When Bad Tornadoes Happen to Good Christians

A good way to start this might be to say that tornadoes have terrified me for a long time. I was at a sleepover in middle school when everyone else was getting ready to watch the movie “Twister”. My heart started to race. I knew that if I watched that movie, I would have terrible nightmares. I fought hard for a 50th time through “3 Ninjas”, but no such luck. I didn’t even want to watch a movie about tornadoes because I always feared being caught up in one.

Tornadoes don’t scare me in the same way they did when I was younger. But, as we’ve seen these last few days, they’re still happening and they’re still destroying. The recent storms in through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky have put huge numbers of people in the midst of the storm.

One way to respond to this, is to blame the people who have just been savaged by these storms and claim that it was some sort of divinely-guided weather judgment. John Piper takes this route. Yesterday, he wrote:

If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command…. God’s will for America under his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.

I have a number of problems with this. But I think this viewpoint is a symptom of a much larger problem. When we view God as a being who controls every tiny action that happens in the world, then this is where we end up. God sent these tornadoes down because these specific people were so sinful that they needed to be taught a lesson. So God killed 39 people and destroyed countless towns, homes, and lives.

This is one of the most damaging and destructive views I have ever heard.

Weather happens. Anyone who has taken 8th grade Earth science knows that. The weather doesn’t change because Jews or Muslims exist in the world. (Lest we forget that the title of God’s people was bestowed on Jews in the first place.)

This is the type of Christianity that actively detracts from our 21st century world. There is no need for me to tell you why we shouldn’t embrace a 4th century worldview. The world isn’t flat. The Earth is not the center of the universe. And God doesn’t make the weather.

To suggest this is not only embarrassing to religious people around the world, but it’s pointing a finger at the tens of thousands of people who have just had their lives destroyed and then saying that they deserved it. It’s tragic, hurtful, and actively detracts from the kingdom of God.

God pulls life out of death. But She doesn’t kill someone to do so.

Cheers,
Eric

(Yeah. I did the passive-aggressive refer-to-God-as-a-she thing. I’m still a little offended by Piper’s comments from 2 weeks ago. Lord, have mercy.)

The Brothers Speak Out: Responses to Masculine Christianity

“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

So my post from Monday was a part of a much bigger movement expressing affirmation for women in the church. Over 150 men responded and I wanted to share of the posts. There are some incredibly profound things written in these posts. I’m going to highlight a paragraph or two from some of my favorites, but check out Rachel Held Evans’ site for a full list of all of the responses. They’re wonderful.

Justin Bowers: Courageous Daughters – A Response to John Piper

I currently lead a ministry in a rural community where physical, sexual, and emotional abuse have run rampant.  Generational sin and systemic oppression have led to a place where one statistic suggests that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been abused.  The effects of this are stifling, and especially to the girls.  There is a pattern of sexual brokenness, desperation for love and affection, and an abundance of students who have stopped dreaming.

And do you know what the answer to these issues is?

It is NOT more masculine leadership.
It is NOT more focus on men being real men.
It is NOT a hard line slam of failing fathers from the pulpit.

The answer is the body of Christ being the fullest extent of the body of Christ it can be… MASCULINE, FEMININE, and IN RELATIONSHIP as the FAMILY of CHRIST.

Ben: Redemption and Strength in Women and Men

I recently learned from Rachel Held Evans that John Piper has stated not too long ago at a pastor’s conference that Christianity has a “masculine feel” to it. As a guy who appreciates the unique insights I have received from my brothers and sisters in Christ from all walks of life, I have to wonder why we would feel the need to assign Christianity with a “masculine” feel. After all, God created humanity as both male and female, and he did so in his own image (Genesis 1:27). So both male and female are made in God’s image. Which leads me to think that perhaps using “Christianity has a masculine feel” language, no matter how many caveats one might want to attach to it, leaves out the feminine half of God’s image-bearers. 
I think God gave Christianity a redemptive feel, a feel of reconciliation, a feel of hopeful expectation through his desire to save wayward, broken people like us. And that transcends categories of “masculine” and “feminine.” Reconciling isn’t a masculine act any more than it is a feminine one. I know as many female reconcilers as I do male ones.

Bo Sanders: “Bananas, Bullies, and the Bible – You Can’t Start in the Middle”

“Like Ray Comfort and his banana, John Piper ends up making the opposite point than he wanted to! Comfort intended to exalt the original design but instead highlighted human cultivation, influence and adaption. Piper desired to show how God has made us but instead showed how we have made God.”

Tim Owens: “In Response to Masculine Christianity – A Letter to My Daughter”

Is Christianity masculine?

You will ask because of so many who act and speak and teach, often quite convincingly, that it is! Audrey, first you must learn before everything else: they are your brothers. Love them as you would everyone else. You may find that it takes all the rugged resolve you have. Even so, you must always love your brothers, no matter how silly or condescending or even oppressive they may be.

Audrey, God has called you to more than this. And as you become the daughter you are called to be you will likely face the lash of criticism. And so every time a statement is made or a caveat given, every time an opportunity is denied or a perspective defended, every time you are left feeling smaller or told that you bear less Image, remember that you have been called to more than this. Your love must be stronger, your faith bolder, and your determination more rugged than their doubt.

These are just a small bit of the wonderful responses that came in. Be sure to check out more.

Cheers,
Eric

Be Still

I don’t know why I don’t have Psalm 46 tattooed to some part of my body already. It’s something that I need to read constantly. There’s something about the way I work that I become obsessed with the things that technology can do for me. And this isn’t like an “Ask not what technology can do for you” speech. I’m just saying, I need some help unplugging every once in awhile. And lately, this has been helping me unplug.

So take just a few minutes. Put your phone on mute. Breathe deep for a couple breaths. Place yourself in this picture and then Psalm 46 is just underneath it when you’re ready.

God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
   though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 

though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy habitation of the Most High. 

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
   God will help it when the morning dawns. 

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
   he utters his voice, the earth melts. 

The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
   see what desolations he has brought on the earth. 

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;

   he burns the shields with fire. 
‘Be still, and know that I am God!

   I am exalted among the nations,
   I am exalted in the earth.’ 

The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

Cheers,
Eric

The Middle Child of Holy Week

This is my favorite day in Holy Week. The sheer loss and disorientation of Friday pours over into the most unrestful of Sabbaths. I guess I should clarify that “favorite” isn’t necessarily the best word. But it’s the most familiar to me. It’s the one I recognize and identify with the most. Holy Saturday is the dreadful chasm between the trauma of death’s reality and not-yet-fulfilled expectation of hope. So we sit. Traumatized by yesterday and hopeless for tomorrow. In this profound disorientation, we aren’t really even aware that tomorrow will come. So we wait.

In the chaos and disorientation of yesterday, there are a few things we can know. We know that Jesus is dead. That he was crucified, died and was buried. He came to tell the world that it was upside-down. He came to start a revolution to correct it. He preached a message against the Empire that love was greater than power. Power decided to test it, and power killed him. And on this Saturday, Jesus is dead.

If Jesus is dead then what do we believe in? Everything we’ve said has been a lie and has been for nothing. All the talk of the kingdom where our sins are wiped away isn’t here. And the God who was supposed to bring us into the kingdom was killed in front of our very eyes. In the trauma of Friday, there is no one left to pity but us.

These are Paul’s sentiments in 1 Corinthians 15 when he writes,

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised…. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”

But that’s a Sunday promise. The certainty of Sunday taunts those of us in the chaos of Saturday. On Saturday, we lean on nothing more than hope and belief. “Christ is Risen” is a certainty that is entirely foreign to those of us in perpetual Saturday.

Jesus told Peter to put away his sword when the guards came to arrest him. So all who follow love put away their swords. Those who follow power kept them out. And power won. In the continual Saturday, power always wins.

Unless Sunday comes. Unless what Jesus was saying comes true. Unless life is restored where death has taken it away. But that’s for Sunday.

If there ever is a Sunday.

This is why we live for the hope of Sunday. All we see is the death of the old while we await the creation of the new. Even though Saturday is all we’ve seen and known, we wait with awakened anticipation for Sunday. If Sunday ever comes.

Bringing Our Bodies With Us

So I have this recurring dream. It always takes place on the playground outside my elementary school, but with my college friends. In this dream, my mind is completely detached from my body and floating about 20 feet above me just kinda hanging out, observing my day. I go to classes, eat lunch, the usual.

But then about halfway through the dream I start realizing that I’m detached from my body and start to panic. So I hop on my bike and start riding home as fast as I can. The whole time I’m freaking out because what could it possibly mean if my mind is detached from my body? Why can’t I hear what I’m saying in conversations? More importantly, why am I floating above my life rather than actually living it? How can I reconnect with my body? And then my bike crashes.

Cue terrified wake up.

I’ve had this dream about 6 times. And every time I wake up I look at my hands where there are scars from when I fell off my bike when I’m younger… I don’t quite know what brings it on… but make no mistake about it, I almost need a paper bag to breathe into once I bolt awake.

Why do I dream about my lived experience being so disconnected from my physical body? How can I reconnect the two?

I feel like a lot of times society tries to get us to separate our body from our soul. We discuss the two separately, like they’re in a vacuum, independent of each other. But all it takes is one look at the scars that we bring with our bodies remind us of where we’ve been. To remind us of the bike ride, the accident, the surgery. We carry these scars to remind us that we’re finite people who carry the marks of our broken human experience. Marks that are different from person-to-person, but are there whether we see them or not. These are the marks of our humanity that we carry with us all the time.

We’re human because we’re marked.

This is what Thomas understood at the end of the Gospel of John. He wouldn’t believe that the resurrection was real until he saw the marks of Christ’s experience on the cross.

This is what the marked body looks like for Thomas. Holes in his palms and a gash in his side. The cross creates the wounds that Christ carries with him through the tomb and into new life. But even in new life, he still carries the marks of his human experience. Even though these wounds killed him on Earth, he’s restored into life with them.

Every time we think back to remember our baptism, we’re reminded that we are marked as well. We’re human because we’re marked.

We bring our bodies with us when we honor our experience as something that affects us long into the future. We bring our bodies with us because our bodies bear the marks of our human experience. Ultimately, we bring our bodies with us for the sake of honoring the Creator of all experiences.

And because, along the way, we get some pretty cool scars.

Cheers,
Eric

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