There are no words strong enough to adequately explain quite how horrendous the scope of this evil. And make no mistake, this is indeed evil. When I read or hear people describe our own nation’s flaws and faults, or critique our government for invading Iraq (a choice I did NOT support) I wonder if they have any notion of how truly exceptional the United States is.
It is not that we don’t have flaws.
It is not we have always done the right thing.
We have not.
But anything we’ve done at Guantanamo pales in comparison to this.
Giving a testimony in church is one of the most amazing and wonderful expressions of participatory worship you might imagine. Each person that stands to testify gives a song, an inspiring story, shares a prayer request, exhorts the congregation, unburdens themselves from the struggles of the week and allows the whole community of God’s people to laugh with them, cry with them, rejoice with them and yes, sometimes even roll their eyes at them.
one testimony service in the past had been billed, at least to the worship leaders, as a “Spirit-Filled Free-for-All.” A few songs were chosen to start things up, and then … whatever. There is something exciting and spontaneous and … all right, authentic about that. I get it. I even like it. But yikes! The Spirit leads us into freedom, but is it freedom for “all”? Freedom to do anything? Does the Spirit work only in the direction of liberation from perceived stricture and structure? Surely this is appealing—especially to young people. But doesn’t the Holy Spirit also work, as in Genesis 1, in the direction of creating order from chaos? Finding true freedom only in slavery to Christ? How do we balance these two?
I find their questions humorous, but understandable coming from their perspective. What if the spirit gets out of control? But it was the next section that made me laugh:
How do we, as a worship team, as musicians, prepare for such a service? Do we choose no songs at all ahead of time? Do we rehearse anything? Do we wait and hope for students to suggest songs that we know? Do we pray for the Spirit to move us in the moment, and move us to play the same song in the same key? What if the Spirit tells us, like that old joke has it, “Oops. You should done more planning.”
And what happens if someone’s testimony turns inappropriate? We can’t control what folks will and won’t say…
Well now that’s just part of the fun of a testimony service. They could perhaps learn from these folks about how to manage a testimony service:
It may be perhaps difficult to understand what’s being said, but the scene in that church is pointedly NOT chaos, and there are rules of engagement that differ a bit from one church to another, but some which are commonly understood. Testimony service has a rhythm and flow all its own. And musicians are just along for the ride.
Allow me to tell you some of these rules:
1) The testimony leader (usually an up and coming fiery preacher, or a missionary, or someone who can keep the crowd going) conducts the service. If there aren’t a lot of people waiting to testify, you can just stand up and start, but if two or three stand up at a time, the testimony leader tells who can go first.
2) The testimony will also shut down the testimony if it goes too long or veers off into “crazy.” They usually do this by at first saying things like, “Amen, Amen. Praise God sister” in a calming voice. They may also interrupt at what seems to be a pause in the testimony and make some remarks before moving on to the next person. If its really bad they will collaborate with the organist to start a praise song to shut you down.
3) The testimony leader may take over your singing of a song if the singing is really bad
4) Your testimony should begin with giving honor to God in some way, acknowledging the leaders of the congregation and the pastor (whether present or absent) and should end with some sort of, “You all pray for me”
5) It is perfectable permissible to lead out in a song during testimony service, especially if you know the words and can sing. but even if you don’t people will try to help you out.
6) Your testimony cannot take longer than about 3 minutes unless it is REALLY good and folks get to dancing and shouting from it. If folks start doing this, then you are not permitted to come back at the end of the shouting session to resume your testimony unless YOU were the one dancing, and then only to give a closing.
I will close with a typical testimony that I might have heard growing up in the Universal Christian Holiness Church (yes, I know our church was the one holy catholic church)
“Praise the Lord saints! Praise the Lord saints! To the pastor, pulpit guest, deacons, missionaries, saints and friends. Truly we give honor to God today for all that he has been to us. Down through the years, God has been good to me. Earlier this week I was thinking back on some times when I thought I wasn’t gonna make it. Thought I was gonna lose my mind. But God! But God! Even this week, he keeps on blessing me, in spite of all the things I’ve done. And I thank him for it. He’s been better than good. You know I’ve been so worried lately; so many people being laid off, and the economy is down. But God continues to provide for me and my family. I think about all the young people running the streets and getting into trouble, and then just this week some of my nephews stopped by the house, and they aren’t doing all that they should be doing, but God has kept them from dangers seen and unseen. They could be out here in the streets, but God continues to have mercy. He’s been so good, I just can’t tell it all. Pray for me saints, as I’m traveling next week that God would give me traveling mercies. And pray that the Lord would help me to hold on until the end. Y’all pray my strength in the Lord.”
In the dream, I and Eugene are walking through what appears to be conference center of some kind, but which really looks like a student center on a college campus. As we walk I am explaining to him something about this “event” that we are apparently both a part of and which I am evidently in charge of coordinating. While walking through we pass by a number of rooms in which various student gospel choirs are preparing themselves for a concert. We also passed by one of my current student who I recognized only from the back of his head, as he was busy studying. Then (this is really weird) we passed by Wayne Park, who I have also never met, but who is sitting with his laptop typing something. Eugene greets him, and I am surprised they know each other, but say nothing as I remember that they do indeed know one another. All the time we’re walking, I keep thinking to myself, “Eugene is a lot shorter than I thought he would be,” and “wow, his hair is really interesting.”
We finally arrive at “the room” where Eugene’s presentation is to take place. It is a very nice room set up amphitheater style with large red very modern sofa type seating arranged in a semi-circle. Eugene comments that it is just like his church, but I am confused because I thought his church met in some other kind of space, but again I say nothing. Of course I’ve never seen his church either. He leaves the room to go get some “equipment,” and I again wonder why he isn’t taller than I thought he would be. My last thought before waking? I really like this room.
Well this dream is a dream deferred no longer as I had the opportunity (nay only a few short moments ago) to actually meet Eugene Cho while he was at a conference in Knoxville. Some of the interesting similarities:
– the conference he was attending was on a college campus
– the conference was in a city in my “territory” (i.e. I could be thought of as “hosting” him)
– Eugene is shorter than I thought he would be (which is weird because I had no idea of his height whatsoever)
– his hair is really interesting
– we ate a restaurant with red chairs
Perhaps I’m a prophet!!!
Anyway… it was great fun meeting Eugene in person. We had some good conversation simply getting to know one another in person as opposed to through the blogosphere and I left the conversation feeling a bit sharpened in my own journey. We discussed some people we know in common, and reflected a bit on the temptations of valuing the appearance of wisdom (or spirituality or depth) over actually being wise. I hope to soon travel to the west coast to take him up on his offer of coffee.
It seems perhaps an odd or needlessly provocative title with an exceedingly obvious answer. It is common knowledge after all that men are in better position overall than women in the world. Conventional wisdom in the enlightened evangelical circles in which I run likewise confirms that men have misinterpreted and misapplied scripture, supporting patriarchal narratives that deny women their god-given freedom. Secular sources tell us that women are subject to abuse at the hands of their “intimate partners” at shockingly high rates, that poverty afflicts women much more than men, and that educational systems discourage female educational achievement. The world is run by oppressive patriarchs and the church is its chief defender.
Maybe all this is true. It doesn’t change my question. And it doesn’t make this a cynical exercise or a step forward in reestablishing the rapidly collapsing patriarchal system.
Does God like Girls better than Boys?
It may surprise you, but this is not a new question for me. It is one I have pondered since I was a child growing up in church. Certainly I heard that the man was to be the head of the house, but that didn’t seem to hold any particular privilege to me. In fact it seemed rather punitive. When I grew up I could expect to have the responsibility of working hard to support my wife and children, make hard decisions, fix stuff when it broke, make sure no bad guys got in the house, beat them up if they did, make sure my wife had the clothes and miscellaneous fru fru that women always seemed interested in, and at some point die and leave an inheritance for her.
In exchange my wife would cook, clean, shop and watch soap operas unless something came up that prevented her from doing these things (like a sale) in which case she would just shop. I exaggerate of course, my mother did much more than that, and I was a kid so how accurate could my perspective be? In comparison to the lengthy command to husbands in Eph 3, the admonition to submit seemed like a really good deal.
More seriously though, I did wonder as a child if God liked girls better than boys. After all, there were more women than men in church. The main sins preached against seemed to be things that men do much more than women and the things that women struggled with seemed always to be related to something a man did to her. Being a good Christian seemed much more compatible with being a little girl than being a little boy. I was quite sure that Jesus wouldn’t run in church, or use chewing gum to glue the pages of the church bulletin together; things it seemed the boys wanted to do much more often than the girls. Jesus, as presented in the church, was the ideal man, which wasn’t a problem except following Jesus seemed the be the same as acting like the little white kids on tv at best, or acting like a girl at worst, either of which were pretty sure ways to have your masculinity called into question, or at least to get punched in lip and called a punk.
And you couldn’t retaliate. You were supposed to turn the other cheek.
Being a man seems to be fraught with the judgment of God. Am I being silly? Consider this:
▲On average, women outlive men in developed countries by five or more years;
▲Men have higher death rates for all fifteen of the leading causes of death (except Alzheimer’s);
▲Men are approximately 50% of the workforce but account for 93% of job related deaths;
▲Males between 20 and 24 have a seven times greater rate of suicide than their female counterparts, and overall, men commit suicide at rates three to four times greater than women;
▲Innocent males are between 1.5 to 2 times more likely than females to be assaulted;
▲Government funding for breast cancer research outpaces funding for prostate cancer research by nearly two to one even though prostate cancer and breast cancer have roughly the same caseload;
▲Death among young men due to testicular cancer in the 15-34 age group outpaces the number of deaths from breast cancer among women in the same age group, but good luck trying to remember the last time a commercial entity raised awareness about testicular cancer;
▲Victims of war — both combatants and, yes, non-combatants — are more likely to be male;
▲Responsible young men are charged considerably more for auto insurance than irresponsible young women, simply because they were born male;
▲A woman who commits the same crime as a man will receive, on average, only a fraction of the sentence; and
▲During FY 2007, 158,935 names and addresses of suspected violators of the duty to register with the Selective Service System were provided to the Department of Justice for possible investigation and prosecution for their failure to register, carrying a penalty up to five years in prison — every one of the violators was male — because young women are exempt from even registering.
As an adult and In the secular realm, men generally are held responsible for patriarchal oppression, and we all know that poverty will be eliminated by educating little girls and empowering women. Men on television are nearly always presented as buffoons needing to be taught their lesson by smart women and savvy children. Men die at younger ages than women, have generally poorer health, and are much more likely to be the victim of a violent crime or to go to prison. Boys are diagnosed much more frequently with learning disabilities, or punished for bad conduct in school and far less likely to graduate. Women are outpacing men in college graduation rates in nearly every field except science and mathematics, and that they do not excel there is likewise the fault of men. In fact men are pretty much responsible for everything bad in the world from nuclear proliferation to athletes’ foot, and women… well, women are rarely ever described as being responsible for anything bad in the world at all.
I don’t have very many readers to this blog, and likely have far fewer now that I’ve neglected to update in nearly 3 months (or is it 4?), but those few readers ought to know that I have not been entirely unaware or absent from blogdom.
Indeed, as St. Jude would say, I have had every intention of writing, but have often found myself at odds with myself over the content that I want to communicate. It is rather difficult at times for me to put into words the concerns that I have had and to clearly lay out some of the recent thoughts I have had about various topics political, theological, ecclesiological, and otherwise. So… just as a way of whetting (or perhaps dampening) the appetite, here are a few things I’m thinking of writing on: