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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020  (Read 2091 times)

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Bladerunner

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2020, 07:51:10 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/october-web-only/jesus-john-wayne-kristin-kobes-du-mez-masculinity.html








The Alpha-Male Style in American Evangelicalism





A historian asks whether a warped view of masculine authority has corrupted our faith and political witness.


As a recent college graduate in 1983, I sat spellbound with thousands in my southern city civic center, mesmerized by a mousy man projected on a big screen who taught us we must submit to authority in every domain of life. Authority is God-given, Bill Gothard taught, and in his moral universe, any diversion from obedience disturbed the force and ignited interpersonal conflict, along with personal anger and resentment. Gothard’s principles for life’s dilemmas included specific practices based on the Bible. Obedience begets blessings, peace of mind, and confidence in one’s relationship with God.

Specifically, Gothard directed us to seek out those we’d offended and ask forgiveness. Past conflict clogged up one’s conscience. To be released from former transgressions freed us for future treasure, or something like that.

My mind immediately went to a high-school girlfriend I’d heartlessly dumped as I made my way to college four years prior. Gothard offered a script of contrition, so I looked up her phone number, dialed, and read my repentance. Needless to say, she was nonplussed and wondered why in the world I was calling. I told her about the seminar, about obedience and the blessings that awaited us both if she’d obey and forgive me. Moreover, God structured things such that she actually had to forgive me since she was a woman and I was a man. It was how authority in the universe supposedly worked.

Fast forward 20 years to a congregation I served as a minister in Boston. We hosted a special event featuring the popular Reformed evangelical pastor John Piper, who like Gothard stressed the importance of obedience in a hierarchical chain of command starting with God and descending to men over women and children. The Lord established male headship over women as part of creation’s order, Piper taught, for his glory and our joy. The place was packed, mostly with young, male, goateed enthusiasts, wide-eyed in wonder over how good they had it as men in God’s economy.

In her recent book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Calvin University historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez situates Gothard and Piper in a long line of white, alpha-male leaders whose devotion to a militant Christian patriarchy and nationalism inevitably led to exuberant support, among large numbers of white evangelicals, for Donald Trump as President—despite his clear deviation from anything evangelical in a spiritual or behavioral sense. As it turned out, Du Mez argues, obedience wasn’t as much about goodness and grace as it was about power and who wielded it.

A ‘Masculinity Problem’
Early in the 20th century, Du Mez writes, “Christians recognized that they had a masculinity problem.” If America was to be truly great and fully Christian, it had to man up. Effeminate features of Victorian piety would no longer do for a nation aspiring to righteous superpower.

The popular idea of America as God’s chosen nation traces back to Puritan leader John Winthrop’s 1630 “city on a hill” sermon, which went mainly unnoticed (except by historians) until Ronald Reagan rolled it out amid the latter days of the Cold War. Invoked by successor presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, the notion of American exceptionalism became core to the national identity. In the eyes of many Christians, America’s chosenness was linked with its morality, specifically in the areas of sexual ethics, family values, character education, freedom of (Christian) worship, and a potent foreign policy. And safeguarding that morality required various forms of government action.

With the evangelical embrace of morals legislation came a commitment to order and hierarchical authority, starting at the top with God and manifested in strong male leadership in government, business, the military, churches, and families. Masculine power was essential to America fulfilling its calling. Without it, America would allegedly go the way of wusses, weakening as a nation into a soft and too-delicate democracy.

Du Mez saddles up with Teddy Roosevelt as a Rough Rider and giddyups all the way to the present, lassoing the likes of Billy Sunday and Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, Duck Dynasty and Mark Driscoll, along with plenty of other Christian cowboys (and a few cowgirls too). She shows how militant white Christian patriarchy paved the way for a fractured nation and a ruined religion whose doctrine of grace and commandment to love diminish in the face of political expedience. She stresses how, as a political culture as much as anything, white evangelicalism captivated believers enough to redraw the boundaries of faith around political allegiance rather than creedal assent. (One example of this dynamic at work: As I entered my new role as editor in chief of Christianity Today, I was asked more about my position on particular policy issues than about any thoughts on theology.)

As Du Mez explains, “For conservative white evangelicals steeped in this ideology, it can be difficult to extricate their faith, and their identity, from this larger cultural movement.” So true. This is especially the case as political loyalties hijack faith commitments to the point that whom you vote for determines what kind of Christian you are rather than the other way around. Du Mez cites Doug Phillips, a Teddy Roosevelt aficionado and leader of the Christian homeschool movement, as representative of the patriarchal-political ideology:

[Phillips] called on men to assume patriarchal leadership “more noble than the valiant deeds of shining knights of yore,” and, quoting Charles Spurgeon, he instructed wives to set aside their own pleasure, to sink their individuality into their husbands, to make the domestic circle their kingdom and husbands their “little world,” their “Paradise,” their “choicest treasure.” Phillips believed that patriarchy and patriotism were inextricably connected, and both were God-given duties. Patriarchy was key to the success of nations, and to be “anti-patriotic” was to be a spiritual ingrate.

Mix white patriarchy and patriotism together with prejudice, and you have all the ingredients for white supremacy, the fuel behind America’s longstanding racial animus and recent political hostility, which many worry could break American democracy itself. In voting for Donald Trump, Du Mez writes, “Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half-century-long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity.”

A Better Hierarchy
On one level, Du Mez’s thesis is compelling and extensively researched. She shows how white evangelicalism worked as both a basis and cover for white-privileged power plays and culture wars, all in an attempt to preserve a hierarchy that served white male agendas, excused misbehavior, and exonerated abuse. Not that all of us white males imbibed the testosterone. Plenty of us, including what Du Mez calls the “northern establishment evangelicals—the Wheaton and Christianity Today types,” were baffled by the overwrought Call of Duty discipleship. Still, our devotion to specific social policies, our worries over the loss of moral high ground and cultural hegemony, our fears over the dissolution of Christian institutional influence, and our own leadership led us to render unto Caesar the things that belonged to God in a desperate last gasp for legitimacy.

At the same time, Du Mez seems guilty of a bit of confirmation bias. If you’re hunting for white privilege and fragility, it’s not hard to find. Having announced her thesis about militant Christian-nationalist, male-patriarchal supremacy, she mines American history for classic deplorables, most all of whom went on to be exposed for the scandalous sins their pride and prejudice invariably caused. On the other hand are plenty of white evangelical men canceled out for political acts never committed but only assumed and whose patriotism gets distorted as nationalism simply because they’re white, Christian, and male. As a political force they barely register compared to Amazon, Facebook, and Hollywood.

But as the religion scholar Arthur Farnsley notes, white American evangelicals make up about a quarter of the American population. And “when this election is over,” he writes, “they will still be here. And they will still be deeply intertwined in American life. These folks are our fellow-citizens, part of our country’s lifeblood. We need to be building bridges toward evangelicals of goodwill, not burning them.”

As an older white southern male, weaned on evangelical Bible studies and teaching, it’s possible I’m part of the problem and that I have little ground from which to critique Du Mez’s argument. Hierarchy has its upsides, as I’ve enjoyed genuine privilege. And as one popular adage has it, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

The high-school girlfriend I dumped declined to forgive me. I’d hurt her, she said, and grace wouldn’t come cheaply. That my conscience bothered me four years hence was a good thing, she thought. Better to let me stew in those juices for a while and learn a lesson. I confess that I did.

Obedience doesn’t work like a math equation. And the joy it brings comes at a high price. Jesus himself did not consider his own equality with God as something to exploit but humbled himself unto his own obedient death on a cross for our sake (Phil. 2:1–11). This is the attitude to which we should aspire, a hierarchy that locates our own interests at the bottom of the pile. It may not seem very manly, but if Jesus is the ideal, so much for John Wayne.







Daniel Harrell is editor in chief of Christianity Today.


 bunch of bovine schetology


Blade
1 Cor 15:3-4.."For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2020, 01:30:27 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/october-web-only/civil-war-in-our-hearts.html








The Civil War in Our Hearts





Political division finds fuel in sin that separates us from each other. Only peacemakers win the title “children of God.”


A reader recently replied to an article I’d written about the presidential election to say his reason for voting for his preferred candidate has nothing to do with the policy considerations my piece addressed. “Nah,” he wrote, he’ll stick with his pick to “cause irritation and anger” for voters on the other side. The antagonism is the point.

I don’t think this reader was unique in that regard. Tribal political antagonism is on a long upward trend, giving this election season’s cyclical worries about a new civil war a less fantastical feel than in elections past. Is that possible? Are we really heading toward large-scale political violence over our election results? I’m skeptical—but even if no one ever takes up arms, we already have a civil war in our hearts.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment,’” Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:21–22). The consequences of murder and malice are different, of course: Only one leaves a corpse. But both warp our souls and our relationships. The rejection of love that motivates us to murder someone, Jesus said, is just as real and grave a sin when it leads us to despise her.

By that standard, America has been at civil war for some time. Negative partisanship is on a decades-long rise, which means that many of us vote as my reader described: not because we think our party or candidate will accomplish something good but because we hate the opposing party and want them to lose and to feel the indignation and trepidation that loss entails.

Americans who lean toward one major party and its platform increasingly believe members of the other party are close-minded and morally inferior to their own group. “We find that as animosity toward the opposing party has intensified, it has taken on a new role as the prime motivator in partisans’ political lives,” wrote Stanford University political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Masha Krupenkin. In their study of negative partisanship, they found that “today it is out-group animus rather than in-group favoritism that drives political behavior.” Hate for the other side is more compelling than support for one’s own.

But you probably didn’t need a scientific study to tell you this. Political hatred is a measurable phenomenon, but it’s perceptible without the measurement. On the national scale, at least, large portions of our politics amount to saying, “Raca” and “You fool!” We are cruel and vicious—literally awash in vices. We offer no mercy and abide no grace for our political enemies. We are not patient, hopeful, or kind. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness but for power and vengeance.

We lack civility, to be sure, but as CT’s editorial director, Ted Olsen, argued in our November issue, “civility is insufficient.” Even the devil managed civility as he tempted Jesus in the desert (Luke 4:1–13). More important than civil speech is loving the people our political culture invites us to hate. God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” Jesus said (Matt. 5:45). God does not withhold his love from those who he knows earned its loss—and God knows people’s hearts with more certainty than we can ever have (Ps. 44:21; Acts 15:8).

Loving our enemies is integral to our imitation of God: It is peacemakers who win the title of “children of God”; praying for those who persecute us identifies us as “children of [our] Father in heaven”; and we must love our enemies to be “perfect … as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:9, 43–45, 48). Loving enemies and seeking peace with them is what God does and what God wants from us.

As we barrel toward Election Day, there are no pitched battles in the streets, thank God, nor do I really expect there will be in the foreseeable future. Data from Google searches show Americans start talking about civil war and secession in connection with every election. But we also talk about recounts and the Electoral College—and, by implication, its peaceful abolition or reform—in far greater numbers on exactly the same cycle.

Though the pressures of the pandemic, recession, riots, and the seeming omnipresence of President Trump’s personality escalate the ordinary tensions this year, much of our current unease is normal. In American society, with its durable institutions and strong (albeit challenged) norms against political violence, there’s a genuine distance between talking about civil war or getting mad on Twitter and actually slipping a knife between someone’s ribs for how he voted. Those who burn stores during riots or storm statehouses carrying weapons are a small minority choosing to act in ways the vast majority of Americans never seriously countenance.

We should proactively “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14), but making peace is not a project that begins when battle lines are already drawn. Ideally, it begins in time to keep us from drawing them at all. The word Jesus uses for “peacemaker” (eirenopoios) in the Sermon on the Mount appears just once in the New Testament, but its components (eirene and poieo) show up together one other time, in James 3:18.

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness,” James says, and to be a peacemaker is to live with the “wisdom that comes from heaven” (v. 17). This wisdom rejects “bitter envy and selfish ambition,” which lead to “disorder and every evil practice.” It is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (vv. 14, 16–17). In worldly politics of animosity, selfishness, domination, disdain and rotten fruit, prejudice, and bad faith, that is the wisdom we need.






Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2021, 05:38:45 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/october-web-only/civil-war-in-our-hearts.html








The Civil War in Our Hearts





Political division finds fuel in sin that separates us from each other. Only peacemakers win the title “children of God.”


A reader recently replied to an article I’d written about the presidential election to say his reason for voting for his preferred candidate has nothing to do with the policy considerations my piece addressed. “Nah,” he wrote, he’ll stick with his pick to “cause irritation and anger” for voters on the other side. The antagonism is the point.

I don’t think this reader was unique in that regard. Tribal political antagonism is on a long upward trend, giving this election season’s cyclical worries about a new civil war a less fantastical feel than in elections past. Is that possible? Are we really heading toward large-scale political violence over our election results? I’m skeptical—but even if no one ever takes up arms, we already have a civil war in our hearts.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment,’” Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:21–22). The consequences of murder and malice are different, of course: Only one leaves a corpse. But both warp our souls and our relationships. The rejection of love that motivates us to murder someone, Jesus said, is just as real and grave a sin when it leads us to despise her.

By that standard, America has been at civil war for some time. Negative partisanship is on a decades-long rise, which means that many of us vote as my reader described: not because we think our party or candidate will accomplish something good but because we hate the opposing party and want them to lose and to feel the indignation and trepidation that loss entails.

Americans who lean toward one major party and its platform increasingly believe members of the other party are close-minded and morally inferior to their own group. “We find that as animosity toward the opposing party has intensified, it has taken on a new role as the prime motivator in partisans’ political lives,” wrote Stanford University political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Masha Krupenkin. In their study of negative partisanship, they found that “today it is out-group animus rather than in-group favoritism that drives political behavior.” Hate for the other side is more compelling than support for one’s own.

But you probably didn’t need a scientific study to tell you this. Political hatred is a measurable phenomenon, but it’s perceptible without the measurement. On the national scale, at least, large portions of our politics amount to saying, “Raca” and “You fool!” We are cruel and vicious—literally awash in vices. We offer no mercy and abide no grace for our political enemies. We are not patient, hopeful, or kind. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness but for power and vengeance.

We lack civility, to be sure, but as CT’s editorial director, Ted Olsen, argued in our November issue, “civility is insufficient.” Even the devil managed civility as he tempted Jesus in the desert (Luke 4:1–13). More important than civil speech is loving the people our political culture invites us to hate. God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” Jesus said (Matt. 5:45). God does not withhold his love from those who he knows earned its loss—and God knows people’s hearts with more certainty than we can ever have (Ps. 44:21; Acts 15:8).

Loving our enemies is integral to our imitation of God: It is peacemakers who win the title of “children of God”; praying for those who persecute us identifies us as “children of [our] Father in heaven”; and we must love our enemies to be “perfect … as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:9, 43–45, 48). Loving enemies and seeking peace with them is what God does and what God wants from us.

As we barrel toward Election Day, there are no pitched battles in the streets, thank God, nor do I really expect there will be in the foreseeable future. Data from Google searches show Americans start talking about civil war and secession in connection with every election. But we also talk about recounts and the Electoral College—and, by implication, its peaceful abolition or reform—in far greater numbers on exactly the same cycle.

Though the pressures of the pandemic, recession, riots, and the seeming omnipresence of President Trump’s personality escalate the ordinary tensions this year, much of our current unease is normal. In American society, with its durable institutions and strong (albeit challenged) norms against political violence, there’s a genuine distance between talking about civil war or getting mad on Twitter and actually slipping a knife between someone’s ribs for how he voted. Those who burn stores during riots or storm statehouses carrying weapons are a small minority choosing to act in ways the vast majority of Americans never seriously countenance.

We should proactively “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14), but making peace is not a project that begins when battle lines are already drawn. Ideally, it begins in time to keep us from drawing them at all. The word Jesus uses for “peacemaker” (eirenopoios) in the Sermon on the Mount appears just once in the New Testament, but its components (eirene and poieo) show up together one other time, in James 3:18.

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness,” James says, and to be a peacemaker is to live with the “wisdom that comes from heaven” (v. 17). This wisdom rejects “bitter envy and selfish ambition,” which lead to “disorder and every evil practice.” It is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (vv. 14, 16–17). In worldly politics of animosity, selfishness, domination, disdain and rotten fruit, prejudice, and bad faith, that is the wisdom we need.






Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today.

:-*

 

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