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Faith: A Journey for All – Jimmy Carter – ethicsdaily.com

 

Mitch Carnell – 

'Faith: A Journey for All' | Mitch Carnell, Jimmy Carter, Book Reviews, Baptists, Social Justice

Jimmy Carter comes down solidly on the side of social justice with our obligations to the poor and disenfranchised at the forefront, Carnell says. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)

One of my birthday presents this year was accompanied by a great compliment.

My son gave me Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Faith: A Journey for All,” and said, “Dad, this sounds like you.”

It was an over-the-top compliment, but I sincerely hope that it is true.

There is not much that surprises in this new volume, but it does remind me of the Baptist faith that surrounded me in my formative years.

Yes, segregation was in full flower, but, even then, it was beginning to fray at the edges.

My parents were products of their time and place, but to their everlasting credit, they never taught my sister and me to hate. They knew that we would not live in the same world that they had experienced.

The message of love for all people was preached from the pulpit every Sunday, just not practiced toward the local African-American population. One of the great ironies was that we took our offering to support missions for those living in Africa.

Carter touches on all of the hot-button issues, especially the struggles within the Southern Baptist Convention that moved this great body from a position where the Bible was the only creed to a hard-and-fast creedal denomination.

The before-unassailable belief in soul competence of the individual was trampled along with the time-honored independence of the local congregation.

Carter says that three words describe this type of fundamentalism: pride, domination and exclusion.

He contrasts these views with the teachings of Jesus: humility, servanthood of leaders and breaking down barriers between people.

The most important statement in the book is, “Christians should be known by our love and our laughter.”

Carter’s love for every human being and the planet shines through loud and clear.

Considering the current arguments against social justice, Carter comes down solidly on the side of social justice with our obligations to the poor and disenfranchised at the forefront.

The press often wondered how such a spirit like Jimmy Carter’s could emerge from what most considered a dark, provincial, unsophisticated background.

If one grew up in the same Southern Baptist churches at the time that Carter and I did, it is not a mystery.

The gospel lessons were presented in such a way that they took hold in a receptive soul.

There was no doubt in my young mind that God loves every human being. The problem was reconciling the teachings with the practices I saw around me.

Jimmy Carter had the great influence of his mother and her social involvement as a model.

In addition to his mother, he was greatly influenced by the theological writings of Karl Barth, William Sloane Coffin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Joshua Herschel, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.

He also gives great credit for his way of thinking to Millard and Linda Fuller, Dr. Bill Foege and Admiral Hyman Rickover.

One name on his list of influencers that surprises me is that of his brother, Billy. He pays great tribute to him.

Carter has taught Sunday School classes for most of his adult life. He has written extensively about his faith and has practiced his humanity before the entire world.

In this book, he states his basic philosophy very succinctly, “My general attitude toward life is that of thanksgiving and joy, not anxiety or fear. In my weekly Bible lessons at our church, I teach that our Creator God is available at any moment to any of us for guidance, solace, forgiveness or to meet other personal needs.”

He also emphasizes the importance of prayer in his life. At 93 years old, Jimmy Carter states, “Faith is not just a noun, but a verb.”

I cannot recommend this book too highly. Reading it and reflecting on its contents constitute pure joy.

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

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Complementarianism: A Separate-But-Equal Knockoff – ethicsdaily.com

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n article I read recently extoling the virtues of complementarianism nagged at me. It would not let me rest.

Complementarianism is a religious construct that deals with the roles of gender. The message is evil at its center.

“The SBC has affirmed complementarianism – the belief that the Bible reveals that men and women are equally made in God’s image, but that men and women were also created to be complements to each other, men and women bearing distinct and different roles,” Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated in a recent column. “This means obeying the Bible’s very clear teachings on male leadership in the home and in the church.”

To me, it is nothing more than the old argument of “separate but equal” applied to gender roles and dressed in a type of theological clothing. This is the same argument earlier generations used to justify segregation of the races.

The whole idea is to downgrade the role of women and to promote the superiority of men. Proponents dress it up and clothe it in statements of love. In most cases, this is window dressing.

For many, it is the excuse they need to keep women in their place.

We have been through this before: “Blacks are fine as long as they stay in their place.” It stank then and it stinks now. Separate but equal was never equal, and no one pretended that it was.

The black schools in the town of my youth got hand-me-down textbooks, hand-me-down desks and chairs and rundown buildings.

We took our money to church for missionaries to win the lost in Africa, but the black children two blocks away could not come to church with us.

Under complementarianism, in many churches women can’t teach men because that is not their God-prescribed role.

The inconsistency of the position is seen in the fact that female teachers teach male students in public and private schools, including religious ones, every day.

The goal is to keep women in lower paying jobs and deny them authority. The males who promote this travesty are in control and have no intention of relinquishing any of their control.

“The same Bible that reveals the complementarian pattern of male leadership in the home and the church also reveals God’s steadfast and unyielding concern for the abused, the threatened, the suffering and the fearful,” Mohler stated. “There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form, verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual.”

And yet, the nation is finally seeing some of the harmful results of this philosophy, which plays into the hands of those who abuse women around the world: “The church says that you are to obey me.”

Jesus set the example for another and better way. He made it very clear that there is no artificial ranking of male and female roles in his kingdom. “Mary, go and tell my disciples.”

Paul emphasized this in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Growing up Southern Baptist, my experience with women pastors is limited, but I have been blessed by hearing some of the best: Linda McKinnish Bridges, Amy Butler, Molly Marshall, Joan Brown Campbell, Cynthia Campbell, Julie Pennington-Russell, Susan Sparks and Martha Brown Taylor, to name only a few.

Not only have I been blessed by hearing these women, I have gained so much insight from them.

I regularly listen to and read Sparks, pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.

She places God in the center of our every action and has a sense of humor and such an awareness of God’s presence in the ordinary that you are compelled to listen and take notice.

McKinnish Bridges, president of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia, preached her sermon, “Grace upon Grace,” 27 years ago. Yet it is as fresh today as it was the first day I heard it because it expresses God’s work in my life.

Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas, awakened my interest in the influence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

Cynthia Campbell, president emerita of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, preached the most inspirational sermon on the resurrection I have ever heard.

God’s love for all of humanity oozes from every word from the sermons of Joan Brown Campbell, an ordained Disciples of Christ and American Baptist Church minister who was the first woman to lead the National Council of Churches.

How can you say that God rejects the work of these ambassadors of hope because they dare preach to men?

I have experienced outstanding female Bible teachers in my years in the church. You want me to disregard the teachings of these gifted women because I am a male and should not have been listening to them?

Should I have not have listened to my mother when she spoke of God’s love for me? Should I have not listened to my wife when she assured me that God would watch over me and our children?

All of these women were gifted by God with talents far greater than the ones given to me. I think God brought me into contact with them because they had been given a message I was intended to hear.

I ask myself, “Where would I be in my spiritual journey if these women were not a part of my life?”

Complementarianism belongs on the ash heap of history along with separate but equal.

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Say Something Nice Sunday June 3 Join the Movement

On June 3, all churches, all denominations and all faith groups are encouraged to join in the celebration of the 12th.  Say Something Nice Sunday. Originating at First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, the movement has gained followers from almost every denomination across the US and some in the UK.

The Rev. Marshall Blalock, president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and The Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, have both endorsed the program. There is nothing to buy.

Why Have a Say Something Nice Sunday? The simple answer is that words are powerful. Words have the power to build or destroy. Words have the power to heal or wound. With our words we have the power to build up a Christian community or to destroy it.

Nowhere are words more powerful than within the church. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Words take on a life unto themselves. Once they are given life they are on their way for good or evil.

This special day is an opportunity to build the community of faith, strengthen relationships and heal old wounds. Our national discourse has become so strident and even in religious circles the rhetoric is often far from Christ-like. In Philippians 1:27 we read, “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”

This is a day to say thank you to those who make our lives better just by being a part of them. This is a day to recognize those who contribute to our lives in specific ways. This is a day to apologize for words spoken in frustration, anger or disappointment.

One suggestion in addition to the main sermon is to use it as a theme for the Children’s Sermon as Robin Boston will do at the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston.

Mitch Carnell, Chair of the Ecumenical Committee said, “One day is one day, but perhaps we can stretch it to two days and then just maybe if we encourage one another and ask for God’s help, we might change the world!”

Free materials are available at www.fbcharleston.org. Click on Messages/Resources at the top of the page. Scroll down to Say Something Nice Sunday. There is also a Say Something Nice Day for secular celebration on June 1 every year.

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In Unkind Culture, Is There Still Something Nice to Say? ethicsdaily.com

I helped launch the Say Something Nice Day movement 13 years ago.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think that the greatest barriers to our success would become a president of the United States and evangelical Christians who support his coarse way of communicating and his behavior.

I remember when President Bill Clinton was skewered for his sexual exploits and Vice President Joe Biden was roundly condemned for his foul language.

I remember when the Republican Party campaigned vigorously as the party of family values.

I remember when the Southern Baptist Convention apologized to the African-American community for its racial discrimination in the past, promising a new day of race relations.

Those days have faded.

The pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress, says that the president’s sexual behaviors will not keep him from supporting the president. “Evangelicals knew that they were not electing an altar boy,” Jeffress said.

Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelist, says that Trump is God’s chosen: “God put him in the White House for a reason.”

Henry McMaster, the Republican governor of South Carolina, said that the students who protested in support of the Parkland, Florida, high school students were a disgraceful tool of the left wing.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Center, says that evangelicals have given the president a mulligan on the Stormy Daniels adventure.

I have searched the Bible from cover to cover and I can’t locate either 1 Mulligan or 2 Mulligan. I must have been asleep when my pastor preached from that text.

I was wide awake when my pastor preached on forgiveness, but President Trump said that he has done nothing for which he needs to seek forgiveness.

Perhaps Peter was misquoted. “How many mulligans should I give, seven times seven?”

On the president’s language, Franklin Graham said, “He is a businessman. That is just the way he talks.”

Growing up, when I talked as the president so often does, I got my mouth washed out with Octagon soap. Dad did not give me a mulligan. Maybe he was asleep that Sunday also.

After all of the crudeness and meanness in the public square today, is there still something nice to say? Yes.

Amy Butler, pastor of Riverside Church in New York, is planning a conference on God and guns for pastors and church leaders.

Former president Jimmy Carter is still leading a brave movement for the inclusion of women in church leadership.

High school students are still exercising their right to protest peaceably. A second-grade teacher in Oklahoma, Haley Curfman, encourages creativity by allowing her students to write kind things on her white dress.

Pope Francis continues his pleas for mercy and forgiveness. Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim, California, campaigned on a platform of kindness.

Large sections of our society have become mean and disrespectful of others, but those of us who cling to the teachings of Jesus are faced with a great challenge: How do we persevere when so much of our opposition is in the church and so much of the meanness is coming from the pulpit?

We turn to Jesus for the answer. Most of his opposition when he was on earth came from the church of his day. Most of his criticism was directed at the religious leaders of his time.

In spite of the opposition, he stuck to his message of love and forgiveness. He never deviated from that message. From the cross, he pleaded, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The message of Easter is that when he arose from the grave, he returned to those people who killed him. He never gave up on them or us. He hasn’t given up. Neither should we.

June 1 is Say Something Nice Day. June 3 is Say Something Nice Sunday. These are tangible opportunities to model constructive conversations and to infuse some positive rhetoric into the public discourse.

Keep on keeping on. Go about doing good. Say something nice to everyone you meet.

 

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