoundly affected not only my life, but the lives of my husband and children. 

The absolute worst, most hurtful comment I received was when someone told me she had been unsupportive until she found out my husband was committed to a home birth, too.  In her words, "You come up with some crazy ideas, but your husband is so level-headed.  If he's on board, I know it's probably safe."   To be honest, the attitude that someone other than me knows best and should have the right to decide for me still hurts.

Had the previous four hospital birth experiences been satisfactory for me, I would never have considered a home birth in the first place.  But all the protocols hospitals have to follow, things like 

  • mandatory hep lock/IV
  • denying me food (and water!) during labor
  • mandatory monitoring
  • nurses randomly coming in and out
  • strangers poking their fingers into my most private of places to measure my progress
  • being told when to push (as if I’m a dolt and can’t figure out the vise-like pain combined with pressure on my pelvic floor means my baby is coming out!)
  • what position to push in (flat on my back - with back labor, no less)

were counter-productive for my birth experience.  Not to mention, the first person to touch my baby was a relative stranger and then my baby was taken away from me at random intervals for this test or that, to who-knows-where in the hospital, only to be returned up to an hour later sound asleep, when my breasts were telling me it was long past time for a feed.

All that to say, I was fed up with being told how to handle my body.  I was sick and tired of strangers making choices that weren’t best for me and my life.  No one knows me, or my body and its needs like I do.  How dare these people make such important choices for me!

Hmm.  That sounds an awful lot like pro-choice rhetoric, doesn’t it?  My body, my choice.

The process had begun...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Miraculous Mundane

There's something in my personality that seeks the rollercoasters of life.  I love extremes, and my emotions follow suit.  I can be perfectly content sobbing with a dramatic movie and  feeeeeeling with all of my being.  My highs are very high, almost manic (which makes me an awesome, fun mom), and my lows are so very low, melodramatic, depressive even.

I admire my even-keeled husband, but I have no desire to be him.  I enjoy my ups and down, feeling every note played on my heartstrings vibrating across my entire being.

The downside to this, however, is that I want my spiritual life to be just as dramatic as my emotional life.  Maybe God works that way with some people, but I think He knows I could simply write my relationship with Him off as just another experience that my emotion-junkie self can pick up and put down at will.

So I look for miracles in the mundane.  I listen for God's voice in my routine.

How is God manifested in boredom?  God is the Creator of the universe, the Everlasting One!  Surely He has better things to do than show up in the daily interactions of my children, my spouse.  He won't be found in mountains of laundry, piles of dishes, or grimy windows.  He's bigger...no, better than that!

But no.  I am coming to believe that the mundane is where God is the most active.  Yes, there are giant, miraculous events, like a loved one being brought back from death's door, or a person discovering a stranger has paid their mortgage.  It's easy to see God in the big events.

Spying God in the little things, the mundane, the every day is hard for me.  But I'm learning.  Listening.

Seeing His love and care when my four-year-old soothes her ten-month-old sister after a tumble.

Feeling His grace and forgiveness when I completely lose the plot in regards to parenting, and all five of my children surround me with platitudes, hugs, kisses, assurances of love, and promises that tomorrow is a new day, and I'll do better then.

Experiencing His providence through my sweet, over-worked husband, who day in and day out sacrifices his time at his job so that we don't have to give a second thought to our needs.  Everything is taken care of, from the home and vehicle maintenance to grocery shopping.

Watching my children deal with the messiness of life's emotions and relationships, often giving others the benefit of the doubt if feelings are bruised.

Having my heart both broken and swelling with pride when my eight-year-old son skips meals so he can take the time to pray for other children who do not have the luxury of food.

Overhearing my nine-year-old daughter read stories to her younger siblings and watching them all puppy-piled onto a bed or couch as they listen to the cadence of her grown-up girl voice, secure in the love of family.

Feeling the desire my children have for a relationship with us as parents, sensing the bifurcation of their desire to please us but also be true to their God-given personalities.

Being a vessel of service.  I have the privilege of lavishing love on the people in my life through my words and actions.   Like Christ washing the disciples' feet, I wash hands and faces (and clothes and dishes!), but mostly I see Christ's selflessness in my husband.  Together, we represent God's love and care to our children in our messy, mundane, miraculous existence.

 And isn't that where God lives?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The fallacy of original sin

The concept of original sin is not found in Judaism!  Instead, God says “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Youth, here, is derived from the word na’ar, referring to a male old enough to be a warrior or get married.  Judaism does not ascribe to the belief that infants and young children are capable of sin.  The Proverb so frequently quoted:
Foolishness (folly, impiety) [is] bound in the heart of a child (na’ar); [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
is actually referring to teens, at minimum.  Na'ar is a masculine Hebrew word that conveys the idea of being shaken off.  It is used twice to refer to younger boys (Moses and Samuel, respectively) because the term applied in their situations, but at the time was generally understood to refer to what we would call a young man.

The Hebrew word for sin is khata, meaning going astray.  It is also used as an archery term, missing the mark.  
Sin is a act, not a state of being.  It is a conscious choice to commit an act contrary to God or God's divine instruction, a deliberate choosing to disobey.  But God is gracious in His expectations of obedience.  Shema is the Hebrew word for obey, but it doesn't mean compliance as we so often use the word obey.  Instead, shema has the concept of hear, understand, obey.  It stands to reason that if I do not hear God's instruction, I cannot obey.  Also, if I hear, but do not understand and therefore do not comply or comply imperfectly, God doesn't consider my actions to be sin.  I can't go astray or miss the mark if I do not comprehend the path or have a mark at which to aim.

Judaism holds that atonement for sin is done through the right action. 
One time, when Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was walking in Jerusalem with Rabbi Yehosua, they arrived at where the Temple now stood in ruins. "Woe to us" cried Rabbi Yehosua, "for this house where atonement was made for Israel's sins now lies in ruins!" Answered Rabban Yochanan, "We have another, equally important source of atonement, the practice of gemilut hasadim ("loving kindness"), as it is stated "I desire loving kindness and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6).”

Jesus fulfilled Judaic law and tradition when He atoned for all sin through His sacrifice.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Rom. 8:1-2)

Why, then, do we assume the worst in our children, then force them to atone for their sins through punishments of physical pain or deprivation?  All actions have consequences, yes, but going beyond those consequences into the realm of punishment makes a mockery of Christ's sacrifice wherein He took all the punishment for all sin, for all time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The god of good parenting

In the OT, we see the Israelites condemned for sacrificing their children to deities such as Molech.  But are we really any different?

Certainly, most Christians don’t physically kill their children on the altar of some graven image.  But there are many gods to which we sacrifice the well-being of our children, not the least of which is Convenience.  Baby wakes up in the night crying?  Don’t get up; that child needs to “learn” to self-soothe, to sleep through the night!  Toddler keeps touching off-limits items?  Don't baby-proof; smack his little hand or bottom until he stops reaching for things!  Pre-schooler being "defiant" and expressing her individuality in ways you don't like?  Punish her into non-questioning compliance!

Our children learn about the nature of God through us. 

When we wake in the night with some anxiety and pray, “Lord, I need you!” does God say, “Doggone it!  It’s the middle of the night!  Don’t you remember that you’re supposed to cast all your care on me?  Well, to teach you that lesson, I’m going to be unavailable until daylight.”  Of course not!  When we explore our own beliefs, test God's limits, does our Father thwart our discovery process? Not at all.  When we choose to worship or live in ways that differ from the rest of our religious tribe, does God force us to act a certain way before He accepts and loves us?  Never.

Why, then, do we expect God to bathe us in love and cover us with grace when we do not extend those courtesies to our own flesh and blood?

What happened to "keep us forgiven with You and forgiving of others."? (Matt 6:12)  Or "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults - unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own."? (Matt 7:1-3)  Or 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."? (Matt 25:40)

In my own experience, I have tended to make either "good parenting" or myself god when it comes to my children.  And I was willing to sacrifice my children on the altars of Convenience and Selfishness.  What I didn't realize was that in addition to distorting my children's view of God, I was also hurting the very heart of the Savior.

I do well to remember both the first of the Ten Commandments: "No other gods; only me." (Ex 20:3) and the statement "God is love." (1 John 4:8)  

Monday, July 30, 2012


As a parent, there are days you think, "Really, kid?  Really!?  Have I taught you nothing?"  Or perhaps, "Am I the worst parent ever?"

Yesterday was one of those days...

I try to use our daily moments to teach my children about...well, everything!  About life, about showing kindness to others, about our relationship with God and God's love for us, about social responsibility...everything.

Yesterday...I got to show my kids grace.

It was hard.  My youngers were wiggly and pestery during praise and worship - my unabashedly favorite part of church.  Instead of being irritated, I (mostly) spoke calm correction or simply shifted people in the pew.  My olders decided to save their facepalm-worthy activities for after lunch - when my firstborn and a friend barricaded themselves in the house and my #2 led a charge of hippity-hop bearing neighborhood kids through our house to land a barrage of bouncy blows on his older sib, leading her to conclude calling 911 was the best recourse for reinforcements.

Yes.  Really.

I was embarrassed.  I was angry.  I was frustrated.  Did I mention embarrassed?  But I didn't yell.  I spoke intensely, but in a controlled manner.  I reiterated our house rules (gentle hands, ie no hitting; get permission before allowing friends in the house; 911 is for life-and-death emergencies only).  I imposed consequences.  I listened to excuses and asked questions.  But most of all, I reiterated my unconditional love for my children.  I hugged and wiped tears.  I reassured them that I would not allow guilt and consequences to crush them, but instead we would use the experience to shape us all for the better.

Yesterday...was difficult.  But it was oh, so good.  Not in the theme park, scream-til-you're-hoarse, eat-junk-til-you're-dizzy, happy-happy-fun good.  But Everest-of-laundry-conquering, awe-inspiring, relief-inducing, job-well-done good.

Yesterday...my kids learned the consequences of ill-thought actions.  But they also experienced the security of unconditional love and the wasteful abundance of grace.