Sky Links, 6-3-18

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 (NIV)

Christian Rocker Risks Life in Undercover Mission to Rescue Victims in Sex Trade

-Jeannie Law

Christian rock frontman David Zach of the band Remedy Drive recounts some of the chilling experiences he's had while undercover as a covert operative to help rescue teenage girls trapped in sex trafficking rings in Asia and Latin America.

While serving undercover over the past four years, Zach has spent most of his time undercover in brothels and red light districts searching for evidence of sex trafficking. Zach teamed up with Matt Parker, founder of the anti-human trafficking organization The Exodus Road, and together they used covert gear to capture hard evidence of sex slavery.

Their findings made way for them to partner with local authorities and raid some of the trafficking locations. Currently, the work of The Exodus Road has led to 927 rescues and 398 arrests. In total, The Exodus Road has 63 operatives working in 12 countries.

"Doing work to find evidence of sex trafficking is heavy on the heart. There are so many disruptive emotions that are right under the surface because I'm in close contact with extreme trauma. The trips I go on are usually to Southeast Asia or Latin America, but The Exodus Road operates in the United States, India and the Mideast as well," Zach told The Christian Post in a recent interview about his work with the organization.

"The goal of our work is to obtain actionable evidence of sex trafficking that will be used to make raids that will lead to the arrests of those trafficking these girls and the rescue of the girls being sold," he said. "The Exodus Road has rescued over 900 survivors of trafficking so far, contributing to the dismantling of the crime syndicates and mafias selling these girls and boys."

Was Rich Mouw Fair to Israel? Gerald McDermott Responds

More than a few times Arab Christians pulled us aside, whispered to us not to write their names, and told us the same thing: “The media would make you think that the Israeli government is our biggest enemy. But that’s not true. Our real enemies are our Muslim cousins. They want to get rid of us Christians.”

One lesson I learned from this is to be wary of what the media tell us about Israel.

I wish Rich Mouw knew about some of this. Rich is the distinguished scholar and President Emeritus of Fuller Seminary. He is a friend and ally on many issues.

But I am afraid that his recent screed against Israel over the violence in Gaza was uninformed and, and as a result, unfair. While desiring to help defend Palestinians, he perpetuates a false narrative that only hurts Palestinians.

President Mouw decries the way that some evangelicals use Genesis 12:3 (“I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you I will curse”) to accept uncritically any and every action or policy of the Israeli government. I agree with Rich on that, and so do most Israelis I know. Unlike Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza, Jewish Israelis freely criticize their government in public and the media. So do the two million Arab citizens of Israel, whose Arab representatives in the Knesset regularly criticize Netanyahu’s government. Their Palestinian cousins who live on the West Bank and in Gaza don’t dare criticize their Palestinian governments for fear of torture and worse for themselves and their families.

President Mouw says it is “shameful” to celebrate the American embassy in Jerusalem while the Israeli military is “killing dozens of Palestinian protestors against Israeli policies.”

When I read these words written by President Mouw, I can only imagine that he is unaware of several critically important facts.

For example, he must not know that more than 80% of the killed protestors were Hamas soldiers. This was admitted publicly on a television interview by senior Hamas official Salah Al-Bardaweel.

He must not know that these soldiers, who were told to dress in civilian clothes because of media cameras, were on their way to kill Jews. According to Palestinan journalist Bassam Tawil, this was no peaceful protest. They and the rest of the demonstrators were chanting, “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!” They had machine guns, Molotov cocktails, airborne improvised explosive devices and grenades. One of their leaders, Yahya Sinar, shouted to the media, “We will take down the border [with Israel] and we will tear their hearts from their bodies.” Hamas had posted maps for their soldiers showing the quickest routes from the border to Israelis’ homes, schools and day-care centers.

President Mouw apparently does not know that these “protestors” were not “protesting Israeli policies,” as he imagines. They were protesting Israel’s very existence. Perhaps he is not aware that Hamas, the Gaza government that planned this assault very carefully and paid families to come (even promising $500 to anyone who managed to get injured), has declared repeatedly that its goal is to drive every last Jew into the sea.

It is easy for us Americans to criticize a government trying to protect its people whose very existence is threatened on a daily basis. We do not face that existential threat. What would we do if terrorists were trying to break across the Canadian border to kill residents of the state of Washington? If those terrorists were shot as they tried to invade and kill, would we cry “disproportionate violence”?

President Mouw suggests that this protest was triggered by the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem. Not at all, says Tawil: “Hamas could not care less about the location of the embassy. Hamas wants ‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestine’ in its entirety.” The leaders of Hamas once again “found an excuse to wage war on Israel and Jews, this time in the form of the embassy move.”

Mouw concludes his condemnation of Israel with a passage from Malachi that vilifies ancient Israel for defrauding laborers of their wages, oppressing widows and orphans, and depriving foreigners of justice. He must be unaware that the Palestinian leaders of the two Palestinian governments–Hamas and the Palestinian Authority–have received multiplied billions of dollars and euros in aid from foreign governments. In fact, more foreign aid per capita has been given to Palestinians than to any people in history. If Palestinian leaders had used it to build their economies and societies—instead of lining their own pockets and building military apparatus to attack Jews–Palestine would be the Middle Eastern equivalent of Singapore.

But Palestinians still languish under terror and economic insecurity. They lack all the rights we enjoy—freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of the press. Joblessness is high. And the fault for this societal and economic brokenness is not the Israeli government. For the government in Jerusalem cannot give to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank what their own leaders refuse to give them.

This is the truth that is hidden by the accepted media narrative. I trust that if President Mouw had been aware of these things, he would have turned his attention to those truly responsible for defrauding laborers and oppressing widows and orphans.

Gerald McDermott is author of Israel Matters and editor of The New Christian Zionism.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Emerging Church
-J.R. Miller

I was recently asked to share my assessment of the Emerging Church. I have written before on what I see as some of the excesses and pitfalls, but since there is some interest, I thought I would share this short-list of the good and bad.

The Emerging Church movement is broad and no one person or group really speaks for “all” of the emerging churches. Here are a few general observations based on my own reading and experience. Feel free to add some of your own ‘good’, ‘bad’, and “ugly” to the list.

The Good
  • An emphasis on understanding the culture of the day.
  • A recognition of the cultural shift from modern to post-modern philosophy that has an intense influence on the coming generations and in our urban communities.
  • A willingness to try different methods/approaches to reaching the lost and living as a church.
The Bad
  • Too much emphasis on cultural relevance which has resulted in the loss of a clear Gospel message.
  • An emphasis on being culturally “hip” that has led to a rejection of meaningful traditions and practices that are unique to the church (ie a rejection in some groups of water baptism and communion as a culturally irrelevant and religious ritual).
  • An unwillingness to stand firm on the uniqueness of Christ.
  • A de-emphasis on the local church as a necessary part of the Christian life.
The Ugly
  • An unwillingness of those outside the movement to engage in meaningful discussion.
  • A “guilt by association” mentality that has conflated the Organic Church movement with the Emerging Church movement. Yes, there is some crossover, but the two are quite distinct.

Rethinking One of Paul’s Passages about Women
-Scot McKnight

The problem at Corinth is a lack of unity in the gatherings. Oneness in Christ needs to be seen in concrete social settings. How they are behaving when it comes to worship, the Lord’s Supper and spiritual gifts mock their unity. The problems in these areas — note this term — is domination by those with more social cache. (This is my term, not Lucy’s.) So, and this is my reflection, one has to wonder if that same kind of domination is not being expressed in 1 Cor 11:2-16. (At least I do.) Paul’s “in Christ” theology, again, is radical and he knows it; we cannot expect him to undo it in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 by asking the Corinthians to act like the Roman culture all over again. New creation had been unleashed “in Christ” and it was to have radical implications at the social level of fellowship; it was not to be overturned out of respect to the Roman way of life.

Now to our passage: in short, the problems arise because we want to think 1 Cor 11:2-10 and 11:11-16 are expressing the same theology. A rhetorical reading, one that would have been “performed” well by the lector of this letter (see my post from yesterday), suggests these two sections do not cohere theology but conflict with one another because one is Paul’s response to the other.

Peppiatt, along with Shoemaker, Padget and Vadakkedom, proposes then that Paul interweaves words and views of the Corinthian male dominant crowd (found in the letter from Chloe) with his own responses. Thus, the passage would have been “heard” as Paul’s argument against head coverings, head coverings proposed by males who wanted females to be in submission in the public assembly.

Here is the scenario at work in the community of Christians at Corinth, and here she adapts Ben Witherington III’s scenario:
  1. Partisanship centered on particular Christian teachers.
  2. Cultural values of the wealthy that could lead to lawsuits.
  3. Unequal treatment of the lower status folks at the Lord’s table and dining in pagan temples.
  4. Hubris with respect to spiritual gifts.
  5. Disagreements about sexual conduct — inside and outside marriage.
  6. Disagreements on eschatology, esp the resurrection, and over reigning and glory.
Both Witherington and Peppiatt think — and #1 makes this clear — this is about some dominant males. The problem was well-to-do Gentile males. Bruce Winter, too, thinks there is a pervading masculine culture of dominance at work in Corinth (After Paul).

Peppiatt: Corinth was being dominated by some articulate, gifted males and they implemented some oppressive practices that was unraveling the freedom Paul’s gospel created. They wanted to display their glory, honor and authority on their heads (short hair, bald, etc) and wanted women to reflect their honor by what they wore on their heads. The males, in other words, were worldly in allowing the Roman culture of honor and shame to shape what worship looked like. This, she contends, is superior in explanation than the wild women theory.

I agree.

Key comment:  Lucy Peppiatt:

"Thanks for responding everyone. Just to clarify, I don't do away with the language or concept of submission in my reading of Paul, as I am sure that he was committed to the idea of Christians submitting to one another. Secondly, reading Paul having made the assumption that he views men and women as equal in all aspects of worship and life is not, I believe, erroneous, but has its roots in scripture. Please don't muddy the water by assuming that modern 'feminist' readings are by their nature erroneous; that is simply working on the assumption that patriarchal readings have always been and will always be correct. That there are a number of men and women feeling bold enough to re-read scripture from a new perspective that they actually believe to be an ancient perspective cannot be written off by labelling it as 'feminist'. That is not a helpful methodological move. I am questioning the assumption that Paul is either a whole-hearted or a conflicted patriarchalist. I think there is enough evidence in the majority of his writing to warrant that question, and indeed, in the end, to deconstruct the whole idea."

-Richard Beck

As you know, there's been a reckoning among evangelicals who are having their own #MeToo moment.

Albert Mohler in his post The Wrath of God Poured Out — The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention describes what is happening as the punishment of God being poured out upon evangelicals.

In his post, Mohler describes how the conservative resurgence in the SBC worked to restore biblical integrity to SBC doctrine, gender complementarianism among those teachings, only to find its moral integrity in these last days severely damaged and compromised.

Why did it happen?

Mohler wonders aloud if theology and complementarianism have been the problem:

Is the problem theological? Has the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention come to this? Is this what thousands of Southern Baptists were hoping for when they worked so hard to see this denomination returned to its theological convictions, its seminaries return to teaching the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, its ministries solidly established on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?...

Is complementarianism the problem? Is it just camouflage for abusive males and permission for the abuse and mistreatment of women? We can see how that argument would seem plausible to so many looking to conservative evangelicals and wondering if we have gone mad.I don't know Mohler, but from I do know of him, that he's raising these questions is remarkable. Still, he doesn't fully relinquish the complementarian position:

But the same Bible that reveals the complementarian pattern of male leadership in the home and the church also reveals God’s steadfast and unyielding concern for the abused, the threatened, the suffering, and the fearful. There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form, verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual. The Bible warns so clearly of those who would abuse power and weaponize authority. Every Christian church and every pastor and every church member must be ready to protect any of God’s children threatened by abuse and must hold every abuser fully accountable. The church and any institution or ministry serving the church must be ready to assure safety and support to any woman or child or vulnerable one threatened by abuse. I appreciate his both/and balancing act here, trying to keep the complementarian structure yet speak a strong word for protecting the abused. And yet, this is the exact same balancing act that evangelicals and the SBC have been preaching and attempting for generations. And by Mohler's own admission, it has brought the judgment of God down upon them.

In short, Mohler seems genuinely anguished and searching for answers, but he can't offer an accurate diagnosis of what went wrong. He seems legitimately perplexed. He says nothing beyond the same old, same old: Men are in charge, but they shouldn't abuse the women under their leadership.

But clearly, that's been a disaster.

And it's not really hard to see why. I think the problem evangelicals are having here is the same problem they always have. They only look at the Bible and they ignore human experience. Evangelicals always make man serve the Sabbath, rather than having the Sabbath serve man. In this instance, the Sabbath is "God's plan for marriage and the church," and men and women must conform to that plan. Come hell or high water. Well, they've found hell and high water.

Evangelicals obsess over establishing "God's plan" over the genders and routinely fail to attend to the raw material they are plugging into that plan. Mohler is right to raise questions about the theology, but that's only half the equation. It's complementarian theology combined with human nature that's the problem.

Human beings are corrupted by power asymmetries. Based on his famous Stanford Prison Study, Philip Zimbardo has called this "the Lucifer Effect." Psychologically, power has been shown to decrease inhibition, which means that when we have power we're more prone to act out, sexually and/or aggressively.

Add to this the observation that psychological studies, along with criminal statistics, indicate that men are prone to aggression and violence, physical and sexual.

An irony here is that many evangelicals admit all this, that men have a natural, durable "nature" characterized by dominance and aggression, the characteristics that make men great leaders and warriors. That's the positive spin on those traits. But the darker side of those traits are a proneness to violence and abuse.

I say this is an irony because evangelicals describe men as being "naturally" wired for dominance and aggression. And then they espouse a model of gender relations that gives power to the gender characterized by dominance and aggression. And then they express surprise that this arrangement didn't work out so well.

Given their view of the genders, let me express the irony of the evangelical position this way. Complementarianism isn't a problem because there are no differences between the genders. Complementarianism is a problem because there are differences between the genders.

Here's an analogy for complementarianism's mistake. Imagine a church full of people, most have no tendency toward addiction, but in this church are three other groups. First, there is group of recovering alcoholics. Second, there is a group that is prone to alcoholism. Third, there is group of actual, practicing alcoholics. And then imagine, because of how you read the Bible, that you believe it is God's plan for human flourishing for everyone in the church to drink a glass of whiskey everyday. And then imagine expressing shock when a lot of these people fall into, or back into, addiction.

Listen, at this point in the post, I understand if you're a reader who is a little tired of this particular culture war battle. I, too, get a little tired of all the "f**k the patriarchy" talk, and I've been beaten up for being a "problematic" ally.

But seriously, if you don't think the mistreatment of women is the number one issue facing the moral witness of men--and not as a contemporary culture war issue, but as a demonic shadow that has haunted us for millennia--I just don't know what to say to you. Buckle up, buttercup. I think sin manifests in men in just this way.

A theological and biblical way to say all this is that men's dominance over women is a part of the Fall's curse upon humanity. The wound of sin upon gender relations is clear in Genesis 3: "He will rule over you."

So if that's a part of the curse, why do evangelicals think that building the curse into the system--gender subordination--is going to produce anything other than cursed outcomes?

News flash: The curse isn't a feature, it's a bug.

Summarizing, this isn't rocket science: If you preach gender subordination you're going to have #MeToo. Power reduces inhibitions, and men have a suite of impulses that increases the likelihood of harassment and abuse. And seriously, can you doubt this? Have you not learned something from #MeToo and #ChurchToo? Have you not had conversations with the women in your workplace? Have you not looked at the sex trafficking statistics? The statistics on rape and domestic abuse, throughout history and worldwide? There are millions of women being abused or trafficked right now in the world. Millions. And if you refuse to own that fact or be sobered by it for fear of man-shaming, I don't know what to tell you.

But again, the pushback will be, but if men were godly this would not happen. But isn't that the big blindspot here? "If men were godly..."

That "if" is a whopper. That "if" is dangerous. Seriously? You're going to make the safety of women a cross-your-fingers, let's hope for the best, contingency? A big fat "if" built atop a foundation of total depravity (as you believe to be the case)? And you are surprised this didn't go well?

Here's another news flash: men aren't godly. (And neither are women.) And given their weak theology of sanctification--because we are saved by "faith alone and not by works"--evangelicals have no clue or program about how to produce godly men. And many of them think godliness isn't even necessary. Witness the evangelical endorsement of Donald Trump.

To go back to Albert Mohler, I'm not trying to pile on. I understand how he and the SBC read the Bible. But I don't think the Bible is the problem. The problem is talking your eye off human beings and reading the Bible in a moral and human vacuum. That's how you end up making man serve the Sabbath. Perhaps a plug for natural theology fits in here, paying attention to what the sciences of human flourishing might reveal to us about "God's plan."

5 Reasons Why I Ask for My Husband’s Permission
-Ashley Willis

1. Asking permission is a sign of RESPECT.

2. It ensures LESS CONFLICT.

3. We both feel EMPOWERED.


5. It keeps us ENGAGED in each other’s lives.

Set-Ups for Being Picked Off by Authoritarian Leaders – Part 2: Dynamics of Fatherlessness and Susceptibility to Substitutes
-Brad Sargent

Poet and storyteller Robert Bly was one of the more popular writers for men in the 1980s and early ’90s. His book Iron John was a bestseller, but I found his follow-up book on The Sibling Society even more helpful on the historical roots of the mess that men often found themselves in. In it, he addressed issues of fatherlessness and the imprint of generational dynamics left on Boomer men by fathers who came of age during the Depression and World War 2, and who came home as fathers who were typically physically present but emotionally absent.

The key idea in The Sibling Society is that when the older generations are not people that younger generations want to emulate, then the younger ones create connections with their peers as the influential “others” in their life. This action cuts them off from those who could/should call them forth into being adults, which in turn sets them up to extend adolescence and delay maturity. (It can also lead to “Lord of the Flies” type situations where influence by dominant peers leads others into conformity and, ultimately, evil.)

As it turns out, Robert Bly had written the foreword to a revised and updated edition of the monumental research work by Alexander Mitscherlich: Society without the Father: A Contribution to Social Psychology. (If I remember right, this was originally published in the early 1960s in German — my copy is currently hiding in a box somewhere.) Mitscherlich had studied the fallout of the Industrial Revolution, where fathers increasingly abandoned the home, and especially the specific dynamics of what happened in his native Germany after the loss of so many men during two world wars. What had happened to the children of the WW2 years, when a generation of fathers and grandfathers in families — and in society — did not return home?

Bly titled his foreword “Mitscherlich and His Uncomfortable Thoughts.” He summarizes the entire message of the book in just a few pages, which is very helpful. Here are his restatements of seven of Mitscherlich’s “uncomfortable thoughts.” (Some quoted, some paraphrased.)

1. “The father society has collapsed.”

2. This vacuum led to the arrival of the sibling society that expects peers and committees.

3. “Once the sibling society is well in place, the citizens may find great difficulty in maintaining distinct viewpoints or rebellious trains of thought.”

4. “Sons and daughters now experience a double fatherlessness” as there is no fathering in the home life nor in the public realm of social/political institutions.

5. “In the fatherless society, the children – particularly the sons – have holes in their psyche that fill with demons.”

6. Serious regression [i.e., primitive behavior – aggression, violence, terrorism, aliteracy, etc.] is taking place.

7. The absence of the father causes many boys to be stuck in a prolonged and more severe adolescence.

Mitscherlich’s idea #5 is probably the most disconcerting — but most relevant to reflecting about the magnet attraction of supposed “manliness” in the Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism movement. Here is what Bly says in expanding on this:

In the fatherless society, the children – particularly the sons – have holes in their psyche that fill with demons. But Mitscherlich says that if the sons do not have constant association with their fathers in a human way, if they do not see the father when he is working, failing, laughing, complaining, pleased, weeping, hurting, stupid, fooled, then a hole develops in the son’s psyche. It doesn’t remain empty long but soon fills with demons. (Page xvi.)

I don’t fit in the complementarian camp, and I’m not suggesting that if men were only acting like “manly leaders,” all would be well with the world. Basically, I see that the traumas of the Depression and WW2 created deep grief — especially for men, in an environment where males of the Builder generation were already being pressured to give up so much of what it simply means to be human: expression of emotions, joy in family life, etc. The Boomer generation rebelled, and I’d suggest much of that has ended up in selfishness and elitism and what is being called cultural authoritarianism, meaning trying to control society, whether by liberal or conservative beliefs and politics — and those who oppose this generally cannot be squeezed into the categories of either left or right, but are being called cultural libertarians. And with so many in next generations being reared in homes of divorce, what are the results? An even more amplified deep-soul longing for the father, amidst generations of “partial orphans.”

Remember The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent? It was first published in 1990, during an era when many Boomers were part of movements for recovery from addictions. The book made a significant impact in ministry circles with its emphasis on how important it was for parents to accept, bless, and affirm their children. That unconditional love — both shown and told to children — was what we long for. But, in the wake of multiple generations of waves of fatherlessness in home and society, that longing for blessing is often only partially fulfilled, mostly by mothers. But, if it is true that sons especially need a father to call them forth and the community of men to provide support, then what can be done for the fatherless sons?

And who is ready to receive, affirm, bless, comfort, disciple, encourage, minister to, and serve others? Substitute “fathers” in the Church.

Problem being, many substitute fathers are counterfeits who woo, flatter, groom, reduce fears with predictable rules, discipline, guilt-trip, motivate, and seduce.

Welcome to the world of the charisma-driven authoritarian system … where susceptibility can easily lead to seduction into legalism, perfectionism, and a Spiritless form of godliness that denies the power thereof.

But there is hope for substantial healing, and none of us are Fatherless in Christ!

Check out Spiritual Abuse Article Index and see what seems of interest on spiritual abuse …

Also, on issues of fatherlessness and men growing up without letting “demons and addictions fill the holes in our soul,” I still recommend one of the pioneering books in the pre-Promise Keepers Christian men’s movement. It’s by Gordon Dalbey: Healing the Masculine Soul: God’s Restoration of Men to Real Manhood. I read the first edition of this book in about 1988, and found it especially helpful for his synthesizing of insights from psychology, theology, and social dynamics. It was one of the very few more holistic books for Christian men available way back then, and we used it in our support group for men dealing with any kind of gender identity, sexuality, and/or addiction problem on the spectrum of issues.That was from 1989-1991, and his book was one of the few Christian ones available that touched on similar core issues of woundings and longings that secular men’s movement books of that era did.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to reading Mr. Dalbey’s follow-up book, Sons of the Father: Healing the Father-Wound in Men Today. It’s a revised and updated version of his 1992 book (which I also remember from back then), Father and Son: The Wound, The Healing, The Call to Manhood. From my past experiences in reading Gordon Dalbey’s books and discussing them, I expect to gain challenging but practical insights relevant to Builders, Boomers, Busters, and generations beyond.

In fact, I’ve been in touch with Mr. Dalbey recently. (He’s now in his early 70s.) I had a chance to thank him for his wisdom, and for pioneering ministries for men that incorporate global/multicultural insights from his experiences in the Peace Corps, and that are based in grace and not in guilt, empowered by the Spirit and not encumbered by the Law which never ever brings anyone to maturity.

Photo credit: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0