Thursday, April 24, 2008


"We interrupt this series for a word from..." [Which I'm prone to do often.]

In the past, when too long a time would transpire between postings that are my creation, I would put up someones' that has been a particular blessing to me. I remember one from Jon Zens and another from John Reisinger that many of you commented about enjoying.

Well, I'm not ready, having just returned from several days of ministry at Southside Baptist Church in Huntsville Alabama, to put up my next in the series of posts I'm doing. So, enjoy someone else's like I did.

This time from a young mother in Alaska who has written a rather honest and clear statement about the struggles that often occur when there are disagreements over some theological issues. [Other issues also for that matter.] Her name is Molly Aley and her blog is .. Read what she says on this post, especially her honest personal evaluation and the conclusions to which she comes. I'm putting it up with her permission. Enjoy.

From Molly Aley..

"I am a part of an email group made up of mothers of many young children and have been for many years. It's a Christian group and, for the most part, fairly conservative--at least, the vocal ones are. Since I have five young children, a resource like this group can be nice, even though five kids is a fairly small family there. Usually, life with my "small" family keeps me too busy to even bother to read through the email digest, but every so often I will, and, once in a while, I will write a post to send in.

Recently, this group was talking about how adult children, especially daughters, are Biblically commanded to stay home until and/or if they become married. Mothers were being encouraged to train their daughters that way, etc, and to beware the dangerous world of feminism.

So I wrote a post of polite dissent, using many passages of Scripture to explain my position and mentioning some of the many women in Scripture who did not "home-keep," such as the women who travelled with Jesus, or Phoebe, who Paul had deliver the letter to the Romans. Many women emailed me to tell me thank you, to let me know that the group has many who are not ultra-conservative and that it's nice to hear dissenting voices.

But one woman emailed me more than a few times, letting me know, in that lovely "righteous anger" that we Christians can use so well, that because I disagreed with her position, I was obviously not a student of God's Word, was relativistic, my words were poisonous and she wouldn't read them (though she must have read enough to let me know how horrifically wrong I was), and that I obviously didn't believe Scripture at all. She closed her final letters, of course, by letting me know she'd be praying for me (you know, that warm "Christian" way of sticking a knife in your rib) and, well, that was that.

What bothered me was the complete lack of logic employed in her responses. She couldn't hear anything I said---and, for that matter, didn't appear to be trying to. She'd formed her interpretational grid and it was water-tight. Not only was it infallible, but it had to be protected: it was dangerous to even listen to any other arguments. She wrote claiming she wanted conversation and asking me to answer a few questions, but it turned out conversation was the last thing we had. People can't have a conversation when one side has their fingers in their ears and then, despite the fact that they openly tell you they will not listen to the answers you gave to their questions, proceed to tell you exactly what you think and why, resorting to personal jabs while doing so.Urgh.

It got me thinking about how dumb we all can be. I was on the receiving end of a wildly whacking combatant (though I didn't even want a fight!), and yet I can think of many times when I did the exact same thing. Did it for God, no less! That was back when my theology was something I had to protect against any dissenting opinions, back when my beliefs about gender were part and parcel with the Gospel, back when I thought our normal/resting position was to be ready to fight instead of ready to embrace.

Good grief. I hope I have matured and I hope I will continue to do so (by the sheer grace of our holy God). I admit, I had the urge to take a stick and whop this particular writer a few times. She said some vicious things about my heart, making huge assumptions about what I must be like all because I did not agree with her. She employed no reasoning skills whatsoever. When it came to listening skills, it was like talking to a stump. And she was so mean! I, at least, wanted her to know how wrong she was for doing that.

But why? Because I care about what she thinks about me? I'd love to pretend like I was hurt and wounded but, uh, no. I don't even know this woman. What do I care what she thinks? Do you want to know why I wanted her to know she was wrong in her approach? Mainly because I want to have the last word. I want to end the little flurry with the feeling of having thrown the last knife. Which means I'm no different from the attacker. Whether she was right or wrong, she violated what it means to walk in the Spirit by the way she treated me. And I did the exact same back to her.

So what is more important---to be "right" in intellectual belief, or to live rightly? When Jesus was dividing the sheep and the goats, He seemed to think that those who "got" the Gospel---those who showed it by serving the underdog's of the world---were the ones who knew Him, not the ones who knew about Him. Ouch. Knowing about Him (and ramming that down dissenters throats) is a heck of a lot easier.

Sometimes things that the complementarian/patriarchy camp says make my stomach lurch. This isn't their fault: it's just where I'm at. I've had a really bad experience living in the C world. I came out with something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder, if that makes any sense. My health is just now pulling itself back together, slowly, in pieces.

Sometimes I read a C statement and I want to fire out comments or posts---and do---from that place of adrenalin-fueled reactionary instinct, like a missile gun seeing an enemy and shooting accordingly.

But I am a Christian. Far higher than gender roles (or lack thereof) is the "role" given to all followers of Christ: we are called to walk by the Spirit, to live by the Spirit, to be taught by the Spirit. Like the womb of a fertile woman, I am designed to bear the Spirit's fruit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Self-control. There is no law against such as these, because the world cannot ever have enough of such things.

But those things go against most of my natural inclinations. They must be born in me through Him, because this branch will naturally wither up on it's own. Far higher than the law of my warring members, which want to stab and thrust and parry (or run and hide, or scoff and criticize, etc), is the Law of God, the Law that says Love sums up the law.

I must give the benefit of the doubt to those I am speaking with: that they love God as much as I do, that they have the right to interpret Scripture differently than I do, and that calling them names or assuming evil motives on their interpretational choices is sheer folly on my part. And sometimes, in order to help me do that, I must remember what it feels like to not be heard, to have assumptions made about my heart all because I disagree, to be put into a box and sealed up. It doesn't feel good. It's not what we were born to be. It's not what I was born to do. Though I do it far too often.

Conversation is only conversation in so far as two people are actually taking the time to listen to each other. I know that I could stand to do a much better job of that.

From me.[Paul]

Molly, Mary and I know that woman who sent you the E-mail. I was her pastor several times. In fact, if I remember correctly, she moved her membership to every church we ever pastored. :) Good words for us all.

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...

You spent SEVERAL DAYS about 90 minutes from my house and you didn't SAY SOMETHING?

Shame on you!!!

Aussie John said...


I've got to let my Aussie "language" show:

For crying out loud mate! What are you doing letting a woman "minister" to all and sundry? You're up the creek now!

Seriously though! Thanks you and her for her words. One can only feel sorry and concerned for the woman of whom Molly wrote. How sad and insecure she is and unable to display the great grace of Christ which she claims to bear.

Paul Burleson said...


Fer cryin out loud. I had no idea we were that close. Sorry about that. I would have loved another breakfast time where you and I solve all of everyone's problems. Of course last time we both agreed 'no one was listening.' :)


I've never even thought of going 'down under.' But you have made me start thinking what a pleasure that would be. "Quigly down under" with Tom Selick is my favorite film of all time.

molly said...

Thanks for the kind words, Paul. Funny how that woman was at your old church, because I'm pretty sure we had her (and her brothers) at our old feelowship...



Paul Burleson said...


You know...since she obviously thought she was infallible in her interpretation of scripture, maybe she was omnipresent too. :)

Seriously, I REALLY liked the part where you took responsibility for your own struggle with things. That spoke to me as much or more than anything else. I've always had the problem of wherever "I" go there "I" am. I've found, as you well said, that is my problem.

Bryan Riley said...

Paul, I love it that you have discovered Molly's blog. I saw where you recently commented there. She's a great writer and very honest with her thoughts and feelings.