Monthly Archives: February 2012

“More Than Enchanting” … A beautifully written and very empowering book.

Jo Saxton’s book, which she has titled More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World, offers some very beautiful faith-centered reflections about issues that affect modern Christian women.

I appreciate that a large portion of her book is devoted to encouraging Christian women in leadership, especially in an age when conversations about a woman’s “place” in the world are regaining popularity in Christian discourse. (If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, please Google Mark Driscoll and pay special attention to articles highlighting the anti-woman rhetoric coming out of his pulpit. Then, Google the words “masculine Christianity” and prepare to be bowled over by the antiquated male-vs.-female arguments happening in those discussions during the past few weeks. I don’t recommend reading any of the aforementioned rubbish on a full stomach.) Continue reading

Southern Baptists: What’s In A Name Change?

According to an article on NPR’s website, the largest denomination in the country has changed its name to The Great Commission Baptists in an effort to escape the centuries-old stigma associated with being “Southern Baptists”:

Some Southern Baptists worry that their denomination’s name still carries the stigma of a 19th century split with northern Baptists over slavery. Others who fought hard to build the brand and its conservative theology and politics don’t want to see it go.

So the idea to add the description of “Great Commission Baptists” to the name of the Southern Baptist Convention might be a compromise that excites almost none of the 16 million who make up the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Before we get too excited about the Southern Baptists’ new decision, I think it’s important to note that their name is not really the issue here. The real issue is that their denomination was launched in an effort to continue oppressing African Americans, who at the time were roughly 14% of the American population– and that their denomination continues to thrive on oppressing a large portion of today’s population. We (African Americans) are no longer the target of their bigotry because slavery is no longer the debate du jour in America. They’ve changed their focus to their “new Black”. The object of their Bible-based bigotry now? Non-Heterosexuals.

Prejudice is a parasite… It thrives on finding a new victim in every generation. It feeds on fear and pride. It grows as it consumes us with hatred and ignorance. The prejudice parasite can be difficult to diagnose because on the surface, it may look like “religion” or “fundamentalism”. Under a microscope, it’s really the same old bigotry… bigger… uglier… more dangerous… multiplied… more powerful. Yes, it’s wearing a new name and a new face, but it’s still a parasite feeding on fear and fueled by willful ignorance. It’s still ugly. It’s still dangerous. It still searches endlessly for people to join its cause (often with PR schemes in its tool belt… Schemes like name changes, etc.).

The NPR article makes it clear that the name change is rooted in a desire to appear kinder, gentler and more progressive to African Americans. After 167 years, that’s a bit too little, too late. I would argue that if Southern Baptists really want to rehabilitate their image, they should start by asking themselves why they need a new victim every 50 years… Why Blacks? And then Catholics? And then women? And then gays?

Maybe the problem isn’t your name. Maybe it’s your fear. Maybe the problem is that you read the Bible through a lens of religious, ethnic and gender-centric privilege. Maybe it’s that your understanding of the Gospel doesn’t include the message for which Jesus died. Maybe you should skip the name change and start with your unexplored prejudices. Just sayin’.

You May Also Enjoy Reading:

  1. Straightianity: The Anti-Gay Gospel
  2. Kingdoms Afterlives and Political Shenanigans
  3. Regarding Same Sex Relationships: Let’s Not Agree to Disagree

The Information Superhighway as a Way Forward

[Note: This reflection on the new book @StickyJesus was written for the Patheos Book Club’s roundtable conversation. I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher.]

@StickyJesus begins with an important thought: The printing press contributed to “the Reformation and… the spread of Christianity”. Without it, the Bible’s wide readership would not have been possible. (pgs. 7-8) The authors astutely note that a dramatic shift in any society’s access to information can mean monumental things for its subcultures. They explain, in so many words, that Christianity (arguably America’s largest subculture) is no exception, and should leverage social media to increase its reach.

I believe the authors have a great point. Most of us are completely unaware that we are living in an age of profound history for the Church. However, I am not sure that the information era will be notable in Christian history for the reasons suggested in @StickyJesus. Here’s why…

The authors write that Christians should approach social media with a commitment to preserving and spreading a traditional message. On page 18, they argue that “adapting to technology does not mean you change the message to fit the culture.” I understand their appeal for preservation, but it’s important to remember that Martin Luther’s message was the most radical “heresy” Christians had heard in hundreds of years. We herald the “changed message” that was born in the Reformation as a great thing now, but it was an abominable movement in its day.

21st Century Christianity’s message will not change because the Internet was invented… however it will change because of the context that will be added to Christianity by the information we gather. The Information Superhighway will continue to make the world a smaller place and the “other” our neighbor. We now have access to information that was once preserved for the ministerial elite. With this much information and context at our fingertips, a change in collective perspective and consciousness is certainly inevitable.

As our perspectives change, we will probably also change our understanding of what it means to “assemble ourselves” for worship. For instance, as a blogger with a growing social media presence, I’ve had the privilege of participating in a number of gatherings with “Emergent” Christians. Known as theological outsiders and liturgical rabble-rousers, Emergent-types have used social media tools that were as complex as streaming video media or as simple as Twitter hashtags to organize themselves in ways that have had a significant impact on religious discourse in America. Similarly, Skype has made it possible to “fellowship” with like-minded people without leaving home. Christians are abandoning the top-down Sunday-sermon model for impromptu egalitarian Bible studies—and they’re organizing them on Facebook. These are important things to consider when speaking of the use of social media in Christianity.

I think it’s vitally important for Christianity to embrace social media, but I think it’s unfortunate and possibly even shortsighted to view change as an impending curse. It’s a blessing. We see through a glass dimly, but with technology, the light is getting brighter. (Now go get the book for someone who needs to get plugged in! It was a fun read!)