Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Quick and the Ed » On Trayvon Martin and America’s Racial Wound: It’s Not OK

The Quick and the Ed » On Trayvon Martin and America’s Racial Wound: It’s Not OK.

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Submission and Sensibility (with apologies to Jane Austen)

I recently stumbled across and article (or blog, can’t really remember) arguing that κεφαλὴ, translated as “head” in most Bibles, is better translated as “source” in Ephesians 5:22–33. I had vague understanding of this argument so I read the article in more detail and then went to look at the associated verses myself. At the end of my study, I came to the following conclusion: who cares?

Paul opens Chapter 5 with the admonition to live in holiness (Ephesians 5:1–5), then reminds the reader not to participate in the “deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:6–14). Immediately, he calls his readers to submit to one another as a wise way of living (Ephesians 5:15–21). In this context, Paul gives his (near-infamous) instruction for wives to submit to your husbands as unto the lord (22). As many will (and should) point out, the Greek sentence doesn’t have submit in that verse; the word submit appears in the previous verse (21) in the command to “submit to one another.” In a somewhat literal translation, the verse reads, “wives, to your own husbands as to the Lord.” He then goes on the the husband is head/source as Christ is head/source.

Some want to soften the submission aspect by clinging to the source translation, while others want to reinforce male authority by emphasizing headship. Firstly, it seems to me that, whatever the translation, Paul is using a metaphor here, and we should therefore avoid a wooden one-to-one analogy. Secondly, the head/source analogy comes as a clarification of “wives to your own husbands [submit]”, implying that regardless of what you may understand κεφαλὴ to mean, wives must still submit to their own husbands.

I wonder if Paul has the not-uncommon orgies in mind when he makes the qualifier in 5:22 (and as he clarifies later for husbands to love their wives). Consider: in a culture where a group orgy is a possible reality and where someone of his audience had likely participated in such an orgy, Paul commands them to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I can see how he might see an immediate need to clarify.

Paul: “Okay, so before you take this too far, let me give you some more details: wives, submit to your own husbands. Just like Christ is the κεφαλὴ of the Church, so husbands are your κεφαλὴ. In the same way the church submits to Christ, wives, do the same to your husbands. You husbands, love your own wives just like you would love your own body. If you love your body, you love yourself, so take care of your body, just like Christ takes care of his church. By the way, do you see what I did there? Body of Christ/body of husband? See, I’m really talking about the church/Christ relationship.”

All I’m saying is that I can’t see how we can avoid the wives submitting to husbands part, but I would also point out in the same way that all Christians submit to one another, this is the way in which wives submit to their husbands. So if you’re going use this verse to say that husbands have the “final say” in marriage, then you also have to say that other Christians have the “final say” as well.

Please, lets have some sense as we continue to consider male and female within the church.

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What is Just (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks, the George Zimmerman verdict (acquittal) has caught your attention. Commonly, you’ve probably heard (or seen) “It’s not just,” or “Justice failed,” or even “Justice wasn’t served.” You’ve probably also heard people counter that justice, by definition, was served in this case. This led me to wonder what, exactly, justice means.

  • Dictionary: According to Mirriam-Webster online, justice is, “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments,” and, “the administration of law; especially: the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity.” Related definitions include, “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair; the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action; conformity to this principle or ideal (righteousness),” and, “the quality of conforming to law.”
  • Philosophy: According to Wikipedia, the philosophical concept of justice is, “Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity or fairness, as well as the administration of the law, taking into account the inalienable and inborn rights of all human beings and citizens, the right of all people and individuals to equal protection before the law of their civil rights, without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, or other characteristics, and is further regarded as being inclusive of social justice.” Both Plato and Aristotle see justice as harmony, both in and between the individual and as a quality of the state. Locke, on the other hand, sees justice as an inherent quality of the universe similar to the laws of physics. By implication, law is an attempt by humanity to quantify that which God wrote into the fabric of creation.
  • Virtue: Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues, and is the proper tension between selfishness and selflessness. In some sense, it is giving to everyone what is due and as such, seems to be the pivotal virtue of the four as one can view the other virtues as expressions of justice.
  • Theology: The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, “The original Hebrew and Greek words are the same as those rendered “righteousness.” This is the common rendering, and in about half the cases where we have “just” and “justice” in the King James Version, the American Standard Revised Version has changed to “righteous” and “righteousness.” It must be constantly borne in mind that the two ideas are essentially the same.”

So back to the question: was the George Zimmerman verdict just?

It seems unjust to me that an armed man can chase a boy for several minutes and then shoot that same boy while claiming no culpability in that boy’s death. Zimmerman’s actions appear both reckless and negligent. While Zimmerman may have broken no law (or did not commit murder) as he was charged, it does not remove from him the responsibility for Trayvon’s death. The tragic, and unjust aspect, is that the law supports him in killing Trayvon.

And that is, by definition, injustice.

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Seeing Emmett Till in Trayvon Martin

“Remember Emmett Till.”

Three simple words, and my father and mother repeated them to me several times in my life. They associated several ideas behind that simple phrase but the chief one was this: you are a black man living in a world hostile to you. Simply put, they reminded me that the world would pre-judge me and treat me unfairly. It would consider me hostile and a threat by virtue of my existence alone. In a group of my peers (I attended predominantly white schools), if all of them were causing trouble and the authorities arrived, those authorities would look to me first as the source of conflict. My peers could argue with police over tickets; I dare not if I valued my health and life. I would need to dress better, act better, live better than those around me.

My parents, unfortunately, were right. Time and experience have proved them true. Repeatedly.

Upon hearing the George Zimmerman verdict, I couldn’t help but hear those three words and see the parallels between Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin.

  • Emmitt (14) and Trayvon (17) were both teenagers when they were killed.
  • Both made typically teenager-like (impulsive, unwise) decisions in carrying out the activities that led to their death. In Emmitt’s case, he dared whistle at a white woman. In Trayvon’s case, he dared to stand his ground after feeling threatened.
  • The killers in each case acted in accordance with the common social and legal bounds. In Emmitt’s case, the jury knew the perpetrators killed Emmitt, but felt the killing of a black boy deserved neither life in prison nor the death penalty. In Trayvon’s case, we have not heard from the jury (as of this writing) but their vote for acquittal was a vote against 2nd degree murder and manslaughter.
  • Both Emmitt and Trayvon were accused of bringing on their own murders. In Emmitt’s case, one of the killers talked about “putting Emmitt in his place,” while in Trayvon’s case, some media commentators asserted that Trayvon’s manner of dress—a hoodie on a rainy day—was thug gear and made him seem suspicious.
  • Both Emmitt and Trayvon’s killers were charged only after tremendous political and social pressure as well as national attention.

I have to admit: I was disappointment, frustrated, and ultimately unsurprised by the verdict. Based on what I could see of the case, Zimmerman’s actions were legal, but they weren’t good. Zimmerman has the right to carry a weapon and to use it if threatened. From a legal perspective, it doesn’t matter that he chose to follow Trayvon for over four mintues (and for those of you who think that’s no big deal, here’s a challenge for you: set a four minute timer on your phone and start walking; don’t stop until you hear the timer buzz and imagine that someone is following you the whole time—how might you react in that case?).

I also know that, when my son comes of age, I will teach my son the lesson my parents taught me with a simple, three-word phrase:

“Remember Trayvon Martin.”

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Reinventing Church Roles

In a prior blog, I dared to dream of a church dedicated to Christian education, and based on the roles as expressed in Ephesians 4:7-16. In keeping with that, I saw five pastoral roles. Today, lets look at those roles and how the conative styles as I have described them fit, especially in light of Ephesians 4:11.

  1. Preaching and Worship Pastor. Responsible for the proclamation of the word and the organization and administration of the worship service. Best suited for people with the drive to persuade, as their primary job is to communicate the Word to the body, and to develop devotionals and messages to encourage and uplift the congregation throughout the week. I would associate this role with the προφήτας (translated as prophet).
  2. Administrative and Counseling Pastor. Responsible to ensure that the church as a whole are moving in the same direction, and for organizing the people and processes of the church around and toward the vision as cast by the elders. Best suited for people with the drive to organize, as their primary job is to lead and manage the organization. I would associate this role with the ποιμένας (translated as pastor, but with a meaning of shepherd).
  3. Teaching and Discipleship Pastor. Responsible for the teaching and developmental ministries of the church, as well as ensuring that the church does indeed produce disciples. Best suited for people with the drive to explain, as their primary job is to oversee the educational aspects of the congregation. I would associate this role with the διδασκάλους (translated as teachers).
  4. Evangelism and Outreach Pastor. Responsible for guiding and carrying out the individual and group evangelistic activities, as well as outreach and benevolence in general. Best suited for people with the drive to act as their job is to do the work of the evangelist. I would associate this role with the εὐαγγελιστάς (translated as evangelist).
  5. Research and Scholarship Pastor. Responsible for assisting with sermon preparation, evaluation of ministry effectiveness, and researching best practices for carrying out ministry. Also designated to go out and represent the church at special events. Best suited for people with the drive to understand as their job is essentially to act as research assistant and quality assurance. I would associate this role with the ἀποστόλους (translated apostle).

While each pastor as a point of responsibility and strength, do not understand these strengths to be exclusive. All pastors would preach, would teach, would counsel, would prepare sermons, would evangelist. One point I hope you see is that we expect senior pastors to accomplish all of these at once when it’s impossible (or highly unlikely) to find one person (a) good at all of these and (b) with a primary drive to do all of these. Also, I don’t suggest that any one of these needs to be THE guy in charge, and certainly not necessarily the preaching pastor (at best, you could say the Administrative pastor). Consider, for a moment, if these five pastors were the elders of a church, or were five of the twelve (just to pick a number) elders of a church.

We often claim the Biblical title for our churches. Let’s try to actually achieve it.

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