Gordon College’s Tightrope Between Theology and Diversity

Every religiously-affiliated college and university is discriminatory. The question is the degree to which the institution discriminates and how close those policies come to breaking policy with accrediting agencies and civil authorities. Right now Gordon College is navigating their niche in between these entities.

It is very difficult for a college to maintain its theological integrity when it places values on specific identities and behaviors while at the same time it seeks to expand it programs and ranking as an institution that is advancing potential careers of its students. It is easier for an institution to maintain its boundaries and grow when the social environment in which it sits is more conducive to its given worldview. Institutions like Liberty University or BYU are physically located in environments that are good matches with their policies and honor codes. Both are in very religious areas where the sponsoring denomination of the institution is in the majority of the religious adherents for the region. Internal policies will often have a much better match with civic policies.

Institutions like Gordon College have a different path to carve given that their own religious values may not be as well matched to the environment. This is where internal policy and external pressure find friction. Gordon College finds itself in an area that is less religious and politically liberal creating a disconnect between its worldview and that of the outlying communities. This is no more true than in Gordon College’s policy regarding homosexual behavior.

It is perfectly justified for the institution to have clear religious view on homosexual behavior as it is with many other institutions across the country. There is nothing inherently illegal in such policies as long as it is clear in all of the admission and enrollment literature. As with many evangelical institutions, especially those within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Gordon requires students and faculty to profess their Christian faith commitment. This commitment assumes behavioral standards which are binding. The very first of these includes sexual conduct and homosexuality.

A. Practices Governed by Scripture—The following behavioral expectations are binding on all members of the Gordon community.

Those words and actions which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including but not limited to blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice, will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus.

With this in mind, Gordon College is doing something different to address the needs of those in the LGBT community to feel safe at the college, even if the college does not affirm the lifestyles of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender students. The core of the college policy has to do with behavior itself. So the issue for Gordon College is how to be both affirming of its students and clear about its conduct policy in a way that does not outright reject students who may not feel they fit its understanding of what a committed Christian looks like.

(President Michael) Lindsay said in his email that the college has spent the last nine months discussing the issue of human sexuality. On Monday the college announced a series of initiatives, including more training for staff, surveys to address the well-being of students as it relates to sexuality and sexual identity, stronger anti-bullying policies, and the formation of a task force of students, faculty and staff.

Opening up the conversation like this is a new direction for an evangelical college. It might not look like much from an outsider especially from a secular or liberal perspective. However, with the mishandling of sexual abuse that is at the forefront of higher education and the fallout of Bob Jones University’s egregious coverup, this has the potential to be a positive direction for how to handle a religious community that will only be more diverse in its sexuality if Gordon College does not become more prohibitive of the students it accepts.

Jets for Jesus! (Or How Not to Help the Poor)

I have to hand it to Creflo Dollar. There are cases upon cases of preachers and televangelists who have manipulated desperate people by promised physical healing, debt relief, safety from the devil, and so on only to pocket the money for big houses and prostitutes. But Creflo Dollar is an honest preacher.

He just flat-out asked for $60 million for a new jet. Plus his name is Dollar.

He calls it “our” jet so that he can spread his gospel of wealth to unfortunate and desperate people all over the world only as a representative of Jesus and his own flock of the deluded. But I’ll give him that pronoun because his audacity is just awesome.

His current plane is 30 years old. Some flights were not as smooth as planned.

Dollar said that after those incidents, he “knew that it was time to begin to believe God for a new airplane.”

Hallelujah! The Lord spake thusly indeed. Glad you landed safely, minister Dollar.

I want to know when he hits that $60 million dollar mark. He could do a lot with that money instead of the G650. $60 million could:

That’s right, Creflo could literally transform huge segments of the population with that money in ways his preaching will never even come close to doing.

All he has to do is fly coach.

So rather than give your $300 to this guy, why not click on a link and give it to one of those groups. I’m sure they would be grateful for your contribution.

Then we can just let Floyd Mayweather keep the private jet.

Church: You Make it Impossible to Love You

The film 28 Days begins as uncomfortably as any film could. Sandra Bullock plays Gwen Cummings who after a night of drinking and sex arrives drunk and late to her sister Lily’s wedding. She proceeds to make a complete fool out of herself and destroys anyone’s chance at having a good day.

The line that always gets me is uttered early on by Lily. She looks Gwen in the eyes and says, “Gwen, you make it impossible to love you.”

It is impossible to love an addict. Addicts are the most selfish people on the face of the earth. Addicts have a special brand of narcissism that is deadly and out of control. It is so out of control that the addict is often the last to realize he or she has a problem and in many cases will refuse to acknowledge a problem all the way to the death-bed. I have known people who literally drank themselves to death still convinced that they did not have a problem. As the Big Book of AA says alcohol is “Cunning, baffling, powerful.”

Unfortunately addiction and all of its vicious symptoms of self-centeredness and blatant self-destructive behaviors are not limited to the addict alone. These are behaviors that all of humanity engages in to some degree. The Buddha was aware of this problem. In his teaching everything is suffering and everything is suffering because we can’t let go of anything even if every power of reason tells us that holding on will hurt us and others in the process. If our beliefs about God are challenged, if our property is in danger of getting wiped out or stolen, if we might lose a friend or look bad in front of someone else, or if we get caught with our hand in the cookie jar, our first reaction is to tighten our grip. The threat of losing something is far more powerful than the lure of getting it.

The Christian saints and mystics are very intimate with their discussion of the passions and how our desires latch us on to everything that is not God. It is this addictive behavior that only fuels our ignorance to the good things of the world. Following our passions not only pulls us from God, but pulls us from the people were are supposed to be. The more we refuse to let go of what makes us feel safe and what makes our identity feel solid the more we hurt ourselves and others. The one source of identity that we are to seek is the mystical union with God as God is, not as we insist God to be.

Detaching from the world as we understand it and checking ourselves against the often brutal fact that we are not the center of anyone’s universe undercuts everything we grow up believing about self-esteem and the rewards of the endless popularity contests of a sick Western society. The religious ascetics, mystics, and monks dumped all of this by traveling to caves and deserts to find God and liberation. Their discovery is that God is inside of us. The problem is that the noise and psychological pollution of the world are so strong we are clueless to that simple fact.

Not all of us will go to caves and deserts. So what do we need to do?

The foundation for our spiritual malady is repentance. Repentance comes with honesty. Honesty to any addict can come only when others hold a mirror up to us and tell us more about the truth of who we are. Those who tell us only what we want to hear are called enablers. Those who tell us what we need to hear in order to recover from our world sickness are friends. But if the truth doesn’t sting a little, it’s probably not true.

The church today is loaded with enablers. It is loaded with people so blinded in their own biases and opinions both of their selves and others, that admitting personal responsibility for wrong doing is nearly impossible. From all of the crap surrounding both Tony Jones and Mark Driscoll to all of their apologists; to the crazed behaviors of Bob Jones’ casual way of dismissing its own history of mishandling sexual abuse; or the untold millions of dollars pilfered off the desperate, sick, lonely, and elderly by the likes of Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton; to the bizarre meanderings of Pat Robertson or the sickening cover-ups of Catholic bishops to avoid condemnation for complicity in sexual abuse; the only apology we hear is the kind that is a self-defense rather than a contrite begging of forgiveness.

Worse, even when it seems like an act of forgiveness, it is turned with an amendment of self-defense. Such a dodge nullifies any attempt at repentance. Anything after “but” is indeed bullshit.

Admitting when we are wrong is healthy but somehow we too often have the false idea in our heads that it makes us weak and weakness is a bad thing. The truth is that the admission of wrongdoing and the act of repentance is an act of admitting we are already weak. Humans are fragile creatures. The lie is the persistent bull-headed belief that we must be strong individuals in the face of everything that comes against us. That’s exactly what hurts us.

Even this can go too far into the territory of self-pity. This is also horribly exhausting. This is where we are so caught up in feeling lousy about ourselves that we still refuse to do anything to change. We beg people to look at how pathetic we are rather than doing something different to be less pathetic. This is no longer repentance, it is despondence. Progressives get this way because the expectation of moral purity might be too high. I am not talking about purity, I am talking about honesty.

When a group of people vacillate between bull-headed denial and self-defense on the one hand, and despondence and self-pity on the other, I don’t know about you, but I am done with that group. The only reason I have spent time as a religious person and with religious people in the past is because there is a nourishment that take place where somehow I feel that everything will be ok even when the evidence is to the contrary. Faith and hope merge in a beautiful dance. That’s when religion is at its best.

But the church is not at it’s best.

It’s hard to fill a bucket if people are pricking holes in it. The church is emptying out faster than anyone can fill it and right now it is becoming more and more impossible to love. It is a zero-sum arena of people fighting for self-interest and in that environment, it is not sustainable.

Do your part. Repent of something. Make amends with someone you have wronged and expect nothing in return. Lord knows we have enough people out there who simply refuse to do so.

Do the Rich Get to Heaven? Dave Ramsey Says Yes.

“When you start putting limits on the power of the cross and limits on the power of grace that is extended to us from the Father through the son, based on someone’s wealth, then that’s Gnosticism – the worship of spirit versus materialism versus the worship orthodoxy,” Ramsey said. “So what that means is that someone just doesn’t understand the Bible.”

We might be very quick to pick out where Dave Ramsey is just wrong here. He doesn’t understand what gnosticism really is, neither is he clear about materialism or orthodoxy (big “O” or small “o” – your choice). But I’m not posting this to complain about how wrong he is.

I’m actually defending him a little. He is right. There is nothing in any of what Jesus says that tells us wealthy people can’t “go to heaven.” If we want to read about camels and rich men that way, we are as guilty as he of reading agendas into the bible. We do know that it is “hard” for the wealthy to find God.

Ramsey tries to do too much. He swings his “defense” with the bible too far and stumbles.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matt. 19:23-24

The point of the passage isn’t really wealth. Wealth is a symptom, not a cause.

When we are rich it is harder to give up all of our comforts for the purpose of resisting temptation and seeking holiness by following the commandments. Jesus’ point is always rather clear – wealth is dangerous because it can easily become an idol to pull us away from God. Living without idols is hard and when our idols give us comfort and satisfaction in the world we live right now, it is all that more difficult to wake up and let it all go. Living without that false comfort and hope is what the saints call “dispassion.”

As with so many other places in the bible, idolatry is the real problem. Material wealth is but one idol among many. Gratification in any material comfort is dangerous – delayed or instant. The good news is that Jesus also consistently presents clear behaviors to counteract idolatry vis-à-vis love. This is the kind of love that asks us to sell everything we have if we need to in order to follow Jesus (Matt. 19:21).

It’s a good test. Make a list of any material attachment you have and be honest: Are you willing to give that away in order to meet God? If not, you may just find a source or two for feeling spiritually “dry” or “inadequate.” These are spiritual wounds. When the rich young man sees his own wounds, rather than take the right medicine for healing, he responds with sadness. He wasn’t mourning his condition, but began to wallow in self-pity. These little wounds in spiritual growth are where we can put together plans of action to work with God to heal them. That’s called working out your salvation.

The real heresy with being rich is when love is not put in the very same breath as wealth.

For without love, wealth is nothing.

So my little question to Dave Ramsey is an old one: Dave are you willing to sell all of this and give to the poor?

SOURCE: http://coolsprings.com

Dave Ramsey’s Mansion in Tennessee
SOURCE: http://coolsprings.com