Thirty Day Blogging Challenge #2: Day Three

blog-challenge

Day Three: Your Current relationship. If single, discuss being single. 

Note, this is not directed at my current church or any one particular church. I am very happy at my church and believe that there are many great and wonderful churches out there. Nonetheless, I have seen a growing problem within the Evangelical Christian sphere of ignoring or undermining single individuals and I believe it is an important issue to address. I do not claim to speak for every single Christian in the world—this is merely an observational piece based on my experiences over the years. 

Dear Church,

I am one of many like me. I’m young, college aged, and most importantly, Christian.

I’m also single—and you sort of don’t know what do with me.

I’m too old for your youth group, but I don’t fit your “ideal-adult-model”.

I’m a career-minded women who’s currently going to school to become a journalist. My goal is to obtain a Bachelors in Journalism and Master’s degree in Theology. I don’t have a significant other—just a bunch of “significant others” that I like to call friends. No, I’m not an overgrown “kidult”. No, I have no intention of sleeping around. No, I’m not greedy, or putting money ahead of what’s important in life. I’m just single—in the state of not being married, engaged, or in a relationship.

And, I think that worries you a little. Many of you would not consider me for a ministry position, even if I were a guy. An extremely high percentage of your messages are directed solely at married folks, as you talk about “How to have a happy marriage” or “How to raise Godly kids“. Oftentimes, the word “family” is used interchangeably with “Christian“, because it seems you believe all people with a ring are Christian and all people without a ring are far from God—as you buy into the world’s myth that singles are all hanging out at a bar somewhere hooking up.

I also sometimes get the impression that you’re more concerned about my future spouse than you are about me. I don’t want to believe this—I really don’t—but sometimes it’s hard not to get this impression. A truckload of devotionals that I read and flipped through during my teenage years focused heavily on how to develop into a good future wife, when I was still trying to figure out how to be a good present “me”.

The truth is, you’ve taught me a lot of important and vital lessons. You’ve taught me who God is and how to follow Him. You’ve taught me what the Bible says, and how to be faithful in reading it. You’ve taught me the importance of having regular quiet time with God. I’m thankful beyond measure for these things, and still utilize these lessons to this day.

I love The Church. I believe that it’s one of the best places to grow and learn with a family of believers. I love singing and praising God along with the worship band. I love listening to the pastor preach from the Word. I love partaking in communion along with fellow believers. The reason this is such a frustrating issue for me is because I love The Church—and because I want to see it do a a better job at ministering to all of it’s congregation.

I love you, and that’s why I’m telling you these things—so that you can learn how to better love others like me.

So many of us want and need you, but don’t know how to seek you out. We want to belong without feeling like we need a ring to be welcome. We want to learn what it means to be faithful in this season of life, even if it’s different than the season of life you’re most comfortable with. We want to talk and engage with our married peers, and learn about what it’s like for different people in different pockets of life.

We want community—and the family that Jesus told us you were.

I trust that you want what’s best for us. You want us to be happy—but you need to let us know that it’s OK to be happy where we are. I’ll never forget the first and last time I ever heard a pastor say that it’s OK to be single. I’ll never forget how unbelievably welcome that made me feel.

Our best life starts now, with Jesus. Not in the future. We’re a part of you, and we want you to know that we exist—that we’re standing beside you every Sunday.

So don’t forget to save us a seat at the table.

Forever sincerely,

Courtney

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Consolidation In A Time Of Chaos

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.

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Two days ago, we had our official 2016 election. One day later, the internet exploded with a mix of extreme joy and extreme sorrow. Those who supported our new president celebrated. Those who did not support him mourned—some even going so far as to protest in the streets.

Typically, I try to avoid the topic of politics on my blog. Typically, my articles focus on how we can be more united as the body of Christ in the midst of a changing world. Politics on the other hand, tends to divide. I believe that a person can be a good and faithful Christian from either side of the political spectrum, and that in the big scheme of things, there are way more important things to worry about than who’s in the White House.

Nonetheless, due to the unusual nature of this particular election, I feel led to address it in a way that will hopefully bring more unity than division.

I’m not writing this to endorse Donald Trump. I’m also not writing this to endorse Hilary Clinton. In fact, my first-ever vote went to a third party candidate. But, this post isn’t about that. It’s about unity, and how we can better understand and empathize with each other as a nation. If you are reading this from another country, I encourage you to keep reading. The things that I’m about to write apply to humans in nearly every context of the world.

First off, I don’t believe that the fear some people are dealing with is about this election alone. Many pre-existing wounds of our country have been brought to light in this election, which I believe has created a general atmosphere of fear and distrust. Racially, it seems we’ve hit an all time low that we haven’t seen in decades. Every day that I go to my college classes, I see racial segregation in a way that is both shocking and disheartening. I hear racist comments on a regular basis—people who are literally putting another person down based on the color of their skin. There seems to be a growing insensitively to the feelings and humanity of others, in race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, etc. etc. etc.

Second, I believe that we need to do a better job at listening as a countryStemming off of our general problem of division, we also are not listening to the concerns of others as a population. The Right is catering to concerns about religious freedom and the sanctity of life. The Left is catering to concerns about racial and gender equality. I believe we need all of these things in order to flourish as a society and human race. But, rather than listening to the concerns and fears of people with different concerns than our own, we often villainize them. As a whole, people generally resort to stereotypes rather than risk hearing a real person and their stories and scars. If we’re going to move forward as a country and/or human race, we need to do a better job at listening and caring about the concerns of others—even if they do not directly affect us. 

Thirdly, it is up to us as Christians to continue to be a light. Let’s face it, Christians seem to be put in a worse light every day. I believe this is partly the result of living in a corrupt world, but in some cases, we have been to blame, and we must try to do better. As God’s representatives here on earth, it’s our job to show people what God’s love looks like. How can we live out God’s command to “Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our Lord“? I believe it starts with looking to God and the Bible for guidance. Elections happen once a year, and soon this chaos will be over, but we have a year-long job to show people Jesus’ love. We need to be intentional about encouraging justice.

In order to be Biblical and consistent, we must stand for the lives of the unborn and for the lives of those affected by police brutality.

We must stand for God in the public square and stand up for the rights of those who have been affected by sexual harassment.

We must stand for Biblical ethics and stand for the poor and the homeless.

Just as we have representation in America, we are the representation for something much bigger. We are the representations of God almighty, called to be a light and shine for truth, justice, and mercy. 

How we will we live out that representation? 

How will we, as Christians in the 21st century, be remembered? 

 

So What About Feminism? (Part Two)

Perhaps one of the most volatile discussions surrounding Christian feminism is “Should Christian women be allowed to teach in the church?” There are faithful, goodhearted Christians on both ends who strive to uphold Biblical doctrine.

Most people have good reasons and intent in their beliefs, but a conversation that determines the fate of women who feel called to ministry is bound to get messy. As previously stated, I hold an egalitarian view of scripture, and thus, support the notion of women in ministry. I have done extensive research on this topic and believe that scriptures support women in ministry. In this blog post, I’m going to lay out my case for women teaching in the church, and give passages to support my stance.

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  1. The Greek words used are gender inclusive. To quote Charisma magazine “1 Corinthians 14:26 gives a list of things that everyone is expected to participate in.When you come together, every one of you has…” The Greek word for every one, hekastos, is a word that encompasses both genders. This list includes teaching. Several times in chapter 14, the word “all” is used. Verses 24 and 31 both say that all may prophesy, and we know from Paul’s teaching in chapter 11 that this includes women.”
  1. We need to understand the context of Biblical passages. Most often, knowing why the Bible says something is as important as knowing what is says. For instance, we know that the Bible talks about slavery, but we should by no means believe that it supports the unbiblical practice of owning slaves. In fact, I believe that the Bible set the very framework for abolishing slavery, particularly in the book of Philemon, where Paul urges Philemon to think of his former slave as a brother. Similarly, many understand passages like 1 Timothy 2:12 to be a command to a particular context, rather than one that should be applied universally. An article in Christianity Today says “Because women in Ephesus at this time were uneducated and secluded, Paul was warning that they could be misled by the false teachers trying to lure new Christians away from the church Paul wanted to establish.” Paul’s job, first and foremost, was to protect Biblical doctrine so that all might be saved. If the women in this particular church did not have a stable foundation for their faith, it would have been necessary to forbid them from teaching for the greater good. This does not mean that he was forbidding every women in every context from teaching.
  2. If women were not allowed to teach, it would literally handicap the body of Christ. More and more each day, Bible-believing Christians are becoming a minority in society. It is estimated, according to Washington Times in 2012, that thirty-two-percent of people in the world are Christians. This is literally less than half of the world’s population. Numbers are bound to be lower if we exclude women (Half of the world’s population) from the percentile. There are thousands of people out there who don’t know Christ, and by limiting women from leadership, we’re making it harder for people to hear the Gospel. I do not believe this is what God wants for His children, especially in light of The Great Commission, which instructs every believer to “go and make disciples of every nation.”

To conclude, I believe that God is calling both genders to work in His kingdom. We are all His creation and though there are some obvious differences in men and women, both genders are equally loved by our Lord and Savior. He died for both men and women and I believe that He is calling both genders to spread the news of His glorious resurrection. I believe that equality in leadership is one of many ways that He is using His people to be a light, redeem the world, and spread the awesome love of our Lord, Jesus Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”* Galatians 3:28 

*This verse in context is referring to salvation, but I believe that it can also be applied to ministry and leadership. 

 

So What About Feminism?

In both mainstream society and the church, feminism is a topic that I’ve found is gaining traction in recent years. Thus, I believe it to be a relevant and important topic to talk about.

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Because it’s an incredibly broad term, I’m going to try to be clear on definitions, as feminism often means drastically different things to different people. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this blog post, I’d like to specify what feminism, the way I’m using the term, is not.

Feminism is not akin to being pro-choice. I’m pro-life, but agree with aspects of the feminism movement that promote equal education and job opportunities. I do not believe feminism and political positions on abortion to be connected, thus, that will not be a focus of this post.
Feminism is not man-hating or bra-burning. This is a horrible misrepresentation of the topic and while some radical feminists may have this attitude, the vast majority do not. Speaking as someone who supports feminism, some of my closest friends are guys and I’m thankful for both the men and women who have made this world a better place. I am also thankful for all of the awesome guys who follow this blog and listen to my random thoughts and ideas.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, I’d like to explore how feminism-the affirmation of both male and female as God’s special and unique creations-can be best practiced in Christian churches and marriages in a way that glorifies God and empowers our sisters in Christ.

The two words that will frequently emerge in conversations surrounding gender roles and the church are egalitarian and complementarian. Egalitarians (Such as myself) believe that the Bible supports mutual love and submission in marriages and equal leadership roles in the church. Complementarians believe that there is sort of a hierarchy-order of things in creation, and typical believe that women in leadership is not Biblical and a women must always be under complete submission of a man.

Since this is an incredibly multifaceted topic, I’m going to break my posts up into three different categories. The first post (this one) is going to focus on what Jesus, the Gospels, and Biblical values teach about feminism. The second part is going to focus on leadership roles in the church. Lastly, i’m going to conclude with a post about what I believe a Christ centered marriage should look like.

When discussing any social issue, Jesus should always be at the center of the conversation, and if you read through the Gospels, Jesus’ attitude towards women was revolutionary for the time era. He ate with both men and women without discrimination, and essentially told Martha to “get out of the kitchen” and learn, something that was unheard of and discouraged during the Biblical days. Not to mention that it’s explicitly recorded in scripture that women were the first to find Jesus’ empty tomb, even though their testimony wasn’t seen as valid by society in court. Furthermore, while Jesus could have easily specified the Great Commision to men, Jesus simply says “Go”, seeming to imply that He wants both his sons and daughters to spread the good news of God’s grace. Rather than limiting women from being missionaries and teachers, He chose to include them in His story of redemption, affirming equal value and love for both genders and encouraging them to work alongside each other as couples, siblings, neighbors, and friends.

Lastly, as countercultural as these two topics have become in modern society, I believe that the Christian virtues of modesty and purity are feminist-affirming in nature. Because humans are born with a fallen nature (both men and women), God specifically instructs guidelines that call both genders to respect each other. He instructs them to see each other through the lens of God, respecting their worth, rather than using each other. When a guy and girl are both seeking God’s will, respect is bound to follow. Both self respect and respect for the other person are essentials to any healthy relationship.

I could easily delve deeper into these topics alone, but I believe that the information presented gives the strongest evidence for Biblical feminism and an egalitarian viewpoint. My prayer for this mini-series is that we can grow in respect and love for each other as a church family, encouraging both our brothers and sisters in Christ live up their full potential. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor, and I pray that this series helps us navigate one way of living this out as the body of Christ.

 

One Poem

One 

From the first two people made

To those standing here today

We are one

From the southern country hills

To the towering skyscrapers built

We are one

From the wealthy one-percent

To those struggling to pay rent

We are one

From those looking for a place to stay

To those who hide away

We are one

From the woman to the man

To nationalities of every land

We are one

God came down as person

Though none of us deserve Him

He sent His Son

And because of His amazing grace

We’re one big family in His embrace

We are one.

Written by Courtney Whitaker at 1timothy412girl.wordpress.com 

Feel free to share this poem, but please link back to my blog for credit. 😊

Unity, Love, and The Church

If you’ve been hanging around my blog for a while, than you probably have seen that I’ve spent a little bit of time talking about the LGBT topic. You’ve probably also seen that I stand in a bit of an odd place on the issue. I hold a traditional interpretation of Scriptures’ boundaries on the issue, however, I support a lot of the causes of the movement, such as stomping out gay bullying and creating a safer environment for LGBT teens.

Personally, I believe that this is an issue that should concern us all as the body of Christ. I’m aware that there’s a variety of opinions about topic, and if you want to know more about my personal stance, you can look up Wesley Hill and Matthew Franklin Jones, or look up any of my previous posts on this topic.

But, that isn’t really what I’m going to address in this specific post. Because regardless of your stance, I think we can all agree that we have a problem right now.

Hundreds of teenagers are being kicked out of their homes for having a gay orientation (Or same-sex attraction. Whichever term you prefer)

Interview: LGBT Youth and Homelessness

According to http://www.speakforthem.org, suicide is the leading cause of death for LGBT youth

According to http://www.bullyingstatistics.org, nine out of ten LGBT youth report being bullied for their orientation.

Houston, we have a problem. 

It’s not just a “gay” problem either; It’s a people problem. The people being affected are living, breathing, human beings created by God, just like me and you. Right now, hurting people are being even more deeply wounded by those closest to them. Not to mention that according to Spiritual Friendship, many of the teens being kicked out of there homes are celibate, being deserted by their families simply for having feelings!

So, how should we, as Christians, engage in this dilemma? Some may feel that the only way to do so is to support gay marriage, but I don’t believe this is the main issue. I think some of the biggest problems that we have right now are

  1. Within Side B churches (Churches that don’t affirm gay marriage) gay behavior is often viewed as the worst sin
  2. A lot of gay Christian teens and young adults are combating high levels of fear and anxiety, worried that their attractions somehow disqualify them from being a Christian.
  3. Many LGBT youth deal with bullying and scrutiny from family, friends, and classmates.

These are all areas that we can work on regardless of our beliefs. 

Pertaining to the first problem, Jesus always reached out to those whom society shunned, including an adulteress (John 4), a tax collector (Mathew 9:9-13), and many more. Jesus did not always agree with a person’s actions, but He still saw them as a person. He made us all equal under the law and reached out to all of us through grace. We have no reason to believe that He wouldn’t do the same today.

Concerning the second problem, many leaders are finally beginning to speak out about this problem (Praise God!). Andy Stanley recently stated that “church should be the safest place in the world for gay teens“, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Also, many people who grew up in the paradox of being both gay and Christian are beginning to speak out on blogs. Spiritual Friendship, a project dedicated to finding a positive narrative and calling for LGBT Christians, is probably one of the largest.

As I’ve done a lot of research on this topic, I’ve found far too many testimonies of people who have grown up head-deep in fear. Teenagers (and adults) who identify as gay need to know that they are loved by both God and the church. And, they have so many amazing options within orthodoxy, such as close friendships, and possibly even sharing a house with a friend. Churches that are Side B and promote celibacy as the best option for gay individuals need to make it widely known that this does not mean a lack of love, denial of feelings, or loneliness. In fact, many gay celibate Christians would say it’s the exact opposite. I have read countless blogs from people who say that celibacy is actually a great avenue for love and community.

Lastly, we need to be just as involved in the fight against bullying as the mainstream culture. It’s a huge problem right now and many teens are afraid to go to school because of this. Some even feel that their lives do not matter.  Groups like The Trevor Project have stepped in to help LGBT teens struggling with depression and I applaud them for it. Christians are often very vocal about organizations that they disagree with, but what about the ones that we can (and should) support? I don’t think any of us condone bullying, but right now, Christians aren’t doing a whole lot to stop these tragedies. We can’t be apathetic about this. In many endeavors, Christians have been the loudest voice and we need to use that same passion for the vulnerable. Imagine how shocked the world would be if Christians, in armies, got passionately involved in the fight against bullying and suicide. It would be incredible!

My vision for the church is that someday, gay individuals will feel comfortable sitting in a church, and coming out won’t be the scariest thing a gay Christian will ever have to go through.

Someday, it is widely known that God’s grace extends to all.

Someday, I hope and believe that the problem of bullying and suicide will lessen.

Someday, we will all be seen as nearly navigating the affects of the fall, and doing so together as a church family. People will not judge or condemn on the basis of attraction, but have the courage to embrace each other in the love of Christ and say “You are my brother.

We cannot afford to step back in this pivotal time in history. To quote the lyrics from Those Who Can’t Speak by Tenth Avenue North, Derek Minor, and KB

I don’t want my son to say I was one of the ones
that watched 27 million suffer and never say no, no, I won’t be that
I don’t deserve a mic if I ain’t got no feedback.

How will Christians of the 21st century be remembered? Will future generations be able to say that we sought justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly with our Lord (Micah 6:8)? I want to be able to tell young people in 2060 that I did my part in making the world a safer place for all people; that I dared to be an Atticus (To Kill A Mockingbird) even though it wasn’t always the popular thing to do. I want to be known for taking a stand.

And, change starts by standing together. 🙂