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Resurrection

President Macron of France has committed to restoring Notre Dame Cathedral in five years. That may or may not be possible. Either way it demonstrates a belief in the possibility of resurrection. This terrible fire coming at the start of holy week is a vivid illustration that resurrection is always possible.

Carol and I were two of the 13,000,000 tourists who visited the cathedral in 2002. We stayed too long and our tour group went on without us. I will keep the image of that magnificent structure in my mind forever. Getting lost is part of life’s journey or perhaps it’s just another avenue for growth.

John Carney, the late executive of the Columbia South Carolina Speech and Hearing Center gave me a print of his painting of the Cathedral’s famed North Rose Window which he did from a photograph. He painted the window after he lost most of his eye sight. The people in the art department of the University of South Carolina designed and erected an extraordinary lighting system on pulleys that allowed him to continue to paint. John’s zeal for life was resurrected by an act of kindness. I gaze at that painting several times a day as I descend the stairs from my office. The print reminds me of the great joy we felt in visiting the cathedral and equally of a great friendship.

As my friend, Dr. Monty Knight, says, “I don’t know what happened at the resurrection of Jesus, but whatever it was changed the world.” Resurrection is real. It is all around us. Our earth is in constant renewal and so are we.

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Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World by Serene Jones

Reviewed by Mitch Carnell – ethicsdaily.com – April 15, 2019

“God Will Take Care of You” was a very popular hymn when I was growing up.
Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, makes it clear this is not the case in her new book, “Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World.”
God empowers us to take care of ourselves, she says, in this theological reflection that is as true as the author can make it at the time of its writing.
She is a product of Oklahoma and its broad sweeping plains, burdened by the racist history of the state and especially that of her family – though her father breaks that mold.
Her own struggles with racism play out in a teenage fit of disappointment and anger. She wrestles with her grandfather’s not-so-subtle sexual abuse.
Jones is also a product of the teachings of Calvin, Niebuhr, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Barth and Tillich and later of feminist theologians. She is steeped in the doctrines of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
There is no doubt that she belongs at the helm of the Union Theological Seminary. They are blessed to have her and so are we.
Her story is so compelling that it is difficult to put the book down. We get to watch as she takes what she experienced in India and processes those experiences to weave her own spiritual formation. She learns quickly from other cultures and other faith traditions.
The one major flaw is that in the story of Freddy (a boyfriend of Jones during high school who dropped out of school), she substitutes what she wishes were the truth for the real truth.
She mistakes raging teenage hormones for true love and then enshrines that image in her brain. She attributes Freddy’s death to his condition of poverty.
In reality, Freddy had all the elements he needed to escape poverty: a motorcycle, intelligence, talent, work, money and the role model of Serene and her family. He made a conscious choice to remain stuck.
She says that it was Freddy’s death that sent her into the study of theology. It was more likely the influence of her father because her younger sister also became a minister.
Despite this shortcoming, her telling the story of Freddy is exquisite and sets the pattern for an unrelenting search for meaning.
Jones also reflects on her marriage, which seems like it never stood a chance of success.
Yet, her love for her daughter and what being a mother birthed in her is truly inspirational.
Her oneness of spirit with her daughter is a case study in mother-daughter relationships.
Her struggles with the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and how she works through her hatred of Timothy McVeigh to come out of that struggle on the side of being opposed to the death penalty is a lesson in transformation for us all.
As much as Jones loves and respects her theologian father, she neither respects nor adores her mother. who was a bitter, harsh, mean person.
I suspect the mother was sicker for a much longer period of time than anyone suspected. She was brutal in the verbal abuse of her brilliant daughter and later she almost destroyed her adoring husband.
It is against this harsh reality that Jones’ theology is tested and reforms.
Jones comes to the conclusion that we are all held in God’s love. That the space between us and the breath that flows through us and unites us is God’s grace. We are all a part of God and that God is a part of us.
“It also allows us to see God not as another object, distinct from us, but as the air, the flow, the spirit, the life force that moves between us and through us,” she writes.
Her father’s mantra is referenced often, “We are all children of light and children of darkness. We are all children of the same God.”
The concluding lines of the book carry her message: “Love has become a trifling word, but it still, as a theological concept, has the power to redeem if we can grasp that it exists within and yet comes from beyond desire, language, need and want. That is the simple reason, really, why we call that love ‘grace’.”
My summary is found in her words, “Grace is older than sin.”

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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

A

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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