Monday, September 06, 2010

Blogging Along with Mark Driscoll

Setup: I'm struggling with how to deal with people whose response to human suffering is to simply call for more abortions to eliminate in-utero those people who would suffer. Which, frankly, is pretty much everybody. I'm not saying everything I note and comment on is going to relate to that. It's just that right now I'm struggling with that. With advocating pre-emptive killing, rather than advocating love and acts of kindness and mercy and justice.

So, on to Mark Driscoll's sermon. He says he's giving five sermons worth of Scripture in one, because he wants to finish the book of Luke before Jesus returns. So!

Around 3:44, Driscoll notes that "Judge not" is the secular American life-verse. And it's judgmental. People are judging you for being what they consider too judgmental. A real Moebeus strip there.

Around 4:33 he talks about people who "always find fault, flaw, failure". That, sadly, is one of my gifts. I'm the one that sees that the regulations for how to run a welfare-to-work program actually prevent people on welfare from finding work. And I've had people with great love and wisdom tell me that this is a gift and a blessing. Not to ME, it isn't, because it makes my life miserable. I can't just go into work every day and put in my 8 hours. I have to wrestle with the counterproductiveness of the system. And it's people with this blessing that eventually closed down the institutions where people with mental disabilities used to be warehoused. I saw the fault, flaw, failure in the craziness of packing a bunch of mentally ill people into a home together and expecting sanity to break out. I saw the fault, flaw, failure in the stupidity of packing a bunch of developmentally disabled people into homes together based on IQ tests they'd been subjected to during childhood, and expecting them to get along when this was all they had in common.

CS Lewis indicated that every sin is the result of misusing a blessing. I won't go into that in depth because, frankly, none of the specifics are coming to me right now. But I recognize the danger in noticing the insanity and stupidity of the systems for dealing with the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled, and presuming that there is evil intent. What I struggle with is being effective. I tend to be a voice in the wilderness. "This is CRAZY!" I'll cry. "Oh, shut up and do your job. You're making it harder for the rest of us." Once upon a time I'd probably have been burned at the stake as a heretic.

So judging in and of itself clearly isn't wrong. You have to spot flaws in the system -- including spotting flaws in a school of thought. I just don't know how to effectively communicate those flaws so that they can be corrected. Other people pick up on it and make the positive changes.

And maybe saying, "This is CRAZY!" or "This is STUPID!" is my lot in life. I have seen others say, "You've got a point there" and go off and do wonderful things. I just wish I could do the wonderful things, not just impotently rage at the stupidity or craziness.

Okay, back to the sermon.

At 5:08 or so he's talking about an example, a person with "the gift of discouragement". I try to find things to compliment people on, areas where they're really doing a wonderful job, and make sure they know I appreciate it. But that's at work. I have a hard time doing that in the life issues battle. Sometimes I think it's because there's often so little that is praise-worthy. Yeah, Curtis Boyd had his staff well trained and they responded appropriately and professionally when Vanessa Preston stopped breathing. Yeah, she died anyway, but they really did do every reasonable thing to try to save her. I just see it so seldom. Is it because it's seldom there, or because of my own propensity to not see it?

Back to the sermon.

Circa 5:32. Approaching people "so that when we judge them, it's not in a condemning way. 'I have no hope for you. I'm done with you. You're worthless!' ... That is judging then condemning."

Just as I'm waiting to chew on that he goes off onto the "Capital J Judging" that's Jesus' job. Who goes to Heaven, who goes to Hell. And my gut response was (as it often is) that it seems unfair for Jesus to just say, "Okay, Heaven for you, Hell for you." But then it struck me that there's a kind of judging akin to what we do at the produce stand. You don't want to take home a bad apple and have it spoil the entire bin. And, as Driscoll said elsewhere, if you let everybody in to Heaven it wouldn't be Heaven; it'd be Detroit. C.S. Lewis wrote on this. That there are some people who would strive to turn Heaven into Hell. And we can't see people's hearts, to see if they are or are not this kind of person. But Jesus can.

When I went to visit my daughter, two teenage boys were playing Grand Theft Auto -- a miserable, depressing game, if you ask me. The goal seems to be "See how big an asshole you can be and how much mayhem you can create." The two teenage boys admitted that yes, this is pretty much the goal of it. You can't go into Grand Theft Auto and play an EMT or paramedic that takes care of the wounded people. You can't play Grand Theft Auto as a cop who protects the innocent citizens and locks up the bad guys. There is only being a bad guy and seeing how much you can steal, destroy, and kill. Simply because you can. And I thought, "This is what Hell must be like." And I thought about how for some people, maybe that will be what Hell is like. Only the pain will be real, not cartoon pain.

And there'd be no place in Heaven for people who want that. To simply hurt and destroy and kill because they can and because it gives them a rush. And there ARE people like that in the world. And only Jesus can see into a person's heart and know if they're that sort of person. And it's His job to put people like that where they belong. They'd not be happy in Heaven anyway. Would you want an unrepentant Henry Lee Lucas, Ted Bundy, Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot hanging around with you for all eternity?

C. 7:16. "We should primarily judge Christians, not non-Christians." So do I determine if somebody is a believer or not before responding to them? Mark goes to the book of Corinthians, where Paul writes, "What business is it of mine to judge those who are outside the Church?" (To which, at this moment, I'd respond, "They're advocating killing babies as a solution to pretty much all the world's problems. What happened to 'Rescue those who are being led to slaugher'?") But let's see where Mark goes with it. (Paul's examples were a guy shacking up with his mom or stepmom or mother-in-law, and people suing each other because it's a faster way to make a buck than working.) Mark continues, saying we shouldn't expect non-Christians to act like Christians.

Mark points out that moralizing to non-Christians is simply behavior modification. Only Jesus can change the heart and change the life. So the propensity to see abortion as a solution to all the world's evils isn't something an unbeliever can be argued out of. It's a heart issue. Something only the Holy Spirit can fix. And Jesus will set the appropriate priorities in that person's life, to straighten them out and set them on the path to becoming whole.

Only Jesus can fix whatever is going wrong inside a person that they see death, not love, as a way to address evil. You can't argue them out of it.

And I remember the major attitude adjustment I got when I became a believer. The most striking of which was that I stopped hoarding and became more generous. I stopped always fearing that there wouldn't be enough for me.So many things in my life did a complete 180. And that wasn't that I was argued or convinced out of it. I was convicted and changed.

And, even deeper than that, was ... it's hard to explain. I was outraged by the evil in the world. And I hated God for it. I stood before the open mouth of Hell, ready to throw myself in headlong, if only to spite a God who simply wasn't fixing things according to my timetable. And do the people I'm so frustrated with really differ so much from who I was then? They're dismayed by human suffering. They're probably frustrated by their own impotence in addressing it. And so they latch on to something that they think will fix it. Abortion! After all, if people aren't born in the first place, then horrible things can't happen to them!

And maybe what I need to do is see that point of contact -- the shared dismay at how much things just suck. And to reach them at that point of contact. Yeah. The world really sucks. A LOT. But can I hate them for lacking hope? Isn't the primary thing that separates us that I can see hope? That I've seen lives transformed? And if they haven't had that blessing, is it a fault of theirs? Or is it an area of need?


C. 8:46 he articulates something I've lamented about a lot. That Christians tend to preach the Gospel to each other and discipline the unbeliever, when they're supposed to discipline the believer and preach the Gospel to unbelievers. Duh.

He goes on to say that we need to judge the believer, not to condemn, but to pull them out of the wreck.

"What [Paul] is saying here is that we should judge other Christians, and introduce non-Christians to Jesus."

NOT the Jesus of the Holy Rollers, who is ready to unleash a can of whupass on them. But the Jesus Who weeps over the lost, Who seeks them out, Who DIED so that they may be reconciled to God and to one another. The Jesus that cares that they're in a rut of one miserable relationship after another. That they're chasing happiness in places where it can't be found. That they're destroying themselves with alcohol or drugs or porn. That they're hurting and doing the spiritual equivalent of rubbing snow on frostbite -- causing further damage in their attempts to fix the problem.

C. 10:43. He talks about forgiveness. And I started to go down the path of "It's that they're hurting these other people, these folks with disabilities, these pitiful prostitutes, these panic driven pregnant women, that pisses me off!" But isn't that what pisses Jesus off? That we hurt people He loves? And if I want to be forgiven by Jesus for hurting people He loves, then don't I need to learn to love others as He loves me? Do I dare to pretend that what was done to Marcia Powell hurts me more than it hurts Jesus?

I don't think so.

Moving right along.

c. 11:07, he points out that to forgive, we MUST first judge. You can't forgive if you haven't even noticed that there was sin.

And he points out that we ALL believe in judgment. We ALL say, "That's right; that's wrong. That's acceptable; that's unacceptable." And the anti-judgmentalists are GREAT at this! How dare you say that what I do is WRONG! It's WRONG of you to find fault with me!" Um... and in doing so, they're FINDING FAULT!

Though Driscoll's example is how pissed off you'd be if somebody broke into your house, stole your stuff, and pulled a gun on you, and when you called 911 they said, "We can't send the cops! That'd be judgmental!"

We ALL know that there really are such things as right and wrong.

What we CAN get rid of, he says, is self-righteous judgmentalism that says there's no hope for people. And I'd say that just as it's wrong for an abortion supporter to look at somebody else's life and say, "Not worth living. There's no hope for that person. they are suffering beyond redemption. That person should have been aborted", I mustn't look at the abortion supporter's lives and say, "There's no hope for them. They're evil beyond redemption."

What Jesus is condemning, Driscoll says, is judgment and condemnation. You judge and then OFFER HOPE and CORRECTION.

If a kid screws up on his math, you don't tell him he's too dumb to ever learn. You point out the error and help him learn to do the math correctly. So, if somebody is in moral error -- hurting themselves or others -- you don't tell them they're too evil to learn to love. You help them to channel their desire to end suffering in a way that embraces hope and love, not despair and death.

Okay, he's gonna give us five questions:

1. (at 12:37) -- Who do you need to forgive? If you don't forgive them, you'll become a bitter hypocrite. "It takes one to repent, one to forgive, and two to reconcile." You can forgive regardless of whether or not they ever repent. And he points out that forgiving is NOT saying you're okay with what they did or failed to do. Forgiving is not denying or diminishing the sin. And you can forgive them, and still call the cops on them if they committed a crime. To forgive, after all, does require that you recognize the sin.

2. (at about 16:10) "Getters should be givers." "If God forgives you, forgive others. If God gives to you, give to others." And I find this easier to do with material things -- money and stuff -- than with less tangible blessings. And it's the less tangible blessings that I just luxuriate in. I LOVE that I can see God's hand in so many things -- good food, beautiful music, a baby's face, a restored life. But how can I pass that on? Uh -- DUH! moment, here -- I have been gifted very often with an ability to share that. The Down Syndrome Association of Houston calendar on my wall, my stories about Myron and Chris, the excitement of watching Aaron Fotheringham do a freaking BACK FLIP in a wheelchair. I'm a zealot for the beauty that I've been gifted with seeing. And it is a gift. When I first got to the Denton State School, I saw a bunch of retarded people. It was only through God's grace that I got to see and appreciate how utterly amazing Myron is. It's been over ten years since I saw him last, and I still rejoice in him and share that joy with others. So it's nice to know that I CAN do this. I just need to do it FIRST, before I snap at people for not seeing it. I had to have it shown to me, didn't I?

Mark goes into what he calls Generosity Theology. First he looks at the two typical errors: Prosperity Theology ("God is a pinata, and tithing is a stick. Give Him a whack and watch vehicles with rims fall out of the sky.") and Poverty Theology (Just being lazy and broke on the grounds that this somehow makes you holy.) Generosity Theology is to see yourself as a generous steward, using your blessings to bless others. Everything we have belongs to God, and He's giving it to us so that we might use it to glorify Him and bless others. And this is NOT just material things. It's your abilities, your drive, your talents, as well as your money and possessions. (Oooh, getting convicted HERE of not using my time very generously!) "Generosity Theology is As God gives to me, I give to others. I give to the poor. I give to the Church. And the attitude is not, 'God, how much of my money do I have to give You?' It's, 'God, how much of Your money do I get to keep?'" (Again, for me, it's TIME rather than money. Though money IS an issue. I just don't piss away money at nearly the rate I piss away time.) "For those who do give, God likes to give more to them." (Not, I'd say, because He loves them more and wants them to have more cool stuff, but because they can be trusted with it. if God gives you ten bucks, and you share five of it, then odds are if He gives you $100, you'll share $50. So if God's goal is to see people spread the blessings, He'll dump more blessings on those who are effective at spreading it around, not to those who hog it up.

Around 22:40 he tells The Parable of the Chip Aisle. You bring this HUGE bag home of something that ends with "itos". You're anticipating how chiptastic it's gonna be. And you open up the bag and it's not full of chips! There's some chips in the bottom but really, the bag "is full of air and lies!" He does go somewhere with it, but it's just such a cool illustration in and of itself. Then he spends some time discussing finances specifically at Mars Hill. Which, even though I'm not a member, I love to hear about it. I just love how he preaches about money. And I love how he addresses the people who give squat. He challenges them to just cough up a dollar and say, "I've moved into a whole new category of givers!" Though he continues to break it down according to full dollar amount, not percent of income. Which Is, I know, tough to calculate. At minimum wage, tithing would be about $1500. For median household income in the US, a tithe would be about $5200. So somebody coughing up $4000 a year might be giving close to 30% of their gross income, or falling short of even a tithe. But I digress.

At 28:35 he points out "God doesn't just give to us, He gives through us. And he tells the story of a new Christian who came to him and said how much she really enjoys her new life as a believer, being presented with people to love and bless: "This is a really fun life!"

3. around 29:00, "Leaders should lead themselves." "Everybody's leading someone, everybody's teaching someone." This is the "Take the log out of your own eye before you try to take a speck out of somebody else's eye." "We're all blind to our own blindness." And the most religious are the most guilty of this. And you need to put people in your life who have different blind spots, not the same blind spots. Find people who can see where you're screwing up and love you enough to point it out to you. NOT people who will condone your sin and participate in it with you! And yeah, some sins such as drunkenness and hanging out at strip clubs are pretty obvious. What about when you turn your own sin, in your own mind, into a virtue? Then you're really screwed, because you think the people wallowing in sin with you are encouraging you in righteousness. How do you avoid THAT little trap?

Well, time to go man the booth at the county fair. Back with more later.


Rupert said...

'...people whose response to human suffering is to simply call for more abortions to eliminate in-utero those people who would suffer' - what a load of tripe! Abortion is one minor aspect of the whole scenario. Don't start with a false premise.

'...because he wants to finish the book of Luke before Jesus returns' - what is he, the world's slowest reader? Ever? He's got forever and ever and ever, 'cos it's never going to happen.

"They're advocating killing babies as a solution to pretty much all the world's problems' - that is just plain nonsense and you know it.

'And Jesus will set the appropriate priorities in that person's life, to straighten them out and set them on the path to becoming whole.' - who? your imaginary sky friend?

'Only Jesus can fix whatever is going wrong inside a person that they see death, not love, as a way to address evil' - another false premise. Gee, you're doing well aren't you!

Christina Dunigan said...

1. Okay, what are the other aspects of the whole scenario, Rupert? In this blog, prochoicers do tend to put forth abortion as the solution to child abuse, crime, genocide, prostitution, prisoner mistreatment, just about everything but crabgrass and acne.

2. It's a joke, Rupert. The post was too long already for me to close-caption for the humor impaired.

3. Back to #1. Every sad story I share on this blog, at least one prochoicer leaps in with how abortion would have prevented it. Sounds like a panacea to me.

4. I would love to see Jesus get hold of you, Rupert. In fact, somehow I get the sneaking suspicion He's gonna, and you're gonna be like, "Whoa!" That'll be so cool!

5. We're back to the fact that it's the prochoicers here who keep proposing abortion as a problem solver. Prostitute abused in prison? She should have been aborted. Serial killer? He should have been aborted. Mom's boyfriend kills her kid? Kid should have been aborted. Probably mom and the boyfriend, too.

So why don't you show me what solutions other than just preemptively executing both potential criminal and potential crime victims in-utero?

Katie said...

I have to say, I really prefer OC to Rupert. Rupert seems a little...dense. I mean that in the most Christianly way, of course.

Lilliput said...

Where is the Jesus that came with the sword? The one that inspired the crusades and more recently colonialism. I refer to the saying "a christian tells you to close your eyes to pray and when you open them, you have his bible and he has your land" I can't for the life of me remember who said it.

Just wondering if Driscoll mentions him?

Rupert said...

1. People advocate a range of social measures to deal with various issues. I have not observed a trend of pro-choicers stating abortion as a remedy.

2. So I can't use humor too?

3. 'at least one', 'panacea' - that's a very long bow to draw.

4. jesus? why not zeus? or krishna? Oh dear, which one should I fear most?

5. Rubbish, rubbish and rubbish.

Why don't you show me anything substantive to support your claims?

Kathy said...

Yes, Lilliput, where is that Jesus? You'll be hard pressed to find him in the Bible. What you have to do is twist and pervert the New Testament to do it. Basically, it was worldly people who were nominal Christians (Catholics, mostly, but also some Protestants), who used the guise of religion to cover the unchristian acts they were doing.

Yes, there is a verse in which Jesus says that He doesn't bring peace, but brings a sword; yet the context makes it obvious that He was not referring to His followers taking up arms in conquest, but just giving a statement of fact, that becoming a Christian (at that time, for sure; and still in some countries at this time) will bring division among families and strife, because the unbelieving will not tolerate the defection to Christianity.

The saying you quoted is I think attributable to Desmond Tutu, but that is not an exact quote. It's something more like, "When Christians came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. Then they said, 'Let us close our eyes to pray,' and when we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land."

Lilliput said...

Just so I understand - are catholics and protestants not christians?

Kathy said...

Lilliput, I don't understand where you got that from. I said they were *nominal* Christians -- Christians in name only -- who could be either Catholic (primarily Spain & Portugal) or Protestant (primarily England, depending on whether it had a Catholic or Protestant monarch at the time). There are some true and some nominal Christians in every denomination -- just as you are Jewish... sort of -- you don't believe the Bible, but you go to synagogue? Um, okay.

A perfect example (albeit fictional) of a "nominal Christian" who is Catholic would be Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" movies -- while attending Mass and pretending to be an honest and upright citizen and good Catholic, he was actually a heartless murderer.

Lilliput said...

I'm jewish because my mother is jewish and I will always be jewish- its in my blood.

I went to the synagogue to pray to my God and to be part of my community.

Just because I don't take the bible literally doesn't mean I don't believe - you do know what myth and metaphors are?

Also, I realise that life is not black or white and that all relationships are grey - including the one with our creator!

Kathy said...

Yes, I know what myths and metaphors are. And I know what they aren't. Genesis was not written as myth nor metaphor but as straight history, just as much as Exodus and Kings and Chronicles. You use the Old Testament when it is convenient for you, and dismiss it when it is inconvenient for you. You have made a god of your own. You're Jewish by genetics but not by religion, which I think more important.

Lilliput said...

Kathy, I don't know how you know how Genesis was written - you weren't there and neither was I?

We can only go by what others have told us - my Rabbi's have always told me the Bible has many levels and you learn each one as you grow up.

Kathy said...

There are different expressions, words, or types of speech for history and for poetry in Hebrew as in English, although Hebrew poetry is different from English, in that we have rhyme and meter, and they use parallelism. Just as we can determine that Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott" and "Lotus Eaters" were poetry and not history, so we can look at other written works and see how they were written.

Here's an article which deals with this in part.

The Bible does have levels, in that much of it can be understood by even a child, but there is still plenty of food for thought even for adults. But I refuse to believe that only a certain set of people (rabbis and preachers) can understand the Bible. That was a falsehood that allowed anti-scriptural teachings to be perpetrated under the name of "Christianity" [as well as also Judaism, at least at the time of Christ] in the Middle Ages when most people were illiterate, and I think there were even rules against allowing the common man to have or read the Bible for himself. While we can learn from scholars who may have the time and brain-power to devote to study of Scripture, we don't need to just blindly follow whatever they say the Bible says, but to search the Scriptures ourselves to see if these things be so. So much that goes for "Christianity" these days would be eliminated if people would just do that, instead of being bottle-fed or spoon-fed some man's (or woman's) idea of Christianity or theology.