Honestly, say this with a straight face. What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bulls Make Money, Bears Make Money, Pigs Get Slaughtered

So according to the weather men, it was supposed to be in the low 50s today. It never got out of the 30s. I've gone most of my life scoffing at weather men and anyone who seems to think that they can see into the future, but as I've aged and gained responsibilities, I seemed to have thought it wise to keep up with expected weather and plan parts of my day around it. No more. I'm going to go back to just going with the flow and not listening to the TV shaman that tell me the future.

This week's post is a continuation in the "What Kiel thinks about issues that cause conflict in the SBC" series. I'm unbelievably surprised at the amount of feedback I've gotten so far. Maybe people care more about what I think than I thought. Or maybe no one will reply to this post and things will return to normal. Whatever the case, I should let you know that a certain blogger over at http://thisblogchoseyou.wordpress.com/ discussed this week's issue earlier this week with a great post you should check out. Head on over to Bryan's blog.


During the past few years, some Southern Baptists have taken a very peculiar stance on homosexuality. It has been stated that if a method were developed to somehow reverse homosexuality in an unborn child to make him or her heterosexual, such a method should be endorsed by Christians, just as we would endorse any method that would decrease the temptation of anyone.

As much as I respect the opinion of some of my fellow Southern Baptists, I must strongly disagree with this stance. For some reason, homosexuality has become the most vile of all sins amongst evangelical Christianity over the past decade or two. What's even more embarrassing is that there is actually conversation among Christians involving "what to do about it" as if homosexuality hasn't been around more than a few years.

Before I get into that though, I'll respond to the idea that science can somehow cure sin and other stances that insist that homosexuality is some evil switch that gets flipped on or off. I'll begin by saying as forcefully as I possibly can that to state that we should interfere with God's creation in such a way as to "take away" or "rid" someone of a particular sin is an absolute slap in the face to Christ's work on the cross. Who are we to reach into the womb of a mother and decide the outcome of what God has already ordained? Furthermore, who are we to think that we can take away sin?

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Psalm 139:13

"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people, and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." - Hebrews 9:27-28

The work is done, Christ has taken away the sins of his people. There is no need to further attempt to deal with the problem of sin - we can't deal with it. That's precisely why Christ came to die, nothing we do could ever be enough. Why is it not suggested that we find unborn children who will be prone to be alcoholics? Or adulterers? Why not genetically cure everyone of all sins before they are even born? Because it would do no good. We cannot take away the sin of anyone, only Christ can do that.

Because of the direction this post is taking, it would be wise of me to say that I'm not pulling a Brian McLaren here and getting ready to tell you that we need to wait it out a few years before the church takes a stance on homosexuality as a sin. I do believe that it is, in fact, sin. However, I will now address the second problem facing the church in regards to homosexuality, and that is the inability of our fellow Christians to understand homosexuals and treat them in a respectable and loving way.

For some reason, it seems that our churches equate welcoming a homosexual into our company with carrying them to the pulpit. This reaction to homosexuality in the church is just ridiculous. Every single one of us entered into the church as a sinner - maybe not struggling with the sin of homosexuality, but struggling with sin just as deserving of death and judgment. In fact, I would go so far as to say that every one of you is struggling with sin right now leaves you in a terrible predicament if not for the grace of God. Why is homosexuality so different? It's certainly not something to overlook, but nor is it something to get scared about or be deemed as too far for the grace of God to reach. God is more than capable of saving a homosexual, just as he is also capable of saving anyone he so chooses. How dare we decide who is good enough for God's grace.

I would urge you to go out this week and befriend a homosexual person. I feel like I can't even say it without it sounding like "go out and make friends with a grizzly bear." I promise, they won't bite - and in fact, you might just find out that they're human beings just like you. No different. No less deserving of the grace of God. No less fun to joke around with, to share a meal with, to be friends with, and to love - just like everyone else. Let's stop dividing people into the who's in and who's out circle of God's love and start acting like people are in need of it and we have the means to share it with them.

Friday, February 15, 2008

One Day Women Will All Become Monsters

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day. Teresa got a new job at Old Navy and her orientation was last night from 5-10 p.m. which kind of shot our plans. On top of that, she came down with a stomach virus and has been very sick since last night. We'd appreciate your prayers, hopefully it's a 24 hour thing and she'll be back on her feet in no time.

This week is the second installment of posts I'm making on issues that cause conflict within the Southern Baptist Convention and where I stand on the issue. This week's topic is the role of women in ministry.

Women in Ministry

I spent the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006 working in inner-city Tulsa with a Methodist organization called Project Transformation. The goal of the organization is to move into dwindling or struggling churches within the inner city community and begin to restore a bond between the people of the community and the church through offering the children a summer program. A team of 5 or 6 college students is assigned to a church where they put together a daily program for children in 1st-6th grade that consists of math and computer skills, art, reading, songs, games, Bible study, and much more. Also, the children are provided breakfast and lunch along with a safe, positive, and loving environment, which is unusual for most of them.

Each of the three summers, I was assigned to a different Church in Tulsa. My final summer, I worked at Grace United Methodist Church on the west side of the city. The pastor there was a woman named Cindy Mayes. Cindy pastored this church along with another church in the area, which means she was doing the ministry of two people - an amazing feat. Cindy is one of the most loving and compassionate people I've ever met, I wouldn't trade my time in ministry with her for anything. Seeing her passion for that community was astounding and truly inspiring for me, especially when I found myself wondering "what's the use?" on certain days while she pushed on with a smile and a positive attitude.

I believe that God has given different roles to men and women. I believe that God created Adam as the head of Eve, and the Genesis account seems to make clear that Adam had responsiblity to lead his wife and was given responsibility for her mistake in the garden - it was his too. Contrary to what most say, I truly believe that our great struggle since the fall is to regain the roles that God made for man and woman and declared to be good. When God says to Eve in Genesis 3, "Your desire will be for your husband" he's saying that she will desire his role, to have authority over him. This was not meant to be.

I wish there was a simple way to convey the roles of men and women without causing others to feel as if women are being given the short end of the stick. Just quote 1 Timothy 2:12, which says "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent," and immediately tempers will flare and ideas will be misunderstood. I believe that the role God has given to women is a beautiful and wonderful role to fulfill, but to explain this to those who do not hold this is extremely difficult. And maybe rightfully so.

I've always wondered how, for example, how the husband of a woman pastor could be expected to be the spiritual leader of his household. How does that work? But yet, I look at Cindy's situation in Tulsa and see that she seems to be meeting the needs of her community. Should we penalize her with not "following God's commands" when there are no men stepping up to do the job there? Would it be better for no one to be leading a church in that community? What about single woman missionaries, should they evangelize only to women? How do you do that in a culture where women aren't even allowed to associate with others and everything must go through the husband? Should we just leave these places unreached until a willing man comes along to do the job?

I cannot convince myself that this is the case.

Which leaves me at a crossroads of sorts. I truly believe that the pastoral role is reserved for men and that men are to lead their households in loving them as Christ loved the church. At the same time, I stand and applaud Cindy Mayes for her commitment to serving the hurt, unloved, and struggling people of Tulsa. Cindy is an example of what the Christian life should look like in practice, and I can't imagine having not worked with and learned from her. In fact, it's hard to imagine Grace UMC without her, as she is now pastor of prayer and belonging at Asbury United Methodist Church on the east side of Tulsa.

This probably makes my stance as clear as mud, but I just can't make it any clearer at this point in my life. Maybe one day I'll understand completely the roles of men and women in God's kingdom, but I believe that day will be when I stand before him. I can't wait for that day to come.

Friday, February 8, 2008

My Mind Isn't Quite Sure What it Has Bargained For

On the first Monday of this semester, I received an email at 5 p.m. informing me that one of my classes (a Tuesday/Thursday class) had been cancelled for the semester due to a lack of interest. The name of the class is Southern Baptist Heritage, and it's a required class for my degree. After freaking out, I attempted to find another open class, but had difficulty since, well, school had started and classes were full or conflicted with my work schedule. Fortuantely, I was able to talk to the professor of the closed class and work out an independant study. There will be not class time or tests, just six books to read and a paper. This is good.

I began my reading (albeit begrudgingly, as I wasn't too interested in Southern Baptist history) with a book called Baptist Battles. Some researchers from Emory University did a study on the Southern Baptist Convention - it's history, the divisions among the members, what they believe, and how that has affected the course of the SBC. It's been fascinating to learn about where the SBC came from and why certain divisions and disagreements exist. I've really enjoyed it.

The interesting part is finding out which category of Southern Baptists I fall into - because it seems that I'm a bit of a weirdo. I don't seem to fall in line with any particular side. I'm definitely not fundamentalist, and I'm far from being completely liberal. Yet, I'm not completely in the middle, because some of my views are strikingly fundamentalist, while others are quite liberal, and still others fall somewhere in between. Therefore, I'm going to be taking some time over the next few weeks to discuss my stance on particular Baptist issues, possibly more for my own benefit than for yours, because . . . well, do you really care what I think? I didn't think so.

The Inerrency of Scripture

I believe that the 66 books of the Bible that we have were written by men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Each of these men had motives what they were writing and undoubtedly had their own agenda. I have no problem with this, because I believe God used each of these men to get across what he wanted to. I take the Bible literally, although not completely. I mean, Jesus saying that He is the door does not that he really is a door. There are certainly stories, metaphors, poetry, and many other things that are to be taken in their context. This is why I believe it is important for Christians to learn these different writing styles and the context of each writer to better understand what the writer intended.

I do not believe that Scripture is to be read in a way that it means whatever someone wants it to. Certainly, the writers had a point when they wrote and weren't just writing so that we could take whatever we wanted from it. No, all of Scripture has an exact meaning, and we should work dillegently to understand it.

All of this being said, I firmly believe that it is preposterous to claim to have the Bible compeltely understood. It would be absurd for us to treat others with different understandings of Scripture as idiots. I'll give a few examples:

I believe in a literal six day creation. I feel that I can give a very good defense for it, but not a complete defense. Nor do I believe that one can be sufficiently made. I have good Christian friends who believe that the world was created over the course of several thousands/millions of years. They have no less of a defense than I do. Yet, to make such a claim about the world not being created in six days is enough to be labeled a liberal and a danger to the inerrency of Scripture.

I am a five point Calvinist. I don't agree with everything about John Calvin, but I do hold to his five TULIP points. I have very good Christian friends who are Arminian and believe in human free will to an extent to which I cannot. I belive the Bible is clear on these issues, but yet I went years of my life believing the opposite. While I can give a defense of my beliefs in this area (and regularly do) I find it nearly impossible to "convert" someone to Calvinism based on any argument that I can give.

My point is, God is the one who makes the Scriptures clear to us, not ourselves. I believe that there is a right and a wrong to each issue, but for anyone to claim that their way is competely right and inerrent is just silly. Each of us is capable of error and misunderstanding. This is why I think kindly dissent and decent conversation is so important among Christians - especially Southern Baptists. Perhaps if we were more willing to listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ instead of attacking anyone who differs from us, we might become more open to understand God through his Word in a new and different way - after all, it is all about him right?