Month: October 2010

Fatherhood and Manhood

First before I go into the heart of this post, I have a prayer request for anyone who reads this post.  Please keep in your prayers Adam and Sarah Walker Cleaveland, who just lost their twin boys (Micah and Judah) who were born at 20 weeks and couldn’t survive.  It was at Adam’s blog that I first encountered this video.

So nothing is closer to my heart/life than the issue of fatherhood/manhood. You see I grew up in a single parent household with just my mother.  Let me tell you that my mother is an amazing woman and I can’t imagine life being differently then it was and I don’t think I am screwed up because I didn’t have a father growing up.  Still, I would be lying if I didn’t say that it had an impact on my life.  I always wondered what was wrong with me that my father didn’t want to have anything to do with me.  I also knew that the one thing God called me to more than anything else was to be a father and to break the cycle.

So that is the background and here is the reason why I want to write about this video: nothing bothers me more than the construction of one type of fatherhood being “biblical” and all else being something other than what God intended.  I wrote a whole paper on it in seminary where I explored those of faith who wrote about fatherhood (by the way sadly most of the books only came at fatherhood from one framework and often that also came with a construct of “manhood” being the same thing as “fatherhood”…which means many who might not have that framework are staying silent on a very important issue…who knows maybe they are out there and I just didn’t find them).

Most of the views I came upon align with the framework Mark Driscoll is coming from in his response to the question posed. It is that view that I want to respond to, but first I want to say that I have tremendous respect for Mark Driscoll.  I disagree with him on many things, but I respect him.  Having met him while I was in college and having conversations with him, I can truly say that I believe that he is a man who is after God’s heart.  I think he has helped many people discover Christ and move closer to God and unlike some I am unwilling to say that because he has a different framework/worldview that he is leading people astray.

On this matter though I think he is wrong and here is why:

(1)  First and foremost to take the passage from Timothy that is quoted by both him and his wife out of its context and to apply to a certain understood construct of family is problematic in my view.  The passage he quotes, 1 Timothy 5:8, is in the midst of a paragraph of instruction that Paul is giving to Timothy about care for widows.  The passage specifically is dealing with those widows who have family members (in this case children and grandchildren) who were called to take care of them according to their faith.  What it wasn’t saying was that “fathers who don’t make a paycheck have denied their faith and are worse than unbelievers.” Could one take the prescription directed at the children and grandchildren of widows and then apply it as such? Yes, but then we get into some deeper questions of pushing interpretation.  Driscoll states it with such conviction and clarity in a way that communicates that it is obvious that that statement is directed at fathers and dealing with the role within the marriage/family economy.

Which brings me to a different subject.  I am curious what their understanding of care for the elderly would be? What is our role in caring for widows? Do we care for widows? I don’t have an answer, but I would hope that individuals who aren’t caring for their mothers/grandmothers would get a serious chastisement and fall under church discipline with the same vigor.

(2) What is provision? To argue that provision is the same as being the sole income provider within the family economy is faulty in my opinion. A father can and is a provider even if they are not the income producer. A father can have authority (which I would argue a different conception of authority than the “you will submit to me that some think”) while still not being the income producer. What seems to be at work here more than anything is a certain construction that goes very deep: A man’s worth as a man is equal to what he produces, if he doesn’t “produce” then he is no longer a man as defined biblically. I find that so faulty though, to me a man’s worth appears to come from God and is found in how that individual seeks to grow closer to God and to help others (like their family) grow closer to God.

(3) The myth of statistics. Driscoll is using statistics as a buttress to his argument, but why? If it is simply a matter of being “biblical” or “unbiblical” then statistics shouldn’t be needed. In fact if one is arguing so hard against the perverted culture that permeates the world then to rely on statistics is to by and large also depend on that “perverted culture” to buttress your arguments when it helps your argument. The lives of humans are not easy to isolate. Want to know why? You can’t get a control. Yes, there are too many variables for one to just use one variable as an argument for why it is right. Yes, those statistics to point to a reality, but do they also take into consideration economic class, neighborhood safety, influences, etc. (you could go on and on) Human relationships and outcomes are complex because we are lives are complex.

Can we get to the heart of the matter?

The real heart of the matter is are parents invested in their kids lives? Do they give of themselves so that their children grow up nurtured and cared for and thus prepared for life. We can rail on manhood, fatherhood, gender-roles, etc., but until we deal with the real heart of the matter which is selfishness then we are failing to name the real culprit. If a man wants to be a stay-at-home dad because well he doesn’t want to work and he thinks it is easier to be a stay-at-home dad and he doesn’t take that role within the family seriously then yeah it is a problem, but no more a problem than if a woman did it. If parents are constantly looking for others to watch their kids because they want to live “their” lives either as individuals or as a couple then yeah it is a problem. But if the parents are seeking to be parents and to provide for their children like God has provided for us, then it doesn’t matter if they are gay, straight, stay-at-home dads, both working, etc.

I should be rebuked if I am shirking my responsibilities as a father and I should be shown my error, but that isn’t about whether I am the money-maker or not it is about if I am being a provider like God has provided for us as God’s children.

Ecumenism – Reflections on the Body of Christ


One of the things I have really been wrestling with lately is “ecumenism.”  I know fancy word.  How fancy?  Too fancy.  Basically I have been wondering about the true unity of the universal Church also known as the Body of Christ.

Last week at the Winona Ministerial Association, I was in charge of the devotional and what had really been weighing on my heart was Paul’s word to the church in Corinth.  Specifically was the passage from 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  I really enjoy the Message because of the way that Eugene Peterson uses language.  It just jolts and really gets you thinking at times and his rendition of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 which reads:

I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention–that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”  I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own?  Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?”

Peterson just makes Paul’s words so “in your face.”  I mean the visual image one gets of Christ being “chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own” is vivid and it gets the point across.  In my own reflection I can’t help but read these word’s from Paul and wonder if it couldn’t speak to the Body of Christ today by just replacing Paul, Apollos, Peter, Messiah with names for our denomination (or non-denominations).

So often I feel we give lip service to “ecumenism” or just assent to some ideology we know we are suppose to believe in.  We often talk about how we are all a part of the Body of Christ, etc.  But within the same breath we often make sure to mark the boundaries between “our” Christianity and “their” Christianity.  “I’m on the Methodist side.”  “I’m for the Roman Catholic Church” “John Calvin is my man.” “I belong to the Lutherans”  Is there some point where our demarcations of boundaries actually displaces Christ as the central part of the faith? I often wonder if we truly are the Body of Christ, why don’t we do more together? Why don’t we celebrate when other “denominations” are growing and transforming lives?

It is a struggle I have and I don’t have answers.  I only have questions.  I have to believe that we can overcome the differences and I hope to see it and experience it in my ministry.  I so badly want to see issues that divide us to become secondary to the primary message of the Good News and yet that means all sides have to be willing to come to that point and say we can disagree on issues and still be united.  Can it happen?  And if it can’t does that say something about how we powerful and influential we really feel God is in our lives?

Right now the following picture really feels more to me like what the Body of Christ is like…….

The Importance of “Place”

What you see above is the empty space where the dorm I lived in during college was located.  Heemstra Hall was an important place in my development into adulthood but also an extremely important place for my faith development. That was always a place I could go to when I was in Orange City and remember those moments in my life.

When I heard that Northwestern College was tearing down the dorm, I was devastated.  One of those “sacred” places in my life would no longer exist.  Like many of my fellow brethren who graced the halls of Heemstra my first emotion was outrage that such a thing could happen.  Doesn’t Northwestern realize all the things that happened in that dorm.  Yeah, it was old. Yeah, usually the men who lived in it didn’t exactly scream “cool” or even “respectable” but that place was where Christian community happened.

As a side note, I have often reflected on that time with people and explain that while Northwestern was a great place to get my education what truly helped me grow in my faith and understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ didn’t happen in chapel or the classroom, it happened in the halls of Heemstra.

Alright, back to my response to the dorm being torn down.  At first, I was angry, but God has an interesting way of challenging us.  You see, as a pastor I have been involved in a merger between two congregations this past year.  Central UMC (where I was brought on as an associate) and McKinley UMC voted to come together and form one congregation.  As part of that process, it was determined that we would move to one location which meant one church was going to have to give up an important place. It was determined that McKinley’s people would join those at Central and worship at the Central building due to its location and size.  All of this was going on while I was also dealing with the reality that my “place” was not going to be anymore, and so I could understand what the McKinley people were going through.  For many of them that building was the place where they were baptized, married, or had important faith formation moments.  That place reminded them of all the people who had been important in their life of faith, and I couldn’t help but identify with their emotions.  I got it.

And yet something pushed me to not stop there in my own reflection.  While I continue to be sad that my old dorm is no longer there, I have come to realize that it wasn’t the “place” that helped me grow, it was God and the people who were following God.  I had to realize (for myself) that God was still active and would form other students just like I was formed albeit in a different “place.”  In a way that realization was freeing.  It allowed me to see the boundless nature of God’s movement and action and how God truly is present wherever two or three are gathered.  Knowing that has allowed me to open myself up to see the ways that God may be present in my current context and how God is moving.

Which brings me back to my current pastoral context.  This morning after worship, Stacy (my wife) overheard some people talking about McKinley and how a certain group should move there because the space has an elevator and one of the people said if they did go there she would return to McKinley.  As my wife shared this with me, I could totally understand why the individual said that.  There is always a longing to return to those “places” and I get that, but really that “place” has changed.  And so I am left with this question running through my head….”Is it harder for us to move on if the “places” in our life are still their structurally?”  As long as Heemstra Hall was still up and running, I always in my mind wished I could go back and live that life again (even though my life is immensely more enjoyable now with a family), but once I visited Northwestern and took the above picture I really finally was able to see that while that “place” was important at a time in my life the eternal God was what continued to give my life its meaning and passion.  I continue to pray that the congregation I have been called to can see that reality too even if the “place” (or insert “tradition”) is no longer the same.  I hope we can all see that God is the constant and should the focus of our lives.