It made me say ‘whoa’

From John Wesley’s journal August 10, 1788:

I was engaged in a very unpleasing work, the discharge of an old servant. She had been my housekeeper at West-Street for many years, and was one of the best housekeepers I had had there; but her husband was so notorious a drunkard, that I could not keep them in the house any longer. She received her dismission in an excellent spirit, praying God to bless us all.

Of all the things I’ve read in Wesley’s journals and other works, this is one of the hardest ones for me to swallow. To put this woman and her husband out of his house must surely have meant she would soon be near starvation. Her notorious drunkard husband surely would not be caring for her or earning money to buy them food. I infer from the wording that Wesley had tried to avoid taking this step for a time.

This summer, I’ve seen up close in CPE the carnage inflicted on families by drug and alcohol addiction. I’ve seen families forced to say to their sons and daughters that they cannot come home if they can’t get clean. So, I understand this aspect of it.

The short entry in Wesley’s journal reminds me that discipleship in the flesh is often not nearly so sanitary as the intellectual exercises in which bloggers, authors, and scholars so often engage.

I see a broken world

This week, I listened to a presentation that included as one of its main points the argument that the Western tradition has gone terribly wrong because it is too focused on fixing problems. The concern is that this puts an emphasis on seeing people as broken or fallen in need of saving rather than as whole and healthy in need of — well, not much really except encouragement.

As  I listened, I recalled the opening pages of GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.

In my presentation and in much of contemporary theology — so far as I can tell — the fact that human beings are radically out of alignment with God simply does not register. Awareness of this fact — which Chesterton memorably calls the only part of Christian theology that can be empirically proven — is described as a kind of morbid negativity about humanity.

I have a hard time reflecting over the arc of Scripture — Torah, the prophets, the writings, the gospels, the epistles, and revelation — and finding much foothold for the notion that we — when left to ourselves — are well-grounded and responsive to God’s will for our lives.

I have a hard time looking at the world — especially beyond the little bubble of security that we all try to hard to wrap around ourselves — and seeing that people are generally happy, joyful, peaceful, just, merciful, and righteous.

I have a hard time looking in my own heart and seeing the image of Christ stamped there without any blemish or blot.

I’ve been accused of being a gloomy Gus many times in my life, so I’m aware that there may be people with a much more positive theology running around. But I don’t see the world looking much like the Garden of Eden or the New Jerusalem.

The world looks like a place that needs God to me, not just for some encouragement on the way but for rescue, healing, and salvation. God, of course, is at work already. All good comes from God. But the work is not done. The world is broken in need of healing. It is fallen in need of lifting up. It is captive in need of liberation.

This is how it looks to me. If I am wrong, God help me to see rightly.

Welcome to Corinth?

An online pornography site is taking its advertising public.

This story about the ad campaign — which I can’t figure out how to link to without linking to, but it would not be appropriate for reading in church, so be warned — calls the ads tasteful. This is a new meaning of the word “tasteful” that is unfamiliar to me.

This is the culture that tells the church it needs to loosen up about sex.

Should the church let fat people preach?

A Facebook friend posted this call to arms against the “fat acceptance movement.” I had never heard of the FAM, but, apparently, it is a thing. And based on the post my friend put on Facebook, some people really don’t like the idea.

By any medical definition, I am fat. My fatness results from a combination of lifestyle choices and genetic factors, no doubt. Some of it is in my control. Some of it is not.

According to the federal government, I need to lose 40 pounds to move from the obese to the merely overweight category. To be at a healthy weight, I should lose 80 pounds. That would bring me to what I weighed when I was 19 years old, played basketball or racquetball every day, and lived on college dorm food.

So, let’s talk about this.

Overeating is a sin. It damages the body that belongs ultimately to God. It uses money that could be better spent to help those who are in need. It leaves me less able to engage in the important works of the kingdom.

This is not a sin that features big time in the Bible because most people in biblical times were living on the edge of starvation much of the time. But gluttony does come in for its licks and certainly the Bible condemns satisfying the desires of the flesh.

I am not a member or a supporter of the fat acceptance movement. My fat is not something I am proud about or want you to give me encouragement to accept about myself. But I am fat and have been for a long time.

So, why does the United Methodist Church let an open sinner like me keep preaching?

Wolves in the sheep fold

My father, a psychologist, told me once that most churches are completely unprepared to spot or cope with predatory pedophiles.

I was reminded of that conversation while reading this powerful and disturbing post by Boz Tchividjian.

One of the many things I have learned in the past 20 years about sex offenders is that they access and target children in a multitude of despicable ways. I have also learned that many offenders within faith communities often use similar methods to perpetrate and silence abuse.  These methods focus on the exploitation of common characteristics of faith communities.

Please read it.