Thursday, March 13, 2008

Monthly Mailbag

Wow... It's been an eventful few weeks here on our blog. Yes, I said 'our', because you guys are the ones that help me to continue to write here, with your letters of encouragement and your excellent questions. Over the past twelve days, our little blog has been read in 47 countries and continues to grow. So for all of you who have taken the time to digest some of the things written here I wanted to say a big 'thank you.' :)

I also want you to know that I don't expect everyone to agree with every thing that's written here. My prayer is that you'll take the ideas presented, and that they will spur you to think. To think about your faith, about God, about life, and about what you really believe. I believe that the Bible teaches situational ethics, that nuance is important, and that doing the right thing isn't easy. If I can somehow help you along that path, than I consider myself very fortunate indeed.

On to the mailbag...

"Hi Steve, do you think God is pleased with us even when we make choices that are not His perfect will but He works with us on it?"
-L, Texas

I think God certainly doesn't love us less no matter what choices we make. God is love. It is unfathomable for us, because as humans, even the best of us relate behaviour to how we care for a person. God doesn't do that. I think we can disappoint Him, but I think that disappointment is based on what's best for us. God is complete in Himself. He doesn't need us. However, He chooses to love us and guide us anyway. Again, this is something outside the human experience. I'd also say that the idea of 'perfect will' is dangerous. How can an imperfect human attain anything perfect? This is, in my books, a bad, and guilt producing teaching. Your best is good enough. Yes, we'll make mistakes, but it will never affect how much God loves us. Instead of perfection, we should be aiming for humility and mercy. Every time we choose other people over ourselves we please God, of that the Bible is clear. Best when we do it because we are so thankful for what's He's done. Guilt and fear are neither of God nor lasting motivations, in any case.

The column "Shut Up, Woman!" garnered a number of responses and questions.

"Stee Beezie... Good work here. If my pastor starts bringing you up during the service, I'll remind him of the demonstration put on in the weight room. Question from the floor: Paul's instruction for 'family living' (eg. Eph 5), this is limited to the historical context to/in which he wrote? (as in the case of slavery? - of course differently understood then from now)."
-Ryan, Toronto

Thanks for your question, pal. It's interesting to me to watch the histrionics of people in conservative evangelical circles when it comes to family roles. Why we focus so heavily on this I have no idea, until we start to talk about the aspect of power, which is where the problem truly lies. (Men who are not interested in this 'power' NEVER talk in terms of a "woman's duty" or "submission")The best of relationships rarely require definition. The best marriages I've ever seen are two people who do not need to articulate who is the leader at what point and who is 'the man', etc... It isn't necessary. The mutual respect is there. I think we often read (the apostle) Paul backwards. He's talking about the bare minimum, the idea of respect, and we make it the maximum. We turn his concepts into this rigid structure. What relationships work well under structure? He talks about spiritual armour, as a metaphor how NOT to be (in terms of fighting) and we produce a list of "spiritual warrior' books.

While I hold the Bible up as the Word of God, when we take it literally, we miss the real power in it. And yes, you're example of slavery is ideal here. The Bible was written for all time, but it still must be understood in context. We don't think slavery is a good idea, do we? Yet many people have justified slavery throughout time by using Scripture. In that case, principle always overrides any individual Scripture. Before we start quoting Bible verses, take a look at the human experience around you, look at the larger principles of Scripture, and then try and understand what Paul is saying. I think that you'll find him less the 'angry patriarch' than he appears. (And women, I think you'll find the New Testament far more empowering.)

"I've read a few of your articles, as well as watched a few of your videos on Youtube. You are brazenly sarcastic in those videos in which you hope to inspire others into the heart of the Lord; which is concerning. I never walked with the lord until recently, and my heart was filled with hatred. Your videos and merchandise ( would only fuel my beliefs that the church, that Christianity and the people who are meant to be our role models are just as I had assumed; a bunch of fraudulent thieves. You not only make a parody of yourself but of others who have no mal intention on their heart. I apologise for whatever unsettling past you may have experienced, but you have no right to inflict that bitterness onto the hearts of others. Have you not considered the implications of your actions, of your movement?"
-L, Canada

If I hold bitterness, it is the same as Thomas Aquinas who said "the church is a whore, and she is also my mother."

We hold the key to love and forgiveness, and that is in Jesus, and yet we continually display something other than that, don't we? When we believe we have our doctrines in order, that everything is right, we are certain to run over people. And that includes me. I don't claim to have everything worked out. What I do know is that Jesus never would have stood for executing people because they were gay (as Calvin did). I believe the 'full gospel" the good news, to be something far greater.

As for my videos (\2413steve) I believe Jesus and Christianity to be wholly different. That may be hard to grasp., but saying that something is Christian doesn't make it Christlike. Do I push the boundaries, certainly! I want people to THINK about what they believe. Most Christians, especially here in the West, exist in a very safe world. We do not do what Jesus did. We guard ourselves by our external behaviour, and get together with those who agree with our beliefs. I can not stand for that.

And in the videos, they are not aimed at you. They are aimed at people to let them know that not every Christian is offensive. I know it is difficult for evangelicals to hear, but it IS offensive to talk about 'the gospel' that way when you meet someone you haven't seen in 10 years!! You obviously don't care about the person! You are only interested in having them believing what you believe!! Is that what the Gospel is about? I hope not...

"I loved your personality profile test. It helped me understand myself and I feel so much better about who I am. Thanks!"
-K, United Kingdom

I'm so glad it helped! I had a number of emails like this one. Understanding who we are, that we are no less than anyone else because our personalities are different, is a God-given insight. I will try to post more things that help us with this. (For those of you who haven't taken the test, it's located near the top left-hand corner of the site)
"Hi Steve, I'm a mother of three, and I really liked what you wrote about the importance of silence and solitude, but I can't seem to find the time. From the moment I'm awake, with my kids and the family, I don't have a moment to myself!"
-F, California

You're right, finding solitude in this culture, especially with young kids is pretty difficult. My suggestion is that we may have to be creative. For example, even the washroom can be a break. I know it sounds funny, but take ten minutes instead of five. Or schedule a break during the day. At some point, we must take the time to listen for God's voice in our life. If we're too busy to do that, we need to adjust our priorities. I know its tough, but I promise you it will make a difference. For those of you out there, other busy moms, send me your suggestions for what you do and I'll post them.

"Loved the Brian Regan video. It was terrific!"
-GH, Houston

He's pretty funny. Those of you who know me know I love to laugh (and make others laugh) I'll post more comedians in the future, since this was also a popular addition to the site. As well, I never remove videos from my site, you merely have to scroll down...

My apologies, here, because I couldn't get to every question ( I do tend to ramble) but the more you send in, the more I'll post. And I do try to answer individual emails, so don't be afraid to write or comment. Thanks again, everyone...

Blessings, Steve