Birth of the Activist Jesus

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I cannot do better than Shirley Taylor’s reflection upon this meaning of Christmas this year. May 2020 see a great expansion in the recognition of the dignity and equality of women. In this way abuse will no longer be taught or tolerated. Follow Shirley’s blog at bwebaptistwomenforequality on WordPress.

“Love is plastered all over many church’s websites. But for most, it is like looking for love in all the wrong places. Jesus came into the world that was having a problem with love, and we still have not fully understood what love means.
In particular, Christian women are still held to a rigid law of submission to all males. December 6, 2015, Southern Baptist pastor Dr. Ashley Ray preached a particularly offensive sermon in which he blamed all of society’s ills on women whose only desire is to live out the equality we were given by God our Creator. He called it ‘feminist rebellion.’ In this sermon he quoted the party line, the same old diatribe that women are far too familiar with.
Where was love in this belittling and hateful sermon? This pastor did not quote Jesus because Jesus did not speak of – nor did Jesus indicate – male supremacy such as this pastor preached. There was no love in this sermon. He has closed his mind to the pro-feminist actions of Christ. Feminists do not want to harm or deny men any position, but male headship leaders choose to hammer down on women.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 has led many pastors astray with this theology of male headship, and in doing so, they have forgotten the Jesus who was born into a world of rules and laws. They have forgotten that Jesus came to call humans to a better way of life – to love God and to love others. Not only in word, but in how we treat each other.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-34)
Bob Edwards, author of Let My People Go, reminds us that Jesus is concerned with human rights, which includes the human rights of women, and we must be, too.
“I don’t discuss prejudice against women in the church as “one of those theological issues we just have to agree to disagree on.” I would not have “agreed to disagree on slavery.” I do not agree to disagree on racism. I will not politely agree to disagree on the devaluation and subjugation of all women by men in the name of God. It’s an injustice that grieves the Holy Spirit and must be addressed as such. The Bible is full of excellent examples of men and women who love people AND tell them to repent of unjust practices. Jesus, for example, confronted the religious leaders of his day for confusing the will of God with the traditions of men. I think we should do likewise.” – Bob Edwards
Jesus came to free us from the rigmarole that man had bound God with. Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, and to love our fellow-man. When love is the motivator, our worship of God, and helping our fellow-man, will take on a different meaning. We will feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, treat others as we want to be treated, and give the Good News to everyone.
However, instead of being like Jesus, we still desire to enforce laws for Christians, especially laws about what women can and cannot do, and I wonder if Jesus would have turned his eyes upon us.
The true meaning of Christmas is the freedom that Jesus gave us. Yet Christian leaders today want to withhold that freedom for women. They have forgotten that Christianity is about human rights. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).
This Christmas, will you remember the birth of the greatest human rights activist? Will you open your heart to loving women as equals, and not as someone who was created to submit to all males?”

How Churches Painted Themselves Into a Corner (And How Equality Can Get Them Out)

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We looked in the last post of some of the reasons that churches across the doctrinal spectrum have been slow or reluctant to help the 1 in 4 women of faith in their congregation who are in destructive relationships.

Churches derive their power from their claim that they represent Christ’s message on earth.

Their history is one of organizing and transmitting the legacy of Jesus Christ in the world.

Jesus is presented as the Savior, the One Who, once followed, takes our heavy burdens upon Himself and provides a never-ending source of support, love and forgiveness.

Indeed, the claim is that once people accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they will be redeemed – made new. A transformation is to take place. A new birth, a new creature is now operating in the world.

What happens to the church’s message when this doesn’t happen?

In the slide toward political power and social approval, churches left themselves without recourse when members fall short, not in small human foibles, but in gross behaviors which even non-believers may not condone.

Such is the current fallout with sexual abuse and other extreme violations of human dignity. Discussing views on how the church got sex wrong will be held for another post, but the dilemma the church faces over members who fall below a decent not to mention Christian claim to character is a major challenge.

If the standard of character transformation is no longer a sign of accepting redemption, the church is left with the watered- down tea of social pressure and lip service.

When not just members but leaders are shown to have fed upon the fold rather than nourish them, the party line is left with nothing but condemnation. Sin becomes the focus and not relationship with God. Cries of “kick them out” arise. There is no mercy for the twice-sinned. Members turn upon each other. Traumatic house- cleaning commences.

The application of forgiveness of sins becomes problematic when narcissistic manipulation protects the predator and condemns the victim. This is the reverse of what Jesus taught. Protecting the institution becomes more important than genuine repentance but this is only cliff hanging.

The church is left with the dilemma of admitting they have been a sham show or closing ranks. What would Jesus do?

Here we are left with His disdains for the hypocritical religious leaders of his day. He did not mince words for them and instead preferred people who knew they were in trouble, needed help and were grateful when they got it.

Mock repentence in order to hold onto to position and power are not Christ-like. When churches encourage a view that we are better than those who are unsaved, they have painted themselves into a corner if the betters are less than the lowers.

The window out of the corner is to abandon the false foundation and start over.

The foundation crumbled when a static rather than a dynamic view of salvation was used to build.

In the static view, salvation remains outside the person and he still remains a worthless person, relying on Jesus outside of himself for viability. Eternal groveling is required. “Rejoicing” in what Jesus has done for me or to me, not in me, is the membership card. It becomes a system that praises suffering and death. Emotional pathology can be encouraged as pain becomes pleasure. There is glee in righteous gore.

In the dynamic view of salvation, Christ within is the hope of glory. An original worthlessness is not required to grow into a fullness of life. Indeed Christ is followed because of higher dimensions of being human. God’s Spirit lives in each person and is pleased with growth and development, harmony, peace, and continual well-being. God is not anti-human. Christ shows what is possible and invites people to do it.

In this view of salavtion, church members are not focused on social status and political power (externals) and concentrate on the power of  compassion for fellow human beings who hold Christ within (internal). They don’t hire “professional Christians” to do their faith for them or tell them the right way to do it.

That’s what Jesus did.

The church must not go away sorrowful, like the rich young ruler, when asked to follow Jesus. Nor should they organize around  power which becomes the lure for scam artists. Rather they must reclaim gender equality in leadership and use consensus to create community so that everyone is empowered and no one is excluded. There are models, such as recovery groups, that emulate the early house churches.

Being human is not what backed  the church into its corner. Pretending superiority is: members better than outsiders; men better than women. A static view of salvation leaves people fighting over manna. It is horrible to see a church torn apart as finger pointing becomes more vicious. Hurling attacks about who is the “genuine” follower is not the path of peace. Neither repentance nor forgiveness are acts that can be commanded on schedule.

Once trust has been betrayed, it is better for the hurt and the ones who hurt to receive therapy and healing and maybe not together. Often the church will have to disband. It takes time. If we are graced, a genuine group of people who want to follow Jesus will reemerge. Love is the doctrine.

The 30 pieces are never worth it.