Shekinah Glory


Blackballed
August 12, 2011, 4:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It was a no brainer for a struggling Moody Bible Institute student believing they were answering God’s greatest calling to be a missionary and save unfortunate foreign souls. When the required summer mission internship rolled around I immediately looked for the cheapest option. My eyes passed by Africa and skipped Latin American falling directly upon the heavenly word Maui. At half the price of the other mission trips Maui offered beach, sun and unsaved souls at a bargain basement price. So, I ran to sign up for it as soon as possible. Surprisingly it seemed that there were other poor people like me and soon the team was filled with three men and three women. The mission that we would be working with was unfamiliar to me. All I knew was that Berean Missions Inc. was overseen by the head of the Mission Department at Moody. That was enough to sufficiently scare me.

As we readied for our summer trip there was little preparation needed to circumnavigate the globe to minister in one of the United State’s islands. I packed a journal, summer cloths and my well beaten bible. I had high expectations of a fun summer.

It was the first two weeks that let me in on a little secret. I had a different viewpoint of the world surrounding me than these missionaries possessed. We held two weeks of camps with the interns serving as free camp counselors. While I looked upon these as children it was clear that they were all prospective converts. What was more disturbing to me was the way that the women were treated. The head pastor was unsuccessful at presenting his disdain for the assertiveness of these three creative and talented women. When he didn’t outright ignore their suggestions he was openly hostile. Letting them know that they should assume their servile role and be silent.

Although I had been raised in a fundamentalist home I was surrounded by strong pioneer women from Nebraska. Many of whom took leadership without the recognition or celebration of their contribution. I knew that my tendency toward equality was here being challenged and during one of our staff meetings two of us men stood up with the women. We told the pastor that he needed show them more respect.

As the weeks went on this was not the only incident of misogyny, but there were certainly other troubling beliefs to keep me occupied. I was gobsmacked by the notion that these missionaries needed a gated compound in Maui. It was like they needed protection from the outside world.

One incident in particular sealed my fate with fundamentalism/evangelicalism. We had spent days going door to door and inviting people to a Bible study being held by the church’s pastor on the compound. I am pretty good at evangelism and was hopeful to get a good showing. There were new people on the night of the study. It was in the midst of that study that I became filled with regret for every single person whom I had invited. Billed as a Bible study it really was more of a defense of End Times dispensationalism. I had heard the rap all my life, but one particular part of it shook my faith to its core.

According to fundamentalist/evangelicals there are between 5 and 7 historical ages where God makes covenants with Man and each epoch is characterized by the failure of sinful humans to keep the covenant. I knew from my many studies of dispensationalism that we were in the Church age and when that failed we would be raptured. What shocked me was when someone asked about Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. The pastor, without hesitation, proclaimed that the Sermon on the Mount was for a different age and was not applicable to the church. Then he showed the section in one of Dallas Theological Seminary’s foremost experts on dispensationalism saying exactly the same thing.

I was stunned. Up until that point I had been a pretty good literalist, but this caused me to pause. How could this be. It was too central of a text to be discounted so easily out of hand. It was at that moment that I rejected dispensationalism and found that in so doing I was turning my back on the Fundamentalist/evangelical ideology that is so pervasive in the church today.

Still, in the midst of all this I did my child evangelism, at which I seemed to particularly gifted. I also became very close to the main missionary who would be doing my final evaluation. I deeply respected his faith, commitment and his love of the people he worked with. I cooked, drove the van, painted missionary housing and continued to to my work unhindered by my new personal revelations.

The biggest shock was to follow me back to Chicago. Each of us were required to “debrief” with the head of the International Ministries Department at Moody upon our return. Soon I was summoned to the department head’s office. Friendly small talk was soon moved into a discussion of my summer. During this time he revealed that I had received the highest honor from the missionaries for my summer service and that I should be extremely proud. I was, I had rarely received any honors in life.

Yet, this conversation was starting to move in a darker direction. He wanted to know what had happened with the women on my team that summer. I told him frankly that we had to stand with some of the women when they were being mistreated by the head of the camp. This deeply disturbed him. His discontent was not with the missionaries misconduct, but in the fact that I seemed to be the ringleader of trouble making. He abruptly told me that even though I had received the highest rating he was going to include a note in my permanent files that I seemed to have a deep trouble with authority. The only response I could think to say was, “I believe that would be accurate.”

Leaving the office I realized the unalterable fact that I had now been black balled from becoming a missionary with any organization affiliated with Moody Bible Institute because I stood with women who were being mistreated. In that instant I learned that there are consequences for standing up for what you think is right.

I think that it is time for some of our “big named”, white, heterosexual and male key note speakers to take some stands toward the injustices in their midst. They should no longer participate in conferences of groups that say they believe in equality, but do not share equal billing. Even worse we all know that there is a gross inequality in pay and exposure amongst speakers of different sexes.

I get asked all the time why I make a big deal every time these neo-evangelical, soularizing, emerging, outlawish, the Nines and other groups do not show parity with the women, lgbtq and ethnic minorities already in their midst. Or even worse when they invite destructive elements who verbally abuse and attack the underrepresented. It is because I have the least to lose. They will never ask someone like me to headline one of their events. I am not yet an author hawking a book or trying to funnel ex-evangelicals into my new movement. This is not the case for women I know who have been black balled and verbally attacked for speaking out. Then there is the naive meritocracy that if they really wanted to be involved they would step forward and speak. I also do it because it works. Shaming some of these organizations has opened up opportunities for underrepresented groups during ensuing years. Finally, I am willing to be blackballed myself for what I think is right. It is time for us to quit trumpeting a false sense of unity and love at the expense of justice. These three things work hand in hand, not at the expense of each other. It is my hope that these emerging neo-evangelical groups would begin to grow up in their faith sufficiently so that they can admit their sins of exclusion.

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14 Comments so far
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On behalf of women, thank you.

Comment by candivernon

I’m sure they don’t need my help to kick ass 😉

Comment by pastorofdisaster

THank you for this post. Brian.

Comment by ryan [@rk_p]

Brian, you wrote so well about the feeling of arriving at a theological and very essential crossroad (which one often doesn’t see coming) and then knowing deep within your heart you have to step off the current path at that next juncture in order to preserve what you know and believe about God. It is a sad and scary place to find one’s self but with courage and a discerning spirit, we find our way. Well written!

Comment by Kitty

Thank you.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

Yes! This was a very timely read – as I have just returned from a meeting today with some regional leaders within the denomination I belong to – and felt as though I was seen as a trouble maker – just for making one little comment about the use of the word ‘wives’ in an email – implying that males only can be leaders – (all leaders invited – along with their wives) – I know it was only a very small thing – and I was perhaps being a little pedantic – but it had bothered both myself and my husband. Not being a particularly confrontational person I would have preferred to keep quiet – but I felt I should politely mention it – and as I did – I could all but see their eyes rolling and the ‘here we go – another feminist trouble maker going on about stuff’ thoughts going around in their head. I don’t want to cause trouble, but if we all keep quiet – nothing will ever change.

Jo

Comment by Jo Royal

Thank you. Sorry about your experience.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

Great work man, great work. Thank you for challenging me to, as my coal miner friend would say, “be who I say I am”.

Would you mind if I reposted this on my and Heidi’s blog?

Comment by ggbolt16

Thank you. Feel free to use it liberally.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

Great stuff brother thank you

John

Comment by Rev3j

Wow.

What you said about the Sermon on the Mount seems to speak to that thing I’ve been unable to understand in the actions of some politicians who say they are trying to preserve a “Christian nation” – no wonder that the very things Jesus preaches in that seminal sermon don’t seem to come out in policies toward the poor, needy, downtrodden.

Thank you for sharing this experience.

Comment by Kimberley Debus

Praise God and your desire to be faithful to who Christ is, not what others would want to make Christ and the Church for their own benefit.

Comment by Kevin Woosley

Kevin! So good to hear from another MBI alumni 😉

Comment by pastorofdisaster

may I offer this as part of the conversation, “Some of my friends are women–pastors!” at
http://naminghisgrace.blogspot.com/2009/07/some-of-my-friends-are-women-pastors.html

Also it is not well known, but I discovered when doing my MA in History that Moody, in his time, encouraged some women preachers.

Comment by Viola Larson




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