Friday Stream of Consciousness – 73

Here are some things on my mind this Friday:

  • Thanks to GoDaddy.com for doing a mediocre job of hosting this humble blog. The blog went down several times this week, right at or after posting, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the phone this week, and received nothing but rigmarole in return. Time for a change.
  • It’s frustrating to work hard to meet your deadlines only to have those helping you break down in the execution phase. In my experience, unless consequences are present for all who participate in a ministry, project, or blog, things don’t get done.
  • I’ve seen a lot of churches flounder not at the ministerial level, but at the support level. This is often because the assumption that it takes real giftedness to do ministry, but any Neanderthal with a pulse can be a secretary. Oh…how wrong that is.
  • It’s not until High-School most softball or baseball players truly shake all fear of being hit by a pitch.
  • Justin Timberlake’s new album reminds me of a creative take on the music I went to High School with from 1989-1993. That’s a high compliment in case you’re wondering :)
  • Speaking of 1993, this year is my 20th High School reunion. Yikes. What will be more shocking–my appearance or the fact that I’m a minister?
  • It’s fascinating to watch people try to “reclaim” the title evangelical by simply saying they are evangelicals regardless of their beliefs.
  • Yet, I know what it’s like to take an unpopular position from within one’s tribe that leads to one’s exile–while still feeling a part of the tribe. It feels really awful to be Rudolph when it is not Christmas Eve.
  • However, just because I say I’m Mary Queen of Scots doesn’t mean I’m her. One can claim to be all sorts of things without actually being any of those things. So, do I get to label myself, or do my convictions speak for me? Or, is it your decision whether I belong or not?
  • Within what we call “evangelicalism” there is now an identifiable liberal stream that holds virtually none of evangelicalism’s traditional beliefs.
  • I would venture to say the extremities of “evangelicalism” these days would get along better if even one-fourth of their blogs, articles and tweets would articulate convictions in the mainstream of evangelical thought–rather than their chosen cause. It’s one thing to try to change a movement from outside. It’s far more effective to do it from inside–and showing you still share some things.
  • Moneyball, the 10U girls softball team I coach, continues to play ourselves out of games. As long as we learn from it, I can avoid going Denny Green at the post-game press conference. “We let ‘em off the hook!”
  • The best fast-food chicken nuggets belong to Chick-fil-a and KFC. I guess that makes sense.
  • Easter is coming, but it’s really important to have your post-Easter message series mapped out, as well. We’re choosing a series on prayer.
  • It’s rare that I call out anyone by name on this blog, but I’m about to do it a second time in this post. I read an article that really, really bothered me. So, I’m going to make an exception.
  • I read Candida Moss’ article, “The Myth of Christian Persecution,” and was astonished at its intellectual sloppiness and the narrowness of it’s bias. This surprised me, as I’ve always viewed Moss as a true scholar of early Christianity. However, the political agenda of the article was blatant at the expense of history.
  • The essence of the article as I read it was: Christians won’t comply as they should to today’s political establishment because they see themselves as persecuted like the early Christians whenever something doesn’t go their way. A fair enough point–that can certainly happen.
  • Yet, the historical/theological trajectory of the piece is to discount the historical basis for early Christian persecution. She gives a few sentence nod to Christian persecution today and then, but the bulk of the article is spent saying, “We don’t really know if it was that bad, so you shouldn’t identify with them–because your view of persecution is shaped by Christendom more than the factual history of early Christianity.”
  • But, then the article heads dead left, saying, essentially, comply with today’s political agendas, because what you go through is not the same as what they may have gone through.” She clearly has in mind Republicans and Fox News, the only groups mentioned as guilty of this mistake. Is it that liberals never make this mistake? Is the thought that today’s laws and media might actually be against Christianity at times such a laugher?
  • I quote: “The idea that Christianity is persecuted and needs to defend itself from external and internal attack comes from the victorious Church of the fourth and fifth centuries and beyond.” Unless of course, you count the Bible…or numerous other sources through the third century that go unmentioned. I was shocked she mentions the Bible virtually nowhere in the article, and shockingly passes over Jesus himself–other than as an aside.
  • No serious scholar of early church history I’m aware of has denied early Christian persecution. I don’t believe Moss is doing that absolutely. I just believe she’s trying to make a political point through historical minimalism and the caricaturing of easy targets. Perhaps it was the need for brevity that precluded a more thorough treatment. I hope so.
  • This past Monday I returned to the spot my friend committed suicide a year ago. I did so with his twin brother and a young woman who helped us plant the cross along the 163 freeway near Balboa Park. If only we knew how much each life matters to God!
  • Are there church leadership systems that are fundamentally flawed, or is it simply the sum of the parts, i.e., us that makes any church system problematic.
  • Duke, Florida, Indiana, Gonzaga is your final four. Duke vs. Florida in the final. Champions–THE DUKIES BABY!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

Author: Tim Spivey

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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4 Comments

  1. Bob, this blog is a response to that particular article, not everything she’s ever written–as I mentioned in the post. I tip my hat to her as a scholar in the post, and, for your information, I’ve read her book. You can keep your copy ;) However, my response in the blog was to the article on HuffPo, not the book.

    That article was political first. As I say in the post, intellectual honesty should have led her to state it isn’t a Republican or Fox News problem alone–if in fact she believes it’s a problem. Or, perhaps it could lead to less cliché or easy targets. It should also lead to an admission that at least sometimes…laws and media work against God’s people. She admits in the article it happens in other parts of the world. But, based on the article, she seems to think America is one of the only countries where that legitimate persecution has never happened. And, while it happens in the Middle East today, it didn’t happen back then–at least much or in the way we think of it. Huh?

    One cannot say or even imply that it’s never happened–or that if some martyrdom stories are embellished–they all must be. She doesn’t believe that–but one wouldn’t know that by reading the article. Christianity has a long, long history with suffering. The sources are wide and deep and numerous. That doesn’t mean they are all credible. However, there are many, many credible accounts among them–even by secular humanist standards (if those are the standards we are using).

    There is a difference between martyrdom and persecution, and presecution and “prosecution.” However, how does she reach conclusions as to which is which? If a law is passed in order to deal with a particular group, or it disproportionately impacts one group (like Christians), why couldn’t law be a form of persecution? If not worshiping Allah for instance means you are murdered or tortured for being a Christian (persecution in my book), why is that different than Rome or the Jewish authorities of antiquity passing a similar law?

    Based on her historical hermeneutic, I’d be interested to know how she would interpret today’s forms of “discrimination.” I’m guessing the very fact we call it “discrimination” tips our hand. So, why is it discrimination today, and simple “prosecution” when looking at Christians in antiquity?

    We also know in our time, not ever prosecution is legitimate prosecution–it can be persecution, racism, or homophobia. Does that mean because someone was arrested under a bogus pretense they aren’t being persecuted or discriminated against? Going back to the civil rights era and on into today, people are arrested under all sorts of pretenses. Sometimes people like to get the press of being arrested so they can preach their cause–as you rightly mention. I have no doubt some Christians have done that. That doesn’t mean all have–or even most. Rather than lead a reader to think nearly all martyrdom stories are suspect–I would like to have seen far more reverence for the witness of the Church over the years given the lack of ability to find and interpret motive in all legislation going back to antiquity.

    I’m not going to respond at length to what you say about the Gospels. We’re both aware of the issues there. However, having heard you quote Jesus’ words from Luke with such authority on other occasions, I’m surprised you have such a low view of his ability to keep his facts straight on the crucifixion. I also don’t find Jesus “chattering away” on the cross in any Gospel account. Mark is usually briefest–but that doesn’t necessarily mean the most accurate. It means the briefest–and perhaps the earliest. That’s all. Many would view Luke as the most “accurate” of the Gospel accounts, and yet, it is the longest. That doesn’t mean Luke embellished or hyperbolized. As we know, not every word Jesus ever spoke was recorded in the Gospels.

    No Christian should call it persecution when it’s not. Neither should people say it’s not when it is–especially when one’s clear aim is the furthering of a political agenda. She would say, “public discourse,” but a simple read through of the article or book demonstrates which direction the “discourse” ought to take, and who she blames for stall-outs.

    I know you share her political views and are passionate about them yourself. But there is a more than ample supply of serious biblical and scholars of Christians history that read the Gospels and Christian history as more than folklore–and trust centuries of ancient sources, even after viewing them through a critical lens. It isn’t intellectually sloppy to believe that. It’s intellectually sloppy for one’s politics to form a revisionist prism through which to view Christian history. Ironically, that’s Moss’ best point–and her downfall at the same time.

    My view is that article was a blatantly political piece–not a historical piece–and I’m speaking of her article on HuffPo…not all of her works.

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  2. YOU think CANDIDA is intellectually sloppy?

    Have you read the book? OF COURSE the stories of early Christian martyrs were embellished and elaborated (both inside the Bible, and especially outside the canon). They were simply building upon the new genre of Jewish martyrs. Seriously, how many separate speeches does Stephen get to give while he’s being pummeled with rocks? And when Mark narrates Jesus’ crucifixion, he says one thing. One (+ a groan). Matthew faithfully retells the narrative by repeating this one saying. But by the time Luke and John get a hold of the story, he’s up there chattering away. And what’s more, the author of 3 Maccabees invokes death by drunk elephant stampede! Seriously, when we get to death by drunk elephant stampede, we can safely say we’ve jumped the shark on martyrdom narratives.

    But there is a difference between being killed for your beliefs and deliberately seeking out death to proclaim your belief. (And for that matter, claiming ‘martyrdom’ when Christians lose their privileged status in our modern context.)

    Candida sent me a copy. You can borrow it if you want to read it.

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