Archive for category Christian Civility

I’m on a mission to rid the world of theological malarkey – Molly Marshall

 

Molly MarshallAt the recent meeting of the Baptist World Alliance I had a friendly exchange with an interlocutor after presenting a paper. In my response I summoned an old term of uncertain but perhaps Irish origin, “malarkey,” which means foolish or nonsense, to describe what I believe is a grave heresy in trinitarian thinking. My comments created a bit of a stir, so, being a theologian and educator, I feel compelled to go further in explaining its significance.

The beauty of trinitarian theology is that it describes the relational God who dwells eternally in the richness of community, pouring out life to construct identity. The generativity, hospitality, and diversity of the Triune God offers a model for human community. To speak of one member of the Trinity being eternally subordinated and thereby a model for the subordination of women in marriage is heretical, and I called it theological malarkey. Equality is the hallmark of the dynamic movement in the divine life, as centuries of theological reflection have confessed.

We all know that Christian faith is suffering a credibility problem in many places, beginning here in the United States, for the willingness of white evangelical Christians to be co-opted by a demagogic racist. President Donald Trump’s recent diatribe toward congressional women of color, telling them to “go back where they came from” is being excused by his enablers as staunch leadership for the good of the country – and for Israel. That this sector of Christianity will put up with anything that comes out of this president’s mouth in order to secure the Supreme Court conservative majority for their signature issue is deeply troubling. They defend his verbal incontinence as serving a higher purpose, which is theological malarkey.

“Any church that is unwilling to risk its resources – letting some things die – in order to give itself to being the presence of Christ in its context is captive to theological malarkey.”

While at the BWA I observed a brochure that stated the nations in which Christians most likely would be vulnerable to mass killings by their governments. I winced when I saw it; putting this information in print only further jeopardizes this demographic and draws attention to a situation Baptist Christians in North America can do little about. If such information is generated only to make the privileged feel righteous by lamenting this situation, then it is theological malarkey. I remember with what care Christian leaders in Myanmar speak about their government; it is unwise to do otherwise.

One of the beautiful things about the BWA is the decentering of North American hegemony as voices of the global south and east articulate their vision for the church. In an epoch when the awakening to the burden of colonialism continues, it matters that these voices shape the narratives of what it means to be Baptist around the world and that those usually presuming to speak for all listen quietly, or else we protract xenophobic theological malarkey.

Last December, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, published an extensive study of its founders and learned more deeply of the slave-holding traditions that were ingredient to its early history. When challenged to make reparations by donating a tithe of its substantial endowment to Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically black institution in the same city, the administration said it could not do that because Simmons is not officially related to the Southern Baptist Convention and does not teach in accord with its tenets. Missing a huge opportunity to signal “fruits worthy of repentance,” the seminary will cling to its resources while its sister school struggles. The nit-picking argument of Southern Seminary is theological malarkey.

As churches face hard decisions about properties and personnel, often self-preservation precludes mission. As congregations we need to give ourselves to the kind of passionate reading of Scripture John Webster describes “as an instance of the fundamental pattern of all Christian existence, which is dying and rising with Jesus Christ through the purging and quickening power of the Holy Spirit.” To read Scripture this way as guidance for congregational decisions is “to be slain and made alive.” Any church that is unwilling to risk its resources – letting some things die – in order to give itself to being the presence of Christ in its context is captive to theological malarkey.

To live as if resurrection is only the story of Jesus and not of his larger body is to live a faithless existence. The resurrection renews the whole world, as the old Roman liturgy puts it. The same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead is igniting authentic Christian witness. As Richard Hays writes, “The Resurrection purges the death-bound illusions that previously held us captive and sets us free to perceive the real world of God’s life-giving resurrection power.” When we wonder if there is enough spiritual power to live as faithful disciples of Jesus, we have succumbed to theological malarkey.

I am on a mission to rid the world of theological malarkey. Will you join me?

 

 

710

 

Tags: , ,

Five U.S. Presidents; Five Great Americans – May 6, 2013 – ethicsdaily.com

I wrote this column six years ago and it is still true today. I just spent the 4th. of July with my sister, brother-in-law and their family. It is a great reminder of what a great country we have and who we are as a people. I could not get the picture of the five presidents to reproduce here. I need my son, Michael, Brandy or Lori to help me with that. The message is clear. We live in a great country. We may be divided at times over issues, but we are never divided in our love for our country.

The picture of President Obama standing with the four living former U.S. presidents at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas is a grand statement for us, and the rest of the world, as to whom we are. No one had to die for any one of them to take office. None was deposed by some despot.

Each took office as a result of a vote by a free people. Each has his strengths and each has his weaknesses. Although each of us has our preferences, only time will sift through the remains for an accurate judgment.

Each one separately, and all of them together, tell a great story. Although each of these men is flawed in some dramatic way, I am happy to be represented by any one of them.

Along with whatever baggage each man carries, he is a great American. He has stood the test. He has walked through the fire and emerged a winner.

Your vote may have been different from mine, but that is the point. We do not have to agree to live together in peace. We do not have to think the same or vote the same.

I am happy with the choices I made and would make the same choices again. I am sure that you feel the same way about your choices.

Those men can stand there together because each one knows fully the burdens that each one shouldered.

Each one knows the agony, heartache, sleepless nights and the great joy of serving the American people. Each one understands that one word from any one of them during his turn in office could have plunged the world into instant chaos.

These are good men. They are us. Soon, too soon, each one of them will leave us. As each one goes, we will mourn his passing.

We will remember his accomplishments. We will lament his failures. In many cases, we will regret not heeding some of his advice.

Each has taken his turn on the world stage. The country, our country, will endure.

We are a strong people. We are resilient. We are capable of unbelievable acts that dishonor our national conscience, but we are also capable of unbelievable acts of honor, kindness and love.

For a season, we divide ourselves into blue states and red states, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, gay and straight, but when some misguided individual or group tries to harm us, we become one people, indivisible.

I am proud of those five men pictured there because I am in the picture and so are you. We are all holding hands. When it matters, we are one.

I am for national health care, gun control and immigration reform, and I understand full well that you may not be. We will decide these issues at the voting booth.

Each of us will have the opportunity to state our case to anyone who chooses to listen. No one is forced to listen, and no one is forced to vote.

We are free to follow our consciences, but no one is forced to follow us. We are free to become involved, and we are free to sit on the sidelines.

I am free to worship as I choose, and I am free not to worship at all.

Sometimes in the heat of debate, we forget how fortunate we are. We are free to debate. That is a hard-won freedom.

Look, again, at these five men. With all of their faults and virtues, they are us.

I, for one, am giving thanks for them individually and collectively. You are free to join me.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Tearing Others Down is Easy; Say Something Nice Instead

By Mitch Carnell Nay 30, 2019 -Ethicsdaily.com

Every one of these privileged students wrote from a negative viewpoint. One or two did contrast positive speech and negative speech. The verbal abuse these young people have already experienced is heartbreaking.

Parents, teachers and coaches should be about the business of inspiring these students as opposed to tearing them down.

I know how hard it can be to always say the right thing. My grown son has made me painfully aware of the times when I failed to make the right remark.

When he cleaned his room as a child and waited for my approval, I tried to be honest and yet encouraging. “You’re getting there. It’s looking better.”

What he heard was so different. “You failed. It’s not good enough. You’re so messy.”

I never uttered one of those statements, but those are the ones he heard.

Forty-five years later, those words are still there and no matter how sorry I am or how much I try to explain, they are still in his nervous system and color our relationship.

I am proud of my son and all that he has accomplished in spite of my poorly chosen words.

How many other words did I say with good intentions but that hurt instead?

I carry deep within me words that were spoken to me with good intentions 75 years ago. I can still recite them.

When I let my guard down, they surface and contribute to a feeling of worthlessness – of never being good enough. My father confided to me things that were said to him years earlier that, even at his advanced age, still carried a barb. Words once spoken never die.

He did not know how to pay a compliment even when he was very pleased with some event or success.

Norman Vincent Peale is one of my heroes; however, he was ridiculed as being “religious light.”

His successor, Arthur Caliandro, became a friend, but this remarkable man was painted with the same negative brush.

When we first celebrated Say Something Nice Sunday (the first Sunday in June), the editor of the Florida Baptist newsletter wrote a front-page editorial referring to it as “Gospel Free Sunday.”

According to him, we were watering down the gospel. Does his Bible not record that Jesus said, “You are the light of the world?”

In her recent book, “Call It Grace,” Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, recounts in painful detail the verbal abuse she received from her mother.

This brilliant theologian still carries those wounds into one of the most respected religious positions in the world.

In contrast, she received uplifting words of encouragement from her famous father, but he could not erase what had been done.

Unfortunately, I know how to verbally slice you up, and I am good at it. I was a member of a successful debate team in college and taught debate as a faculty member.

I am sorry to say I have used those skills all too often. I am trying to get as good in demonstrating and teaching a better, more productive way of communicating. It isn’t easy.

Being positive is a challenge. Being negative is easy. People expect and accept negative criticism, but they are suspicious of positive comments. They are silently asking, “What does he want?”

As this year’s “Say Something Nice Day” approaches (June 2), I hope you’ll think back to those people who encouraged you. Think of those who said the right things. Think of the verbal gifts they gave you.

Then, bring their remarks into the present. Speak them aloud. Use these images to replace those of people who put you down and belittled your efforts.

There is wonderful Scripture that supports this practice: “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)

Mitch Carnell

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.

Tags: , , ,

Women as Pastoral Leaders Render a Different Vision of God

Tags: , , ,