Most Popular Posts of 2011 + A Sneak Peak into 2012 + Your Ideas for the Blog

I finally finished my book!

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is scheduled to release in the fall of 2012 with Thomas Nelson, and I am currently adjusting to the strange sensation of having a life again. (Remind me of what a "double date" is again?) 

Thank you so much for your support and patience. I know I’ve been a little quiet on the blogosphere lately, but next week I’ll be jumping right back into the daily blogging schedule. 

Despite my preoccupation with living biblically, it's been a successful year of blogging, thanks to you. Here are the obligatory 11 most popular posts of 2011 (in no particular order): 

1. Ask a Gay Christian
2. Ask an Atheist
3. Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him.
4. Blessed are the Un-cool
5. The Rally to Restore Unity
6. The Future of Evangelicalism: A Twenty-Something’s Perspective
7. An Interview with Rob Bell
8. Thou Shalt Not Let Thyself Go?
9. Dear Pastors, Tell Us the Truth
10. Complementarians Are Selective Too
11. Afraid of Motherhood...

In 2012, I’m planning to bring back the popular “Ask a...” series, hopefully beginning with “Ask a Muslim...”.  We’ll also return to Sunday Superlatives and Saturday guest posts. I’ve got several book reviews lined up, including a review of Mark Driscoll’s new book, Real Marriage

In addition, I’d like to start a new series on “Women of Valor,” in which we feature women of faith who are changing the world. I’m also working on series related to the Biblecontemplative spiritualityjustice(specifically women’s equality, adoption, and fair trade), the gospel, and my ongoing search for a church “home.” Once we get closer to the release of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I’ll be posting photos and posts and (possibly) excerpts related to that.

My overall goal for this year of blogging is to make the blog a better resource for readers. About midway through  last year, it suddenly dawned on me that it’s not my job to generated seven days of content for readers all on my own, but that, in addition to posting my own thoughts, I can use my blogging platform to feature news stories, links, interviews, discussions, guest posts, and videos that would be of interest to you!

So this year look for more interviews, more roundtables, more discussions, more links, more voices, and more content

With that in mind, my big question for you is—what do you want?

What topics would you like to see addressed on the blog? What do you think is missing from the religious blogosphere? What will be the BIG ISSUES of 2012? 

And specifically, who would you like to see interviewed? Who should be featured in the “Ask a...” series? Who should be featured as a woman of valor? 

Let me know whatever’s on your mind! I’ll be entering your responses into a list of post ideas.

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"...your daughters will prophesy"

'Holding hands' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

“Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 
- Jesus, Matthew 10:41

Josiah became king of Israel when he was just eight years old.

Described as Israel’s last good king, he reigned for thirty-one years during a final period of peace before the Babylonian exile. About halfway through his reign, Josiah learns that the long-lost Book of the Law—the Torah— has been discovered in the temple. Upon hearing the words of the Torah read aloud, Josiah tears his robes in repentance and summons a prophet, for he sees how far Israel has strayed from God’s ways. 

Contemporaries of Josiah included the famed prophets Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk—all of whom have books of the Bible named after them. But Josiah did not choose any of those men. Instead he chose Huldah, a woman and prophet who lived in Jerusalem. “Huldah is not chosen because no men were available,” writes Scot McKnight, “she is chosen because she is truly exceptional among the prophets.” 

Huldah first confirms the scroll’s authenticity and then tells Josiah that the disobedience of Israel will indeed lead to its destruction, but that Josiah himself would die in peace.  Thus, Huldah not only interpreted but also authorized the document that would become the core of Jewish and Christian scripture. Her prophecy was fulfilled thirty-five years later (2 Kings 22). 

The Bible identifies ten such female prophets in the Old and New Testaments: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah,  Isaiah’s wife, Anna,  and the four daughters of Philip.  In addition, women like Rachel, Hannah, Abigail, Elisabeth, and Mary are described as having prophetic visions about the future of their children, the destiny of nations, and the coming Messiah. 

When the Holy Spirit descended upon the first Christians at Pentecost, Peter draws from the words of the prophet Joel to describe what has happened: 

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
Your young men will see visions, 
Your old men will dream dreams.
 Even on my servants, both men and women, 
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, 
And they will prophesy (Acts 2:17-18)

The breaking in of the new creation after Christ’s resurrection unleashed a cacophony of new prophetic voices, and apparently, prophesying among women was such a common activity in the early church that Paul had to remind women to cover their heads when they did it.  While some may try to downplay biblical examples of female disciples, deacons, preachers, leaders and apostles, no one can deny the Bible’s long tradition of prophetic feminine vision. 

I believe that right now, we need that prophetic vision more than ever. 

Right now, 30,000 children die every day from preventable disease. 

Right now 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade. 

Right now a woman dies in childbirth every minute. 

Right now, women age 15-44 are more likely to be maimed or to die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined. 

Meanwhile, the evangelical church has busied itself with endless debates about the “appropriate roles” of women in the church and complaints about the supposed “feminization of the Church,” as if women are no longer needed for the Kingdom, as if we’ve stepped outside our bounds.  Meanwhile, churches are spending years debating whether a female missionary should be allowed to speak on a Sunday morning, whether students older than ten should have female Sunday school teachers,whether women should be allowed to read from Scripture in a church service, whether girls should be encouraged to attend seminary, whether women should be permitted to collect the offering or write the church newsletter or make an announcement.  Those of us who are perhaps most equipped to speak and act prophetically in response to the violence, poverty, and inequality that plague our sisters around the world are being silenced ourselves.  

Folks who see the leadership of women like Huldah and Junia as special exceptions for times of great need are oblivious to the world in which we live.  Those who think the urgency of Pentecost has passed are deluding themsleves. They “have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear.”

Women around the world need the voices of all their sisters to cry out in one accord. 

I’m with Sarah on this oneWe cannot afford to wait for permission to make change; women themselves must be the change. 

So, ladies—speak out. 

Preach. 

Prophecy. 

Stand with your sisters. 

Change the world. 

And if a man ever tries to use the Bible as a weapon against you to keep you from speaking the truth,  just throw on a head covering and tell him that you’re prophesying, just like the Bible says you can do. 

To those who will not accept us as preachers, we will have to become prophets. 

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Blessed are the entitled?

An Expert Pouterphoto © 2007 Sharon Mollerus | more info (via: Wylio)

*Reposted from December 8, 2010 

“Christmas survived the Roman Empire, 
I think it can handle the renaming of the Tulsa parade.”
  

- Jon Stewart (watch the video)

Ever witness a kid digress into complete meltdown mode after his parents refused to buy him that new video game?  

“But I want it! It’s mine! Give it to me!”  

Entitlement can get ugly, especially around Christmastime.

And the only thing more embarrassing than watching a little kid throw a fit is watching a grownup throw one.

 “If you don’t play religious music at your store, we’ll boycott it!” 

“We demand that manger scenes be placed in front of all government buildings!” 

“How dare you say ‘happy holidays’ to me? I want to speak with the manager!”

 “I want it! It’s mine! Give it to me!” 

I’m not sure when or why it happened, but in some circles, entitlement has been declared December's Christian virtue. Suddenly it’s not enough that Americans spend millions of dollars each year marking the birth of Jesus. Now we’ve got to have a “Merry Christmas” banner in front of every parade and an inflatable manger scene outside of every courthouse... or else we’ll make a big stink about it in the name of Jesus.  Having opened the gift of the incarnation—of God with us—we’ve peered inside and shrieked, “This is not enough!  Where are the accessories? We want more!” 

This is a strange way to honor Jesus, “who, being  in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…but made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” (Philippians 2:8) 

Jesus didn’t arrive with a parade. He arrived in a barn.

Jesus wasn’t embraced by the government. He was crucified by it. 

Jesus didn’t demand that his face be etched into coins or his cross be carried like a banner into war. He asked that those who follow him be willing to humble themselves to the point of death, to serve rather than be served, to give rather than receive. 

What a tragedy that history’s greatest act of humility is being marked by petty acts of entitlement and pride. 

Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I wonder if the best thing that could happen to this country is for Christ to be taken out of Christmas—for Advent to be made distinct from all the consumerism of the holidays and for the name of Christ to be invoked in the context of shocking forgiveness, radical hospitality, and logic-defying love.  The Incarnation survived the Roman Empire, not because it was common but because it was strange,  not because it was forced on people but because it captivated people. 

Let’s celebrate the holidays, of course, but let’s live the incarnation. Let’s advocate for the poor, the forgotten, the lonely, and the lost.  Let’s wage war against hunger and oppression and modern-day slavery.  

Let’s be the kind of people who get worked up on behalf of others rather than ourselves.

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An Open Letter to Scot McKnight

So y’all know I’m not a big fan of open letters. I’ve even written an open letter to the open letter, bidding it farewell. 

I don’t like open letters because, in the blogging world, they’re typically employed to issue one-way rants against people we don’t like, all while maintaining the appearance of a conversation.That’s not really my style, so I try to avoid reading and writing them.

But yesterday I got to thinking that, just because open letters are usually critical, doesn’t mean they always have to be.  I’d just spent two hours researching something that Scot McKnight managed to summarize succinctly in one sentence in The Blue Parakeet, and when I came upon that sentence, I thought to myself,  I should tell Scot how much I appreciate him. Hey, what if I wrote an open letter? 

So here is what I hope will be the start of a new trend here on the blog—an open letter of thanks:

Dear Scot McKnight, 

We’ve had a few casual exchanges in the past, and they’ve always been pleasant, but I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in properly thanking you for the ways you have enriched and strengthened my faith through the years.  

Yours was one of the first blogs I found back in 2007 when I started searching the blogosphere for others who might be asking the same questions about faith that I was asking. I found on your site a treasure chest of resources—new books to read, new blogs to check out, new perspectives to consider, new connections to make. Once, I left a comment that you liked, and you took the time to email me personally to say that it was a “brilliant perspective.” I printed it up, stuck it on my bulletin board, and called my husband at work to tell him that Scot McKnight thought I was brilliant. 

You inspired me to start a blog of my own, and once it finally got going, you linked to it a few times. My stats reflected the “Scot McKnight bump.” When I got a book deal, I took advantage of having your email address to ask a few questions about publishing, and you always responded quickly and graciously. 

I’ve returned to your books—especially The Jesus CreedThe Blue Parakeet, and The King Jesus Gospel—many times because they speak so well to the concerns of evangelicals, even disenfranchised, black-sheep evangelicals like me. You were the first to introduce me to Junia, the woman praised by Paul as an outstanding apostle in Romans 1, and the first to point me to N.T. Wright. You helped me better articulate a Christ-centered gospel and make peace with what I always saw as a tension between Jesus and Paul.

Your footnotes have cost me a lot of money, but they’ve led me to other books that have led me to other books that have led me to other books that have  helped me make sense of my faith.  I don’t always agree with you, but I always learn something from you, and for that I am so grateful.

Thank you for starting so many great online conversations. 

Thank you for endorsing my book. 

Thank you, especially, for being such an outspoken champion for women in church leadership. 

Thank you for writing books that I can recommend to my friends without seminary degrees. 

Thank you for always teaching with your students in mind. 

Thank you allowing me to be one of them. 

Next up I think I’ll write an open letter to Brian McLaren or maybe Catherine Hamlin or maybe Tina Fey or maybe the makers of Marie Callender’s razzleberry pie. Turns out, there are a lot of people I want to thank. 

What about you? To whom would you like to write an open letter of thanks?

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The abusive teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl hurt both women and children

Today you can catch our dear friend Elizabeth Esther on Anderson Cooper’s daytime show bravely confronting the abusive teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. (Check  your local listings for times.)  Elizabeth grew up in a cult-like religious environment in which these teachings were implemented, so it was quite an act of courage for her to face this man on TV. But she did so in hopes that speaking out will stop the abusive tactics that have already killed three children, and for that she is a true woman of valor.Eshet chayil! 

 Through their “No Greater Joy Ministries,” Michael and Debi Pearl teach a method of child discipline that centers around “breaking a child’s will.” The Pearls advocate using switches on babies and young as six months, and spanking older children with belts and plumbing tubes. Their book, To Train Up a Child has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and, under the guise of “biblical discipline,” encourages parents to beat their children into submission, withhold food, and hose them down outside when they soil themselves. 

Here’s a quote from to give you an idea of their approach: 

Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.

The Pearls’ teachings have been linked to the deaths of Sean Paddock, Lydia Schatz, and Hana Grace-Rose Williams. 

But it’s not just children who suffer from “No Greater Joys” ministries. When I was conducting research for “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” I read Debi Pearl’s popular book, Created to Be His Helpmeet…which I threw across the room a total of seven times. 

The writing is awful, the biblical exegesis deplorable, but what troubles me the most is that the book reads like a manual for developing abused wife syndrome. Citing New Testament passages that instruct wives to submit to their husbands, Pearl advocates a system in which godly wives live as complete subordinates to their husbands, with no “equal rights.” 

At one point, Pearl encourages a young mother whose husband routinely beat her and threatened to kill her with a kitchen knife to stop “blabbing about his sins” and win him back by showing him more respect

Sudden aggressive outbursts are part of what it means to be a man, according to Pearl. “The wisest way to handle the aggressive husband is by not taking personal offense,” she advises. “Avoid provoking him.” 

In an appendix at the end of the book, Michael Pearl weighs in and writes: 

“Has your husband reviled you and threatened you? You are exhorted to respond as Jesus did. When he was reviled and threatened, he suffered by committing himself to a higher judge who is righteous. You must commit yourself to the one who placed you under your husband’s command. Your husband will answer to God, and you must answer to God for how you respond to your husband, even when he causes you to suffer.Just as we are to obey government in every ordinance, and servants are to obey their masters, even the ones who are abusive and surly, ‘likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands’…You can freely call your husband ‘lord’ when you know that you are addressing the one who put him in charge and asked you to suffer at your husband’s hands just as our Lord suffered at the hands of unjust authorities…When you endure evil and railing without returning it, you receive a blessing, not just as a martyr, but as one who worships God.”  

It seems the Pearls believe that a wife should submit to her husband, even if it means her death…and presumably, the death of her children. 

Why bring this to your attention? Because the Pearls are inexplicably popular in certain Christian circles, and abuse in the name of God must be spoken against.

If your church is considering using books by the Pearls as part of its curriculum, please say something. If you see friends or family employing their tactics, confront them. This is not simply a matter of different parenting methods or relationship styles—like Sears vs. Ezzo, or cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers, or complementarianism vs. egalitarianism—it’s a matter of abuse. 

 There can be no more beatings, no more deaths…especially not in the name of Christ. 

Please, speak up on behalf of the defenseless and speak out against Michael and Debi Pearl. 

SIGN A PETITION TO GET "TO TRAIN UP A CHILD" OFF OF AMAZON

(And, if you think of it, shoot Elizabeth Esther a message of encouragement today. What she did was very brave.)

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