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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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