Tag Archives: the baptist state that is Texas

Baptists are the Reavers: my thoughts on #protfuture

Image from fireflyfans.net

A while back, I reviewed a book on science fiction and social theory. Surprisingly, this little book had a lot to teach me about how we view eschatology. Essentially, our views of the futures are often times shaped by notions of exclusion. Which ever tribe (usually tribe, in the case of First Nations persons) we see as not being able to make it is based usually on historical circumstances, like for instance, genocide and war to continue on with my example.

Recently, I watched the conversation held at BIOLA University on The Future of Protestantism sponsored by First Things magazine. Dr. Peter Leithart, who originally wrote the provocative essay The End of Protestantism re-introduced us to his idea of Reformational Catholicism, going back to the Reformers and their Catholic view of theology, the sacraments, honoring the Church Fathers. Protestantism is a movement and a theology that doth protest too much, a project that was found to be susceptible to tribalism, nationalism and anti-intellectualism.

The responses offered by Evangelical Wesleyan theologian Fred Sanders and Reformational theologian Carl Trueman were concise and highly critical of Leithart’s project. What I found interesting is that there was this over-arching theme fretting that the culture wars, for a particular band of Christians, had been lost. I will leave you to read up and believe why that was the case, and the cultural biases behind that belief.

What I want to talk about is the BoogeyMen, who are the Reavers to this Brave New World called the Conservative Evangelical Protestantism of the Future. First Things and this conversation are running a first-class Firefly spaceship, and they are trying to avoid the cannibals we call The Baptists. The notion of a Reformational Catholicism precludes any adherence to traditional Free Church ecclessiology. Autonomous, local congregations are derided as “cults of personality.” Word-Centered worship services being replaced by the Table-Centered/Eucharist traditions. I think that in and of itself is something that cannot be called being faithful to the Reformation, or the Old and New Testaments.

I also found it odd that both parties were willing to give our Catholic sisters and brothers grace, but aren’t willing to extend it to mainline Protestantism. This I find absolutely hypocritical. Forget about the leadership and direction of mainline Protestant denominations; there are many persons with conservative, evangelical beliefs in these churches. The Unity that #ProtFuture is in search for is a political hegemony, one where Conservativism is the same as preaching the Gospel. I’ll reserve my comments concerning the cultural hegemony of where the conversation went, and where it usually goes, but suffice to say that it takes a similar approach to “Third-World Pentecostalism” as “progressive” emergent church leaders.  Maybe rather than asking how can we teach the new Christian majority, Charismatics from Global South to accept how we see things, how about asking, “what can these Christians teach us about the faith?”

I like that this discussion started an important conversation.  It’s a conversation that Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented on, that American Protestantism is a Protestantism without reformation.  This is primarily due to the particular cultural milieu the U.S. finds itself in, the national culture wars among other things. I guess what I envision as a possible future of Protestant Christianity is a commitment to  A) the Theology of the Cross that Martin Luther first built the movement on with the 95 theses,  B) The Three Baptisms of the Radical Reformation– Immersed in Water, Immersed by the Holy Spirit, Immersed in Bodily Existence within the World (baptism of blood), and lastly  C) Word-Centered woship services where the Word is preached through sermons and prayers by the priesthood of all believers, women and men alike; where the Bible is the norming norm where we affirm and interpret the creeds and historic Christian writings and statements in light of the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, and where the story of God and humanity is seen as begotten by YHWH at the Exodus in the election of Israel, and begins anew with its inclusion of the Gentiles, and rightfully towards its TELOS in the Death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.   

The Future of Protestantism conversation has helped me gain a little clarity in what I see as my hopes for the future of Christianity.  I am known to joke on occasion that here in Texas, everyone is a Baptist.  We wear our faith on our sleeve, we go to retail centers bragging about our congregations, and we’re just deeply stubborn to protest anything.  From the fifth grade students in a classroom, to your grocery shopper contending for what he believes is the right price of an item, we are all Baptists, even the Catholics.  I kinda think that’s what the future of Christianity could look like.  Not as a religion that hijacks notions of marginality and de-historicizes the real experience of exiles and refuges, but as a pure and undefiled religion that reveals the Holiness of God in the creative dis-location of our very bodies to be present-with the least of these, the Reavers of the world, a Church free to serve God and set the prisoners free.

The Powerful Witness of Voting In Local Elections Only: My follow up post on "Not Voting" #JesusPolitics

About two weeks ago, I wrote The Powerful Witness of Not Voting In National Elections, and today, I want to follow up with that, and talk about the Bible, and theology, and politics all together. Run and hide!!!

No, but seriously, today, I did vote, but I did not participate in the election ritual that was for the nation’s President. Our media is obsessed with rank and arbitrary power, talking points, and gotcha moments. As I educated myself last night about the one very important, and competitive local election for a local office, I watched a debate online, read a few articles, it was a toss-up (admittedly, I was leaning slightly towards one candidate) until I saw the results of the two candidates’ vote/action on Texas’ rape kit bill, and I was shocked. Pushed by Republican and Democratic leaders, and signed by a Republican Governor, the Rape Kit Bill eliminates a lot of red tape that Texas rape victims have to go through to just see the possibility of justice. It requires all police departments to submit evidence of rape within 30 days to crime labs. It would not have cost the state a cent! Yet, one of the candidates voted against this bill, claiming for economic reasons that it was not funded properly.

Let me put this into theological perspective. The male candidate, one of 8 no votes out of all the Texas Legislature, attends a conservative complementarian evangelical church. One of the times that I visited this place, we learned the story of the prophet Huldah in 2nd Chronicles 34, a woman who was a prophet of God, who lead Israel to bring back the Book of Deuteronomy. This church, ideologically closed to the theology of women as second class citizens, teaches that Hulah is not a prophet, she is only supposed to be called a “woman of God” since women can in no way speak or represent YHWH. Suffice to say, I was enraged not only for the women who were being excluded from the truth of this text, but because lies were being taught about the Bible. The text calls Huldah a prophet, in the original Hebrew. Think about that. so-called “inerrantists” who believe the Bible more than “liberals” and “moderates” only believe inerrancy as far as it affirms their misogynist ideologies.

So, yes, Franklin Graham I did vote my biblical values today. I voted with Huldah and the women prophets in the Bible. I voted no to a blind ideologue, regardless if others see him as a cookie-cutter Texas social conservative. I voted in local elections, I voted for either women, or voted against the incumbent in all of the races that had opposition. My ballot was filled with Greens, Libertarians, Democrats, and Republicans. But who did I vote for at the top? That’s for the next post!

Texas: Now Depriving Prisoners of Justice and Meals

Last month, I heard that the state of Texas was going to end the tradition of providing last meals for persons facing the death penalty. I don’t know what to make of this, perhaps this undermines the use of the electric chair as a pseudo-theological sacred ritual enacted by the state.

Of course now, because our state has such awesome budget practices, like paying race car drivers millions of dollars from the tax payers to bring their business here, and drastically cutting education, prisoners are now being fed twice a day on weekends. This action, along with going to powdered milk, would reduce costs by $3.5 million. I could take the legalistic approach of Texas Democratic State Senator John Whitmore, and say ““If they don’t like the menu,” he said, “don’t come there in the first place.” But of course, that means a lot of over-confidence in our judicial system as it is, as well its drug laws, that target people of color and poor people.