Thursday, February 08, 2007

Given to Extremes: Exercise 5


Amy said...

I have a bit of a sordid spiritual upbringing. My family was pretty cool about faith, but some church choices were wanting in depth.

All that to say, I've seen huge abuses in moralistic and charismatic areas. For most of elementary school we attended a church based on the faith movement. You know..."name it claim it". We were too busy practicing how to fall "in the Spirit" to be too concerned with others being lost in the world. Then, being in pentecostal/charismatic churches, there does seem to be a focus on sin to the exclusion of of compassion.

(Much improves where I'm at now, but I've experienced some doozies)! :)

Kate said...

For me, its the moralist that lacks compassion. I love listening to the XXXChurch ministry - they have a radio show called Dirty Little Secrets where they discuss current events. I found one podcast where they interviewed a lady from Westboro Baptist Church - I could hardly believe my ears - the hate and judgement that was being spoken by this woman. If anyone is interested in their horrendous 'campaign' check out

Jemila Monroe said...

I think I have experienced the most damage from those movements emphasizing a coctail of evangelicalism and holiness, because of the unique and moralistic ways evangelicalism tends to conceive holiness of/and or the aspects emphasized in terms of holiness. My experience has been that when people A) think they have THE TRUTH figured out clearly and B) see it as their personal, God-given responsibility to make sure others get and follow THE TRUTH in what they believe and how they encounter messy realities in life (usually by pretending they aren't messy, that scripture is clear and nothing else counts, including human hearts and lives,) then even very kind, good people are become cut off from their very own humanity and ability to connect with another human being. Everything is just filtered through an automatic program, rather than a spirit-dwelled, whole human being.

When I finally left an abusive marriage with a man who thought about killing me and our daughter on a regular basis, hated me for chewing too loudly and spent thousands of dollars on phone sex and internet relationships with women he intended to meet (but apparently never did,) chronically lied, all the while trying to persuade and manipulate me into having an open-relationship,even my dearest Christian sisters could not see past their theology to support me in getting out. The best they could muster was validation for a temporary separation, with no hope of remarriage. Needless to say when I met a wonderful man and fell in love before my divorce was legalized (though my marriage was long over, and my ex, now getting some help and on medication actually supported the relationship,)my friends couldn't embrace my happiness or rejoice with me. They were convinced that being a life long single mother or reconciling with my ex were, "God's best" for me. My (now) husband and I were kicked off the worship team and any other "leadership roles" at our church because we refused to repent of loving each other and it was called, "public sin." We had been planning to start a youth ministry that summer together, and my Love had been the liturgist and often preached when the pastor was away. I swear we never fooled around on the pews, so I never really got that "public sin" thing. The coffee hour gluttony seemed much more "public" to me :)

Two or three dear souls did love me and find it in their hearts to be happy for me even if my path was outside the box.

A couple of others that I continued to journey with through that pain subsequently softened and had a change of heart. One of them now counsels women in abusive relationships to leave their husbands on a regular basis now! So people CAN change.

Kate said...

Jemila - how painful that must have been.

So many Christians are afraid to live ' in the grey' so to speak, with the messiness of life, to realize that there isn't a 'right' answer and to just love people.

I'm sorry that you had to experience the hurt that comes from others navigating life in the black and white.

On an un-related topic - I do have an English accent and would be happy to do over-the-phone coaching :)

Jemila Monroe said...

Sweet! What's your hourly rate? ;)

Amy said...


What an example of the horrible effects of putting propositional "truth" above a sincere love and concern for the real needs of people. I'm so sorry that you had to walk through that. It's so sad that in the midst of God providing a loving companion for you following such an abusive situation, that people would deny God meeting you in such a way. Yuck!

Jemila Monroe said...

Thanks for the affirmation Kate & Amy. It's balm for my soul to hear fellow Christians say, "really it's okay to love & be loved."

Amy, I think you have done a magnificent job embracing the good things about your charismatic tradition, while acknowledging the abuses and craziness/loss of connection with reality and compassion that can go along with certain manifestations of pentecostal/charismatic focus. Keep going and growing your "baby" -- I'm glad you didn't throw her out with the bathwater :)!

Nancy said...

I guess there are two examples that stand out to me here. Like most of you, the moralist with no compassion troubles me. I've had enough of my own personal experiences with folks with this imbalance and find if I err, I err in the opposite direction as overcompensation to aovid being like them. The other imbalance I find problematic involves those who would evangelize without real guidance and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. I'm reminded of Rob Bell's NOOMA clip "Bullhorn Guy" (or Bullhorn Man...) in this regard. These are people who I have thought were more an embarassment to Christ and his message than a real help.

Amy said...

Thanks Jemila. I'm not sure I have a balance, but am just walking the road.

For those of you who read this today, I'd like to ask your for your prayers. We have a "business meeting" at our church tonight and we'll be voting on changing the constitution and bylaws to allow women as deacons. I spent several months leading a "research" team for this last year and wrote a 15-page paper on it. So, tonight is it. It's a pretty big deal for me.

Kate said...

Amy - I'm so excited to be able to vote tonight! I think it's going to be awesome.

Lori said...

Amy, I assume "today" means 2/25? The vote may be over, but I'll hope my prayers are retroactive! I'm sure the experience of the past months, as you've read & studied & written, has been rewarding. I hope the effort yields productive fruit.
*Aside: I'd love to read your paper; our small group ("In Vino Teologica"--in wine there is theology) will be discussing women in leadership next week. We've dealt with some fairly controversial topics (open theism, atonement as it may or may not be, etc.) but this one feels more intensely personal, and I hope as a group we can graciously weather the discussion. We all attend different churches, (some of our group are Catholic) so there's always a breadth of opinion, which I love! This particular topic really gets down to practice, though, which makes it a more challenging one to tackle. (Say something you don't know, right?!)*

Anyhow, I'm so familiar with the moralist/lacking in compassion approach. During our early married years we lived in Colorado Springs, which was so polarized, particularly over moral issues. We felt like we spent most of those years trying to show what Christians aren't.

Most recently, however, we live in a community that focuses so heavily on learning and Scripture study that it tends to quench any life the Spirit might be wanting to give. The churches around have fabulous preachers, and I've been amazed at the sermons I've heard here. The sad thing, though, is that shortly after leaving church I can't remember a thing that was said. Sort of feels like a college lecture.

We've recently been attending a church that falls in this tradition, but has somehow maintained a remarkable openness to the Spirit of God. The sermons aren't usually outstanding (I didn't go to seminary, but I know at least some of the rules, and most are routinely broken), but interestingly enough, so much more has filtered down into my heart in this place. It feels like, in the presence of an imperfect delivery, I have to do some work myself, and in the process become a participant. And there the Spirit can work.

Jemila, thanks for sharing your story. What an incredibly painful experience, and I'm so sorry that grace from the body of Christ has been so slow in coming. Even more, though, I thank God for the way he has redeemed, and is redeeming, all that sorrow. Your story, and the hope into which you have grown, is cause for praise, and in this place, at least, we can join you in that!

Amy said...

Oops..."Today" is 2/25. The vote is over and it was 71 in favor, 22 opposed, so passed.

I'm so relieved and yet anxious. Lori, you're so right to say it's personal. As my husband said, "this is the easy part. Now, let's see how many years it takes to actually vote a woman onto the board." Not that the point is an affirmative action type scenario, but I do think there tends to be an underlying fear or trepidation when it comes to women in formalized leadership.

I'm happy to e-mail the paper. I will warn you that it's on the more technical side and yet wouldn't qualify for most college courses. I was trying to write it to a group of business men and tackle the "problem" texts, since those are the ones that raise the most concern for those considering this issue. On a personal level, I have come to view the call to love, to not seek after power as the world does, and Jesus' example of reaching out to those in the margins so much more compelling than attempting to disprove the Corinthians and Timothy passages. And yet, those are the passages that grab the attention of most people, so I suppose putting a hole in the assumed reading is a positive as well!

You updated my blog to have my e-mail. Feel free to e-mail me and I'll send the paper right over.

Amy said...

Oops again...the last line should read "I updated my blog..." It's too late and I'm too tired!

Jemila Monroe said...

Congrats Amy! My (probably retroactive) prayers were with you today. It is a big step. And you wer a huge part of it. It must have taken alot of courage and patience, and you helped pave the way, with God's help.

I wonder how girls/women in your church are mentored and shaped in your church...I suspect that an insidious aspect of patriarchy is that sometimes it can give lip service to "If a woman is as qualified as a man..." and then perpetuate a culture in which women receive many unconscious/subconscious messages about who they are supposed to be in the community that limit their self-permission to cultivate innate gifts and strengths as true leaders. Then those who aren't excited/comfortable with the idea of a woman in leadership to begin with are sort of let off the hook by the lack of "qualified women."

I have a hunch that this kind of limiting culture may also play into why a number of us have expressed a general preference for the company of men -- we aren't experiencing the fullness our sisters have to offer, because our sisters don't even know that it's theirs to offer!

Perhaps examining this phenomenon could shorten its lifespan and foster healthy transformation and shaping of our young girls into loving-yet-powerful, well-equipped women disciples/leaders.

Amy said...

Jemila, the shaping of girls and women in our church is lacking in this area. The common assumption is that there are a few "exceptional" women and when they come along they are given a place at the table. The major flaw in that type of scenario is that "exceptional" is judged based on the patriarchal structure and to overcome the bias, you have to play ball a certain way, overcome years of being told what you can't be and all the other subtle messages given out within the Christian community.

Recently, there was a ceremony to welcome the youth into adulthood (I actually blogged about this one). The men were challenged to be God's warriors since they were made in God's image. The women were challenged to behave and dress modestly so as to not cause God's warriors to stumble. I had a great talk later with the speaker and presented my concerns about what was communicated to the women. He agreed that he hadn't even thought about the implications of what he had said. I get to work with him to come up with a challenge suitable for the women.

I think so often we operate with assumptions and act out accordingly. As a result, the message that women somehow don't quite cut it, are not capable or any other number of unconcious attitudes about women permeates our churches so much so that when we begin to challenge it, people sometimes don't even understand what the problem is. I keep bringing up situations that communicate or reinforce negative stereotypes of women with our pastoral staff. They've gone to other women in the church and asked what they thought and when those women don't think it's a big deal, I basically get told that I'm taking it too personally. Then, they kind of look cross-eyed at me when I say that those women must not be in touch with their "feminine wound." ;-)

Anyway, all that to say that yes, Jemila. I think you hit the nail on the head.

Thanks for "listening" to me on this one, friends. I can get a little passionate when my hot buttons are pushed.

Jemila Monroe said...

Amy, that must be so frustrating and even a little humiliating to put yourself out there and then have other women's "asleepness" serve to invalidate the work you're trying to do in the eyes of the men. Seriously, you're perseverance is a beautiful and amazing thing. I really admire you!

Amy said...

Jemila, it is frustrating. I'm not so sure about perseverance at the moment...we'll see.

Thanks for understanding.

Jemila Monroe said...

Well you have already shown a great deal of perseverance, no matter where you go as God leads you from here. If you choose to stay, I wonder if perhaps the term "feminine wound" is too alien/threatening for both men and women acculturated in convervative situations. What do you think about talking about them problem in terms of whether a fish is aware that it swims in water, since it has known only water, or the way you adjust to polluted air and stop noticing the noxious smell, even while it continues to harm your body?

Amy said...

Very true, Jemila! I would really freak some folks out using "femine wound". The idea about the fish or an adjustment to polluted air is a great way to approach it.

To this point, I've just cowered back when that type of situation comes up. I've been pretty nervous to be considered "out there". I'm realizing though that I just can't fit back into the box and I need to own where I'm at. But, like you said, I want to do so in a way that promotes relationship and the possibility of change rather than closing it off through the use of threatening terminology.

Kate said...

With Amy and I attending the same church, I've had the opportunity to see what she has managed to accomplish in this regard. I truly believe that our senior pastor affirms Amy and her contributions from the 'pulpit' and her work is visible to those paying attention to the subtlties of congregation dynamics. I do agree that there is a lack of female presence at our church outside of the accepted female/leader roles, but I also believe that the current leadership team is working to change that.
I am pretty outspoken and am trying to earn a 'voice' for myself within the church. Amy is way ahead of me on that one and possesses the restraint and balance that I don't sometimes have! She is greatly respected and highly regarded - as I'm sure you can all imagine. I'm praying that they will offer her the campus pastor position at our church plant next year!