John Piper’s Bloodlines Part I

I had started John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian several months back but got derailed with other things. I am starting over and writing about it as I go.

Piper begins his book by defining some terms, which has to be done in today’s pluralistic, relativistic society. He would prefer to avoid the term race and spends an entire appendix on why it is a term that does not hold clear meaning. I would encourage anyone who starts this book to read this appendix first and not just the “A Note to the Reader on Race and Racism” section at the beginning. That was a little confusing to me without the larger context of the appendix, for Piper seemed to contradict himself—though, when I read the appendix, his meaning became clear—as he was distinguishing between race and ethnicity. The confusing line was “…ethnicity with a physical component and race with a cultural component.” Piper means with as alongside of, not with as containing.

Nevertheless, he continues to use race and racism in the book because “…they are too embedded in our language and in the thousands of books and articles and sermons and lectures and conversations that make up the world we must relate to.”

Finally, Piper’s definition of racism is taken from the PCA’s 2004 definition: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.”

With that, I will go forward and continue reading and writing about Piper’s views on how we treat and should treat one another in this world.

“You Didn’t Build That”

If you haven’t seen or heard this quote yet from our president, you should know that both sides of the aisle are responding to it inappropriately. It occurred in a speech in VA. Here is the entire text. Many, many people have jumped on the line, ripped out of context that says, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.” There’s even a website.

So, three questions for those who like to repeat, repost, and defame our president with this line:

1. Did you read the entire speech?

2. Do you understand why context matters?

3. Why didn’t you quote this line from the president in the same speech: “when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative”

By the way, that line is also taken out of context, too, but that doesn’t mean that the other side should start quoting that either. Truth is always to be fought for and preserved regardless of how badly we want to win.

But the other side of the political aisle has also made a folly. On Obama’s Truth Team website, they claim that the that in his quote, clearly refers to roads and bridges, not business. They are wrong. After listening to the speech, I would agree that is what Obama meant, but the grammar certainly does not refer to roads and bridges. Grammatically, that refers to business.  A mistake? A poorly written speech? Maybe, but let’s put the-need-to-defend-or-defame-at-all-costs aside and speak the truth.

Tree Obituary

MSNBC is now running obituaries new stories about trees. At least it seems that way, “The Colorado blue spruce passed away ‘due to complications resulting from transplant shock….’ Born on a tree farm in New Jersey…”

I don’t mind knowing that the National Christmas Tree died. I would even say it was newsworthy; the lighting of the National Christmas Tree has been a tradition since 1923. But to be quite honest, it seemed that the personification of the tree with phrases like “passed away” and “born” gave it an almost comic feel. Surely that was not the intent of the author.

I won, I won…well, sort of.

Jeff held a contest. I got third place!

Several years ago I won a Church of Rhythm CD from a Christian radio station. I knew why Ivory soap floated. I also won a door prize once somewhere, but I don’t remember what it was. Neither of those took a whole lot of talent.

But this contest—this was huge. You can go here to see all the competition I was up against, or you can go here to see the extremly talented people who edged me out. In the spirit of the Olympics, I must say that I was proud to represent my country in this hard fought, emotional struggle.

I want to think my parents for teaching me my alphabet as well as some wonderful English teachers like Mrs. Butler and Mrs. DePriest* who challenged me to grow in my vocabulary. This great accomplishment would not have been possible without people like that. And thanks to Jeff, as well, for spending the time and energy it took to organize, conduct, and judge such a demanding competition.

If I am not blogging for while, it’s because I am busy writing lesson plans for next week and preparing for the classes I will be taking this fall waiting for the late night talk shows to call.

I wonder if Jeff will provide an html code to put on my blog?

*In all seriousness. After 12 years of regular school, 5 years of undergrad, and and 3 years of grad school, those two ladies were two of the finest teachers I ever had. I actually had the privilege of teaching alongside them both a few years ago. I spent a lot of time in high school in Mrs. DePriest’s home. She modeled Christ for all of us who hung out there with her son. They are both retired now, and I hope they are enjoying every minute of it.

What do you mean by that? Semantics Part II

We talked about denotation vs. connotation today in English class. It brought my last post to mind. Then I read this post, and it reminded me of this vision statement from the Dismantling Racism Task force of the United Methodist Church’s North Texas Conference (these thought trains can be dangerous):

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the people of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church seek to fulfill the word of God by committing to the full participation of people of all racial identities including their gifts, their worldviews and their cultures.

I actually had an opportunity to talk to one of the authors of the statement. I asked him if he really thought it was a good idea to fully include someone with Hitler’s worldview. His response: “Well, that’s not what we meant.” Well, that is what it says. Or what about a Muslim worldview. And does full participation mean they can be pastors. Without defining terms, this statement is at best unscriptural and at worst a statement of universalism. 

And what does Pete mean when he says,

[Jesus] would…include anybody who came up to him.

I have read Pete’s blog long enough to know what I think he means by that, and it’s not what I think the North Texas Conference means.  I have been around the Methodist Church long enough to know I really didn’t buy it when I was told, 

That’s not what we meant.

I know that I fail to define terms as well, and now this reminds me to work hard to be clear.

The Shack: Style and Semantics

I have finished listening to The Shack. The recording included an author’s explanation of how the book came about as well as a “friendly” interview (I have also just finished listening to an “unfriendly” interview.) Young answered my concerns about the quality of writing: basically self-published.

As stated in an earlier post, I struggle to comment on the book because I can’t remember the points I wanted to discuss, and I can’t go back and check what I thought I heard (actually, I don’t want to spend time rewinding and hunting, but I could). All that to say, I know some of Young’s theology is suspect, but I also know that he does some other things well. I have thought about commenting on other’s reviews, but you can read those yourself if you are interested.

I do want to comment on one argument in the “unfriendly” interview mentioned above. While Young did fail to answer some of the interviewer’s questions, they also wrangled over semantics. One might say, “We’ll just define your terms and move on.” The problem occurs when someone uses a term differently than how everyone else does. If the majority of Christians use a term one way, and someone else uses the same term differently, confusion can occur. 

When Bultman says he believes in the resurrection, someone might say, “So what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that Bultman does not believe in the same resurrection as most Christians. He believes in a spiritual resurrection. Bultman’s resurrection leaves Jesus in the grave. I can’t reconcile that with 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. 

So we must use care in using our terms, and if we use a term differently than it is normally used, we must define it to avoid confusion at best and accusations of heresy at worst. Young has left himself open to that charge.

Sexism in Literature

A week or so ago I read this piece about sexism in Prince Caspian. While I wasn’t fond of the author’s editing out things she was reading to her children, she does go on to say in the comments section that she does deconstruct what she reads with her children. Whether you agree or disagree with her beliefs, the fact that she sits down with her children and discusses what she reads with them is a plus. But I digress. 

Shortly after reading that blog, I read a piece from Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water. Her point is not the same as Deborah’s, but she is talking about sexist language in literature. She says,

I am a female, of the species man. Genesis is very explicit that it takes both male and female to make the image of God, and that the generic word, man, includes both.…

That is scripture, therefore I refuse to be timid about being a part of mankind. We of the female sex are half of mankind, and it is pusillanimous to resort to he/she, him/her, or even worse, android words. I have a hunch that those who would do so have forgotten their rightful heritage. 

I know that I am fortunate in having grown up in a household where no sexist roles were imposed on me. I lived in an atmosphere which assumed equality with all its differences. When mankind was referred to it never occurred to me that I was not part of it, or that I was in some way being excluded.

I don’t know what Deborah would think of this statement by L’Engle, and I won’t assume, but I do know it would not sit well in lots of places. And yet I wonder if girls were raised in the type of home as L’Engle, would the generic he be such an issue? I don’t know. The real issue of sexism in my mind deals with the way we treat one another.

Is a woman inferior to a man? That is a loaded question, and the follow up question should be: In what way? No black and white answer to that question exists. For every “in general,” an exception to the rule can surely be found. In general, though, men’s physical and emotional make up is different than a woman’s. This leads, unfortunately to stereotypes. Stereotypes are based upon some truth, however hidden. 

So men are generally stronger than women physically. Women, in general, are more empathetic. I am sure picking those examples will get me in trouble. But the pendulum has swung too far. Instead of seeking balance and righting clear wrongs, some have dug in their heels to avoid any and all hints at differences. This is plain silly, for differences exist that cannot be denied. The problem, then, rears its ugly head when someone takes a difference and makes it an issue of better or worse, right and wrong, can or can’t.

We are not the same, and we should rejoice in the fact that together we can complement one another as we fulfill the functions that we were created to fulfill instead of fighting against those and trying to do what we were not created to do.