Archive for November, 2013

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The Person You Really Need

November 19, 2013

I don’t like this particular guy. His voice grates on my nerves and the things he talks about are annoying. I have called him “fake” and “plastic” to people who know me well enough to not take everything I say too seriously. This guy rarely listens to anything I say, and he perpetually lets me know all his life accomplishments. He pretends to always be successful, even when other people know it’s not true.

In recent months, he has said some nasty things about me to other people. These people are friends of mine and told him he was wrong to his face. Because they are my friends, they haven’t told me what he said, only that he’s been saying things to them and other people.

I wish he would go away. Why do I have to have him in my life?

Last night, I was thinking about a gathering I was invited to, a party I know he has also been invited to. I don’t doubt he will be there, which is why I was considering not going. I am still considering that. But last night, I read something which has made it harder to keep feeling the same way about this guy.

I was reading some quotes from The Lord of the Rings and one of them slew me with its truth and intensity. (Note: If you don’t know the story, let’s just say it’s an epic book about people on a journey to get rid of the cause of so much grief). In a scene in the underground mines of Moria, the wizard Gandalf is speaking to one of the young hobbits.Gandalf-Gollum-Wide-560x282 This young man is complaining about the wispy phantom who is dogging their steps through the mine: Gollum. To everyone’s minds, Gollum is the epitome of all things rotten in the world. Yet he will not leave them alone. Pippin complains to Gandalf that Bilbo should have killed Gollum when he had the chance. Gandalf’s answer is remarkable:

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.

Gandalf knows one thing about all men, even Gollum: He has some part to play in the events of the future. Even though some of those events may be evil, his part is important. If you know the end of the story, if it were not for Gollum, Frodo could never have cast the ring into the fire. His heart could no longer bear to part with his “treasure” and he pulled it back to himself with fierceness and stubborn will. As Gollum bit off his finger and ultimately fell into the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo and the rest of the world was released from the ring’s wretched power.

Without Gollum, Frodo’s life would have been easier; and he would have become a slave to that ease. The ring would have become his jailer and his death.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says “Therefore, I was given a thorn in the Flesh, a messenger of Satan…three times I plead with the Lord to take him away. Then the Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you.” Many people believe that Paul is referring to a physical ailment. But the word “messenger” – the same word used for Angel in the Bible – always refers to a personal being, not an illness or injury. Paul is asking God to take away a person who is causing great pain in his life. But God has no intention of doing that. We know now that Paul had several people who followed him around talking him down and stirring up trouble for him. Maybe this is who he asked God about.

But God said “No way, Paul. This guy is yours to deal with, and I will allow it.”

Why? Often in life, we cannot become the person we were always meant to be unless there is a foil, a person we consider a villain and a rotten person. I am not saying we should welcome every horrible person into our lives, or live without boundaries. But, perhaps it is best to see that some of these people we can’t stand are actually there for a reason. And maybe we won’t find the “best” that God has for us unless we accept these people have to be there.

After hearing Gandalf and the deep truth of Paul, I thought about this guy I am having trouble accepting. My meditation did not instantly make him more palatable to my taste. I still don’t like him. But I can now embrace his place in my life. He may turn out to be one of those people who shape me in ways my friends cannot.

Perhaps.

Therefore, I will stop asking for God to take him away. I am still wary of him and I don’t have to like him. Now I am asking God to use him in my life.

Let’s see what happens.

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Adultery and Patriarchy

November 12, 2013

Here’s what this article is not about. It is not slamming the Christian Patriarchy movement per se – or Complementarianism. Both belief systems teach that males in a family are in charge, and in order for females (wives) to find their true place in God, they must submit to their husbands in all things. According to a few Patriarchy teachers, this can even include  violence, lying, harsh words and adultery. If the husband is doing any of those things, then it is ultimately the wife’s fault or she has to somehow take responsibility to fix their relationship. This extreme position is taught by many teachers, but Michael and Debi Pearl  are the best known advocates of this instruction. In their teaching, if a husband has an affair, at some level the wife was not doing her duty properly.

But I am not primarily writing about the wrongness of those movements. I don’t agree with them, but let’s just leave it at that.

Nor is this article about the dangers of adultery. A lot of people commit adultery and that does not necessarily negate their belief system. We all fail and many of us fail spectacularly. Anyone who claims they do not fail is faking it, and those who do not fail spectacularly are either lying or hiding their problems really well. Adultery is a problem because we all want to feel good, and when marriages have problems, an affair can seem to soothe the hurts for awhile. Or the boredom. Or the resentment.

But this article is not about that. Adultery causes many problems and let’s just leave it at that.

Doug Phillips has admitted this past week to having a long-term affair. If you don’t know him, he’s one of the prime teachers and leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement, President of Vision Forum, which along with Gospel Coalition seems to represent the most conservative wing of the conservative marriage movement.

He has many extreme teachings including that President Obama is allied with the Antichrist (because of the emergence and legality of homosexual marriage), that every family should keep having kids until the woman’s uterus is worn-out and won’t work any more, that godly parents will ONLY homeschool their kids, that a wife must never disagree with her husband, must submit to all his commands and whims, must teach their daughters how to serve a future husband and this same wife must provide a safe and sacred place where all sexual needs of her husband are fulfilled – even if her needs are not.

It is an extreme position. Doug Phillips also puts himself forward as the example of what a Christian husband should be.

Now he has had an affair. Let me try and help  you understand some of the implications of this. First, I consider Doug Phillips to be something of an outlier, in that the majority of Evangelical Christians do not hold to his extreme views. Second, just because he has had an affair does not mean his views are wrong. I believe the Bible shows that his views are wrong. But there are Egalitarians (i.e. those who believe husbands and wives are equal partners) who have had affairs, cheated on their taxes and watch soap operas. I am not bringing up Phillips’ affair because it disqualifies him.

I am introducing this subject because it points out an endemic problem with this approach to marriage and sexual sin.

The view that says the husband is the Patriarch of the family arises out of ancient agrarian societies where this approach was necessary and practical. In ancient times, any woman not attached to a family unit led by a powerful and protective man was in danger. Women who did not marry a man who could protect her often were beaten, raped and would ultimately starve. Women had no education, no opportunities, and faced constant dangers during an epoch when the strongest dominated the weakest. This is why polygamy was allowed. It gave protection to many women at the same time.

In those days, a man had very little contact with anyone outside of his family. He was accountable to very few people except his immediate family and a few friends. He met very few single women, and the ones he did meet were often brought in as third or fourth wives.

But in today’s culture, men and women contact each other daily. And strong men can no longer marry all the women they meet. If his wife is not strong, aggressive and able to hold her husband accountable for his actions, adultery is much easier to do. Unless the husband agrees to never talk to another woman (and how is that even possible in our day and age), the only two things which will hold his sinful tendencies in check are an equally strong wife and an even stronger relationship with the Holy Spirit.

But the Complementarian movement does not teach that women should be strong and equal partners. It teaches that women should be subservient and never disagree or ask their husbands to account for their actions. It does not surprise me that Doug Phillips had a long-term affair before he admitted his problem. Since he had no one at home to call him on his crap, he was able to hide his problems over a long period of time. His wife was ordered never to question him or disagree with his actions.

What bothers me even more is that Phillips’ wife will ultimately be called upon to take responsibility for fixing their marriage. All Phillips has to do, according to his teaching, is admit the affair, apologize and move on. His wife now has to try harder to please him, hoping to fend off future affairs.

If you believe that the marriage culture of the Old Testament is God’s plan for your marriage, consider that it no longer fits well with our urban modern society. Even though affairs happen in Egalitarian families, they are treated much differently afterward. This failure by Doug Phillips should serve as a warning that Christian Patriarchy is not as ideal or biblical as it purports to be.

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