Christian Counter-cultural-ism

At the very beginning, Jesus’ followers expected to be leaders in the Kingdom of God. How could they lose with a miracle-worker like Him in charge? Jesus was certainly a popular guy, at one point a crowd of people appeared and tried to make Him their king, but He slipped away. At any rate, people came from far and wide to hear what he had to say. People would just follow him, and many did join in as disciples along the way. But when it became clear that their expectations weren’t going to be fulfilled, they stopped following him. At that point it was just Jesus and his disciples. Jesus’ message was a radical one, even for his day. When the Jewish people were anxiously looking for their messiah to appear, raise an army, drive out the Romans, and set up a kingdom like King David’s – they missed out on the humble servant that preached a message like: “Love God and love your neighbor.”

By the time Paul had a change of heart, there were many Christian churches set up in various communities throughout the Roman empire. There was a tension in the teaching that they ought to obey their authorities. Many Christians drew the line when it come to the yearly sacrifices to the image of the emperor or to local gods because of their belief in Jesus and his teachings. This usually cost them their lives.

In terms of culture, they were not instructed to fight against it or conform into it, but to live in peace with others as much as it depended upon them to do so. Modern Christians seem to have missed this message. If we’re not protesting about something we don’t like in culture, if we’re not trying to change culture to match what we believe it ought to be, or if we are not making our beliefs crystal clear on the subject of culture, then somehow we’re letting God down. Sometimes the teaching goes like this: “God said not to be conformed to the culture of the world, so we will live counter-cultural. So whatever the world approves of, we will disapprove of it.”

Historically, Christianity has been hit or miss on that point. Christians were counter-cultural when the Romans disapproved of Christianity, but when the Romans approved of Christianity, believers realized that being counter-cultural against Christianity was impeding the gospel message. Christianity worked side-by-side with various kings and queen in the Middle Ages and did not concern itself with countering Christian cultures, but only those that were not. Americans have seen this too; in that for the longest time we weren’t counter-cultural when Christianity was dominant, but when it’s influence waned, we decided that being counter-cultural was the way to go.

At the moment, Christian influence is pretty low. Having expended much of our social capital on Republican politics in the last few decades, there’s just not very much of it left to go around or to make a difference in a good way. This means that Christian counter-cultural-ism will be at an all-time high. There’s no shortage of things to be counter-cultural about. The church can counter feminism with a ‘muscular’ Christianity that’s decidedly pro-male. The church can counter same sex marriage with a ‘biblical manhood and womanhood’ Christianity that’s decidedly for traditional gender roles. The church can counter abortion with pro-birth policies that do little to ensure that babies are born into good circumstances and healthy environments because having babies is more important that raising children well.

When Christianity is in charge, it writes the narrative and controls the script. It sets rules and policies and the moral tone of the people who recognize it. It tends to last for centuries and millennia. But now Christianity is losing it’s grip. So you should expect to see famous pastors delivering sermons emphasizing being counter-cultural until they get some semblance of power back. But you should always think back to what Jesus said. He said that we ought to love our enemies, even when what they stand for is in opposition to what we personally believe. He said that we ought to love our neighbors, even when they do not believe as we do. He never told his followers to take up arms and drive out the worldly people in our midst. He never told us to fight against culture and he never instructed us to conform into culture. The only side we are supposed to be on is that of love.

God’s Universal Design for Family

Rules

Generally, we view rules as universal – the apply completely and equally to everyone. We expect everyone to ‘play the game by the rules’ so that everything is fair. Everyone plays by the same rules so that there is no confusion. So I wanted to look at the ‘rules’ of one of Christianity’s biggest teachings as they are applied to specific situations to see how well they hold up. First, the ‘rule’ is that men and women are created equally with different functions, the role of the husband (male) is to be a servant-leader and the role of his wife (female) is to submit.

The underlying assumptions of the rule include: they are both believers in Christianity. 1 Corinthians 7 speaks to this situation, suggesting that so long as a believer and an unbeliever are willing to remain together, they should. But if their spouse was unwilling to remain together, divorce was permissible. There is no mention is given as to who ought to fulfill which role in what way. After all, how could a believing husband hold ‘spiritual authority’ over a spouse who does not believe as he does? How could a believing wife ‘submit unto the spiritual authority’ of her husband who does not believe as she does? What if he does not believe that he holds any spiritual authority at all? What if she recognizes that he belongs to another faith whose spiritual authority is defined by his belief in his god whom she does not recognize?

Another underlying assumption is that: both the man and the woman are completely sound and healthy individuals capable of carrying out their obligations. Humanity doesn’t always have that luxury. I’ve been watching Ninja warrior, one of the contestants knows that it is a matter of time before his wife’s disease claims her life. There are days when she cannot walk and can barely breathe. Because she cannot fulfill the obligations of a Proverbs 31 woman, he’s the one that usually picks up the slack and does the things that were assigned to her because she is a woman. It’s not uncommon for people to have accidents that injure them severely – sometimes a traumatic brain injury changes their personality and alter a person in a way where their leadership ability is compromised. Some people are born with conditions that limit their ability to function in society. In all of these cases, gender-based roles are all but impossible to maintain in the real world. Even as people age, their bodies often weaken and sometimes they fall victim to Alzheimer’s. In this circumstance, a husband becomes the caregiver to his wife or a wife becomes the caregiver to her husband, taking over their gender responsibilities.

This is followed by the “sufficiently wealthy” assumption: the assumption that the husband makes sufficient funds for the wife to remain at home. The poorer societies of the world often find themselves in situations where it’s entirely normal for both the husband and wife to find work wherever they can. When both work, then there is much less time for the woman to fulfill her ‘home’ obligations by herself. Either her husband will help with her obligations and lighten her load, or he will not and effectively double her load. But in wealthier corners of the world, women sometimes make the greater fortune, allowing men to be stay at home dads – a complete role reversal!

Then there’s the ‘one size fits all’ assumption: “all men are leaders” “all women are followers” “all men are supposed to be husbands and have a wife” “all women are supposed to be wives and have a husband” “all men are supposed to financially support their families” “all women are supposed to be homemakers” “all women will have children” “all women are supposed to raise their children at home” “all pastors, elders, and deacons must be male”. It ignores the reality of the world around us: (1.) marriage isn’t for everyone. Some people really should not be pressured into getting married. (2.) not everyone is capable of having children. People who spend thousands of dollars on IVF (in-vitro fertilization) and often cannot afford to adopt children – it’s one or the other and sometimes neither. (3.) we cannot map out every detail of a person’s entire existence because of their gender. We’re not omniscient enough to be able to say “that woman cannot discover radioactivity because she’s a female and can only be a homemaker.”

There’s the assumption that divorce doesn’t play a factor, but the Bible also speaks to that in quite a few places. It would prefer that a divorced couple would reconcile their differences. The Bible says things like “he who divorces his wife for any reason (except unfaithfulness) and marries another commits adultery”. This was partially a condemnation against the major teachings of the day. The teachers of the law said that it was permissible for a man to divorce his wife if: she burnt dinner, left home without a head covering, insulted him, had no children, or for almost any reason they felt was justifiable. Husbands could divorce their wives, but they were not obligated to carry through a divorce should the wife ask for one. In this day and age, divorce and remarriage are quite common. I happen to believe that if a wife has an abusive and violent husband, she is justified in getting divorced from him. Some Christians are more concerned that the marriage ‘looks’ like what the Bible says than whether or not it ‘acts’ as the Bible teaches. They would tell a woman to submit more to her husband, but they would not do enough homework to know that submission to violence often emboldens the guilty party to be even more violent to evoke some sort of response.

But people who are really into these teachings tell me that it applies to the unmarried as well: the single men and women who were never married and the widow or widower. Generally, the Bible expected younger widows to marry again to a believer. Older widows were often put on a list to receive food and support from their churches which also taught that it was the responsibility of family members to take care of their widowed relatives. This was because in their society, women couldn’t just hold down a job as that was usually the domain of men. Paul advocated for singleness because these believers were not distracted as married believers were. This confuses me most: single believers do not have the same distractions, still have to live according to complementarian teachings which are designed around being distracted in a way that glorifies God? What this looks like in practice is that: men lead the church. Whereas fathers need mothers as their counterpart to raise their own family, pastors need no female counterpart to raise God’s family. Why is this? Even Paul recognized women as co-workers, who complemented his ministry to the men by leading the women’s ministry in their gender-segregated society. Remember the widows? They weren’t just getting hand-outs from the church, but lived in a patron/client relationship – they were expected to do whatever was needed in return for being taken care of by the church. The early church even established ‘the Order of the Widows’ who served in a leadership capacity of some sort. Even these ancient believers recognized that one cannot keep a rule without all of it’s components – an unmarried man has no one to lead and an unmarried woman has no one to follow. But that doesn’t stop them from taking a new male believer and putting him in a position of authority as a teacher over women because he’s male. The tell women that their ‘head’ is their father; assuming he’s a believer and that he’s alive. Her gender role usually relegates her to the nursery, kitchen, or cleaning duties; but other than that, she’s a spectator to the main event where all the players are men.

What about the exceptions to the rule? The perfectly healthy and sound couple who are believers whom God called to live in complete equality and sharing all responsibilities based on gifting? Or a woman who God knew would one day be the best pastor a church had ever known? Or a guy who is supposed to married to his ministry? What about Phoebe? Junia? Lydia? What about their modern counterparts?

For a rule that applies equally to everyone, everywhere, for all time – there are a whole lot of people that it just doesn’t fit. Since ‘God doesn’t know what He’s doing’ is not a viable explanation – then we have to consider that people took something that doesn’t belong as a ‘one size fits all’ belief and teach it as if it is God’s universal design for all families. But they’re losing people who know they just don’t fit. They lose people who have been burnt by the rules themselves or people who cared more about the rules than their well-being. They lose people by their insistence on their teaching being biblically correct and that everyone who doesn’t fit it, doesn’t try to fit it, or something are somehow not true believers in Christianity as they define it. But who would want to attempt to conform to such an ill-fitting system? Certainly not me.

Christianity is Odd

The one interesting thing about having people over is that you get a chance to glimpse how different things can be outside of what you’re used to. I was thinking that as every now than our conversation with our guests turned to the subject of churches. Our guests started off at the same church, but over time lost interest. They missed out on the conservative takeover, complementarianism, young earth creationism, and many of the other issues the church has been responsible for over the last decade.

But that also means that if/when they chose to go back to church, it will be a whole other world to them that is unfamiliar in so very many ways. Not only that, these things that have changed will either stand out as being contrary to the church they used to know or so cleverly disguised that they’re extremely easy to accept as being true. It really depends on how whichever church they go to teaches it.

It also showed us how close we had been to the front lines of these issues in church. After all, we live a hop, skip, and jump away from the seminaries that teach these things as if they are orthodox and central to the faith right up there with the Trinity. We had forgotten how odd they are to those who haven’t been caught up in them. That may very well be what saves something of Christianity, a group of people who recognize that these odd teachings are a stumbling block, bordering on heresy, and just wrong in it’s teaching and application. Then again, given the contagious nature of these teachings, odds are just as well that these outsiders will catch it and buy into it just as much as the insider do – especially when they’re unprepared to counter them because they’re unable to recognize them as being that dangerous.

It’s just – for those of us who have been there and done that, trying to inform newer brothers and sisters about the dark-side that causes Christianity to hurt people is sort of like trying to convince a true fan that her or his favorite player cheated. With all of the evidence in the world – some people will still believe that their favorite player would never do such a thing. Not only that, but cautioning somebody against something tends to backfire when they dive deeply into it just to find out for themselves if it is so.

If I could travel back in time and tell myself that over the next few decades, I was going to see Christians forbid girls from leading prayer, separate women from men, dis-fellowship moderates and liberals, write a version of their own Bible to support their teachings while protesting any other translation that does not, selling their Bible and related study materials in their own shops while hiding abuses of trust and violation of Scripture in a convoluted authority structure which they defined from their Bible version as Biblical resulting in the people at the top getting extremely wealthy at the expense of everyone else – I wouldn’t have thought of it to be in the realm of possibility and dismissed it out of hand.

I’m afraid that’s what happens all too often when Christians who have been through it all try to warn others of what they’re in for. There is a massive gap between the two groups – inexperienced and experienced believers where the right information tends to get blocked by various attempts to poison the well. “Oh, so some Christian told you that? Sounds like they’re just bitter because of a personal bad experience. You should take that advice with a grain of salt because not all of us are like that.”

Does that logic really fly? “You can’t believe what Sojourner Truth says because she’s just bitter about her personal bad experience with slavery. It’s actually a good thing because as slaves, these men, women, and children are clothed and fed. Without slavery they would be worse off.” “You can’t believe what was said about Nazis because of a few bitter people and their personal bad experiences. They actually managed to end unemployment and create unprecedented opportunities for wealth when the rest of the world was on the brink of economic ruin.”

Feeling bitter about a bad experience about anything does not invalidate or lesson the severity of the experience that caused the bitterness. In fact, it’s a part of the healing process. Most people have to feel bitter once they realize the truth that their favorite player cheated or their favorite teaching has a dark-side. They fell for the charm and protests of innocence. Once that is accepted, they can move onto the next step and continue to heal so that they become a better person for it.

Maybe that’s why I write so much about Christianity. For all of the terrible consequences of it’s dark-side, there’s nothing quite like it’s light-side and the force for good that the church has the power to wield – that is, if they chose selflessness over selfishness.

Invisible Idols

Growing up in Baptist churches, there really wasn’t much decoration or art on the walls. We had been told that Catholic churches were full of such things and it was a distraction from God because there were icons of people who were worshiped as saints to whom people could pray. As I got older, I had a chance to visit a few Catholic churches, some had some of the loveliest artwork and most beautiful carvings I had ever seen. I had a chance to ask my Catholic friend what it was about and realized that my church had been wrong in more ways than one.

For one, my church did have an idolatry problem. It wasn’t in the artwork and icons, but in the teachings and interpretations of Scripture they promoted. In recent years, these idols have taken hold and changed the emphasis of Scripture. When I was a little kid, I heard a lot about the Holy Spirit, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Fruit of the Holy Spirit, how to pray, about Christian virtues, and other things that pretty much apply to everyone. As I got older, the people who made the decisions decided there were some subjects that had been neglected – so these general teachings were replaced with very specific ones.

The first idol that seems to be all too common is: Family. The ancient world saw families as small units of society. Like the emperor over the empire, kings over the kingdom, governors over villages, so were fathers were over their families as their legal representative, spiritual representative, and business representative. The ancient societies had specific laws regarding the role of a father in relation to his family and how he interacts with the society in which he lives in. When people converted to Christianity, elements of their new-found faith were in conflict with the social obligations as citizens. So they wrote to Paul who illustrated the household codes to show them how to live as Christian families under the unbelieving powers that were in charge of everything – even their spiritual lives. The family is still a small unit of society, but the laws that gave the head of the family total control over his family are no longer in effect. The church, however, contends that these household codes are still the way in which Christians ought to live. They tell us how husbands and wives, parents and children, and bosses and employees ought to relate to one another. Churches emphasize family in a big way. To me it seems like it’s a Christian Inquisition every time the subject comes up: Are you married (yet)? Are you dating somebody? If you are, do you have plans to marry? Why are you dating them if you aren’t going to marry them? So, when are you going to have kids?

The second idol I tend to see has a couple of different names – but they’re related: Complementarianism, Gender Roles, Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, etc. Because churches emphasize family, they also emphasize our roles in the family unit. In the ancient world that looked like the husbands being in authority (as they were the social, spiritual, business, legal etc. representative) and their wives being in submission (as they were usually unable to conduct business or be out in public). This causes the churches today to agree with that teaching and emphasize the man as the head of the wife and the woman as being submission unto the authority of her head – her husband. Some elements of this teaching also emphasize that the role of the wife is that of the home-maker and raising children, while the husband ought to be the one who works to support his family.

Both of these idols support each other – but they don’t fit everyone. They don’t fit non-traditional families, single people (never married, widows, and widowers), divorced and remarried families, or families with believers and unbelievers. It’s as if the church disregards Jesus’ words on finding a spiritual family in favor of preaching a message from mixing up Paul’s advice as if to say: “bring your family along for the ride, each of you must fulfill your gender role and God will bless your family for your obedience.”

That idol is held up by the ‘Literal & Inerrant’ idol that used the Bible to define the exacting parameters a true Biblical family must match and the roles that each member must fulfill to live God-approved Christian lives. This one is pretty useful for getting rid of anyone who doesn’t see the Bible as literal or inerrant. Without it, then the other idols no foundation upon which to be placed.

But there are any number of smaller idols – positions about doctrine, or through which lens one understands Scripture, or a favored teaching to the exclusion of all other possibilities – these are ones that each of us have to fight against as they’re always on the shelf of our minds or in the pocket of our hearts. I’m sure I have quite a few that I have to consciously fight against turning to as the thing through which I understand God – but I have to be able to see them for what they truly are to do so. While these idols are invisible, they are much harder to to recognize. Some are even disguised by clever Bible teaching, but they still tend to serve as distractions from God and that’s what makes them idols. What we really need is to cut out the middle-man approach and focus on the direct approach – as the point of Jesus was not to have to go through someone or something else to get to him. Jesus said more than once that knowing Him was one and the same as knowing His Father – I can’t think of anything more direct than that.

Facilitator

Not long ago, the church began a new Bible Study program where every 1.5 months, the courses switch to a new subject lead by a new facilitator. We started off with Simplify by Bill Hybels, we skipped the next set of options, and went through If You Want To Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg. Yet again, we’re skipping the current offering. The first one we skipped was largely because of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope and the second was because of The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. Hopefully the next time around there will be some better options to choose from.

I often find it difficult to really interact on these Bible Studies. For one, the facilitators are regular people who volunteered to read the material, run the DVD, and lead the discussion. I’m not entirely sure they would welcome annoying questions like: “When was this book of the Bible written?” “What might have the intended audience believed was the message that the author was trying to convey to them?” “Should this passage be viewed as a description of the past or a prescription for the future?” I’m afraid that they would feel offended, after all, they’re going through a lot of effort that they didn’t have to and might feel that it’s not appreciated.

That’s one reason why I resist the opportunity to be a facilitator. I don’t want to read the prepared material, run the DVD, lead the discussion, ask preselected questions, or give out stock answers for expected questions. I want to go deeper by actually studying what different versions of the Bible says, by finding out the historical context, the cultural context, the socioeconomic context, by figuring out what the Greek says, by understanding a verse in the light of it’s paragraph, section, chapter, book, and testament, and by investigating it in it’s totality.

I’ve had enough of those Bible studies where each week we get to memorize one verse and spend more time talking about anecdotes and metaphors than we do with an open Bible. I’m tired of emotion-centric or logic-driven gender specific Bible studies. I want more than random books written by random Christians that spiritualize random things. The thing is, not everyone else might want to join me on this deeper journey in to the Bible. After all, some people who have gone there have only found their way out of Christianity.

It’s also somewhat intimidating to try to be open to being debated and questioned in a public setting particularly with material you are learning as you are teaching it. I know that I’d try my best not to feel offended if somebody vehemently disagreed with when a particular book was written or by whom, but it’s still pretty scary. I think that the first thing’s first, before I can teach – I must learn. Which means I actually have to read books and have some idea of which books to start reading to have a better foundation for understanding Christianity. The thing is, I’m not really a reader. My track record of reading books for the past decade is about a dozen books (most likely much less than that.) So any books that make the list can’t be scholarly or it’ll go over my head.

Do you know of any books that explain the facts of the Bible? (When the books were written, author’s intended audience, etc.)

Do you know of any books that explain the context of the Bible? (Historical, Cultural, Regional, Social, etc.)

Which books do you think that every Christian should read to get a better understanding of the Bible in terms of what it meant back then and what it means right now?

I Didn’t Know I was an Evangelical Christian

It never really occurred to me that I belonged to the Evangelical Tradition when I was a Southern Baptist. I don’t really remember being taught anything about Evangelicalism. I just remember ‘Bible Teaching’ ‘Bible Preaching’ and ‘Bible Studying’. I sort of figured that all Christians believed the same sorts of things because it’s in the Bible. I thought that Evangelicals were some sort of denomination – like Pentecostals or Episcopalians, Surely, it that’s what we were, then wouldn’t the teachers have been obligated to mention it?

For years and years (until recently, in fact) every time I saw an article mentioning 5-10 reasons why Evangelicalism let somebody down, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t one. Who would want to be a part of a thing that regularly seemed to be so very judgmental, exclusive, sexist, hateful, deceitful, and any number of other terrible characteristics? Since I thought Evangelicalism was a denomination, I decided to look them up to see what exactly they believed:

“Evangelicals are Christians who believe in the centrality of the conversion or “born again” experience in receiving salvation, believe in the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity and have a strong commitment to evangelism or sharing the Christian message.” – Wikipedia

Well, okay I believed in the whole born again thing – it’s all I’d ever been taught. And I heard a lot from the Bible, so it must have been pretty important. And we were supposed to tell everybody about the good news, I couldn’t really argue against any of that – so that means that I’m an Evangelical too.

Today this metaphor seemed to straighten up some of my confusion: Christianity is like a massive building with many hallways and many rooms. The ‘Evangelical’ hallway connects many denominations (rooms) to each other including the Southern Baptists. So now that I had a better understanding of what Evangelicalism is – I have one big question:

Just what it is about being born again, believing in the Bible, and sharing the gospel has gone so terribly wrong as to be judgmental, exclusive, sexist, hateful, deceitful, and any other number of other terrible characteristics to such a degree as to cause hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands to flee from it?

It turns out that the primary doctrines are usually not the problem – it’s the secondary doctrines being raised to a level of the primary ones that causes a great many of the issues the church has to deal with – but because believers usually deal with these things in house, by e-mail, and in quiet conversations before or after the service, most of the other believers don’t even know what’s being asked or what answer is given. And so when a member brings up a point that is contrary to the church’s official position, they’re more than happy to let her or him and their whole family go. They’re in church one week and gone the next.

To use a ridiculous example: let’s say that This Church taught Jesus + Waffles. Every meeting emphasized both equally. If somebody who transferred from That Church believed in Jesus + Pancakes was what was right, they would be in conflict with what This Church believes. After all, Jesus and Waffles are equally important. To believe in Waffles but not Jesus or Jesus but not Waffles makes one an unbeliever or a heretic.

And old teaching would say: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

But to these believers of This Church, Waffles are essential. To those believers of That Church, Pancakes are essential. Each of them see themselves as right and the everyone else who doesn’t agree with them as wrong. Not only are they wrong, but they cannot approve of the wrongness of the others by sitting down to eat at the same table. It is their duty to turn their wayward brothers and sisters from their error and into the truth. Now replace Pancakes and Waffles with various stances from doctrine or preferred interpretations and you see how these issues divide people up when secondary teachings are given primary importance.

I still don’t know why my church didn’t mention that we were Evangelicals. Perhaps they felt that Evangelicals had a well-deserved bad reputation that we didn’t want to be tainted by. But they inevitably found a secondary doctrine that they decided was equally important as Jesus. We disagreed with their position and that began our journey out of Evangelicalism. I know now that I used to be an Evangelical Christian and I’m coming to terms with what that means.

Origin

“Everything that follows is a result of what you see here.” – Dr. Alfred Lanning’s Hologram, I Robot

Generally, the best place to begin a story is at it’s beginning. The beginning introduces you to the characters, starts elements of the plot, there is rising action and it describes events in detail as they progress to the climax and then wraps everything up with falling action followed by it’s resolution. Almost every story follows this pattern.

Creation is the beginning of the Bible. What follows is pretty much everything – the rising action as the Old Testament God sets the stage for his New Testament plan. Jesus’ philosophy proves to be popular with average people who are drawn to him but he proves to be a thorn in the side of the religious leaders. The climax is his death and Resurrection. The falling action describes how his church came to be and established his teachings in the hearts and minds of the next generation. The resolution is the book of Revelation, reminding us that no matter how much evil has the upper hand, it’s defeat is inevitable. Ultimately, the story ends where God lives among his people in a restored world.

But Creationism is the belief in the Christian interpretation of creation story events that has implications for the structure of families, gender roles, marriage, church leadership, and that’s a problem. It would be like being stuck in a story that never reaches it’s resolution. It’s something like being in a story that’s ‘always winter but never Christmas’ or in one that never leaves the Shire, but rather starts itself over again and again. But to get these teachings to fit, Christians have to take some elements from the falling action and use them as a lens to read, interpret, and understand the very beginning.

Apparently, creation transcends culture. Therefore, marriage is supposed to be one man who is the head of the woman for all time and for all over the world. When any Old Testament guy married multiple wives or had concubines, they were just being cultural. Creation transcends culture, therefore families are supposed to be between one man and one woman. When any Old or New Testament guy’s household had multiple wives and concubines and his sons had their wives and dozens of kids and hundreds of servants to help the camp run smoothly and care for the animals, well they were being cultural too. Creation transcends culture, therefore all women are like Eve and easily deceived. So when God put Deborah in charge that was because all of the men in her culture were weak, unfaithful, and being punished. Creation transcends culture, so all women were created to do women’s work. Any exception in Scripture is an extraordinary example of a person being cultural.

The icing on that cake is that anyone who rejects Creationism is rejecting the word of God and doesn’t get to go to heaven. I guess I missed the verse where Jesus sat everyone down and explained: “In the beginning, God made marriage like so, and family like so, and that’s why we do our level best to obey the order of authority he created so that our obedience proves our love and earns us a ticket to Heaven.” The funny thing is, I don’t remember him telling the woman at the well to go marry her live-in boyfriend at any point in their conversation. Never mind how impossible these things are to fulfill for anyone or family that doesn’t fit or look like the description that these teachings result in.

I guess my comfort in all of this is that if we don’t exactly succeed in living Biblically, then we can at least follow the example of generations before us and blame it all on being cultural. Then again, maybe that’s what we should have been all along. Jesus’ teachings were given to a culture that is very different from our own, and yet it’s good news for all cultures. That is, so long as we don’t elevate the teachings and implications of Creationism as an idol that takes the place of someone far more important. I like the story of creation just fine, but I don’t like Creationism constantly going back to the beginning, but never reaching the ending.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens