Taking a Principled Stand March 28, 2010Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs.
Tags: church of christ, gender discrimination, Lads to Leaders, Pharisaic ideas, principles, problems
A little over a year ago I wrote a blog entry about my problems with Lads to Leaders that you can read here. This evening it again reared its ugly head during a conversation with my seven year old. Here is how it went.
My oldest daughter tugged on my shirt sleeve and when I looked down I was greeted by her big blue eyes, full of questions and wonder.
“Yes, honey,” I said, “what’s up?”
“Daddy, umm,” she stammered, “I was just wondering why I don’t do Lads to Leaders.”
She had asked this question sometime in the past, maybe last year, and I had tried to explain to her my reasoning for not supporting the program, but being only seven years old, that explanation went in one ear and out the other.
“Well, honey, there are a few reasons why we don’t participate in the program. First of all, I don’t think they treat little girls very well.” At this point I went into some long soliloquy about gender discrimination in churches and how they, along with the Lads to Leaders program, have promulgated these false teachings over the years. I told her about how they were so wrapped up in their own “rightness” that they would not even let me watch her do anything at the competition.
“Honey,” I said, “Daddy is a man with strong principles. Do you know what that means?”
She shook her head so I continued.
“It means that there are some things I believe in very strongly, things that I can’t break.” I looked her square in the eyes to let her know just how serious this issue is to me. “Rachel, I can’t allow that to happen.”
I expect my children to be leaders in church and elsewhere, to stand up for injustice, to be at the forefront of the change in ideology that is sure to come in the ensuing years. I don’t want them to be held back by their gender or to accept a role of being meek and mild, sitting in the corner waiting for a man to explain the things they don’t understand. I want my daughters to be forceful, powerful voices as they become women. I want them to reach their full potential, whatever that may be. And, of course, those things will be greatly hampered by a program mired in the false teachings of 50 years ago.
“Do you understand, Rachel?”
“Yeah, I guess so…., but why can’t I just go and have fun?”
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “The answer is no, honey. Believe me, you’ll understand and thank me some day.”
Peer pressure stinks.
Anomaly Awareness April 6, 2009Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs.
Tags: boredom, church of christ, Lads to Leaders, service, worship
For the past three months many of us have been engaging in a battle of words on an earlier blog entry of mine, The Case Against Lads to Leaders, in which I took the organization to task for things that I perceived as shortcomings. At times the conversation has been straightforward and spirited, at times it has reeked of meanness (to those of you who called me a bad father), and at times we have resorted to hyperbole (no, I don’t literally believe that you are Pharisees), but the discussion has certainly been interesting and it has caused me to reflect a bit on the differences between people. Both groups in this discussion start a common place, but at some point we diverge from each other.
I think that the fundamental difference between myself and those who fervently support Lads to Leaders is in what we see as the most important aspect of our Christian walk.
Personally speaking, I have little use for worship service. My ADD-addled brain has trouble staying engaged during the hour or so that we spend gathered together weekly. Regardless a preacher’s talent level, I find my mind drifting off to other things. It is understandable that a preacher should water down deep theological and philosophical topics and not delve very far beneath the surface because that is sufficient for the vast majority of people, but I tend to find it lacking. I love the old hymns, but after singing them for nearly 32 years they mindlessly roll off the tongue with ease – and don’t even get me started on the “newer” songs that all sound as if they were written by a third grader who failed music class. To tell the truth, my favorite part of Sunday morning is the thirty minutes to an hour directly following the worship service when I get the opportunity to interact socially with the people I love.
To me, real worship is not necessarily found in buildings made with hands. It does not have to be in songs or ceremonies or endless platitudes. For me, true worship is found in service, in working to help others. I worship through my hands and sweat and aching muscles. I show my love for God through my love for others, in particular the poor, downtrodden, suffering masses.
The difference may come down to that between a heaven/hell based ethic concerned with one’s eternal soul and a here and now based ethic concerned with meeting the physical needs of others. I am much more concerned with improving the lives of others in this world than I am with preparing them for the next. I have no intention of “preaching the gospel” or “saving souls” or engaging in any other sort of buzzword-based Christianity. Instead I want people to see the love of God through my work and I want to leave this world a little better than I found it.
An Exercise in Blogging Narcissism #2 February 22, 2009Posted by Matt in An Exercise in Blogging Narcissism.
Tags: Best Picture, Bible Code, birthday, blog posts, Day care, gender, haircut, K-Love, Lads to Leaders, Obama, top ten, toy stores
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Top Words of Wisdom Posts from the Past Seven Days
10. Day Care – Day 1
9. Hillary Clinton and the Bible Code
8. A Downside to the Obama Presidency?
7. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
6. Birthday Wishes
5. My Best Pictures of 2008
4. Where Have All the Toy Stores Gone?
3. Hell On Earth
2. The Case Against Lads to Leaders
1. A Gender-Neutral Faith
Throwback Thursday February 19, 2009Posted by Matt in Throwback Thursday.
Tags: church, church of christ, gender roles, Lads to Leaders, spiritual gifts, women
1 comment so far
Earlier today I was scanning through some older blog entries and, given our recent discussion on gender roles in church, I thought this entry from 2007 may be pertinent.
Originally posted: November 28, 2007
Church and Gender Discrimination
A few days ago, Rachel – my inquisitive 5 year old daughter – asked me an innocent question that she had been pondering over for some time and I have struggled with in times past.
“Daddy,” she asked, “Why are only boys preachers?”
I agonize to myself at times over how to answer questions like this from my girls – mainly because my own personal views tend to not fall in line with the status quo in our church. I thought about it for a few moments, running through various scenarios in my mind, before I replied to her with my sincere belief in the knowledge that my answer would most likely be contradictory to what she will hear in the Church of Christ.
“Honey,” I said, “Some people think that God only wants that, but they are wrong. They are very wrong.”
Her question really made me think, though. What have we done to our young ladies? We teach about spiritual gifts and how God has endowed each of us with them, but then we stifle our women at every opportunity – telling them that they have no place in the spiritual edification of men.
This stems from our mode of Biblical intrepration which, in many churches, remains steeped in modernity – where everything (or at least everything that fits a certain agenda) is black or white or right or wrong, and it is time to move forward. We must not continue to only shuttle our women to teach children below the arbitrary age of accountability. We must not tell them that their spiritual gifts are only to be used if no men are within earshot. We must pull back the Pharisaical hand of oppression that we have put upon our ladies and let them know that they are important to God – that they do have a place and a purpose in His kingdom.
This is one of the main reasons why I refuse to have my daughters participate in our church’s Lads to Leaders program. I actually wrote to the head of the program in Alabama in order to inquire whether or not it was true that, if Rachel participated, I would not be allowed to watch her read a Bible verse out loud at the annual convention. I quickly received an answer dripping with condescension from the organization explaining to me in no uncertain terms that this was the case and it would never change. So, needless to say, my daughters will never be a part of this if I have anything to say about it.
The Case Against Lads to Leaders January 5, 2009Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs, church.
Tags: church of christ, competition, Lads to Leaders, Pharisees, role of women, worship
Disclaimer #1: Those of you who are not Church of Christ-ers may think the following blog entry pertains to an issue that seems quite alien in today’s world….and you would be right.
Disclaimer #2: This is in no way meant to be derogatory to anyone in our congregation. I dearly love all of our fellow members and would never seek to harm any of them. This is only my personal opinion and does not represent that of anyone else.
My Facebook status yesterday engendered a bit of a response among my fellow cyber-citizens. There were a few who posted on my wall, some who sent personal messages, and even some who posted rebuttals on their own pages, so, that being the case, I felt the need to again step out of the shadows and make my views known. For those of you in the dark, my status yesterday evening read: “Matt is continuing his silent protest of Lads to Leaders,” which I guess, for all intents and purposes, means that my protest is no longer silent. So, I wanted to take a moment to clarify my reasons for despising the program to the extent that I do. If you are reading this note on Facebook, I ask that you please comment on my blog so that I will not have to go back and forth between the two sites to answer.
As a teenager, I was a participant in the Bible Bowl portion of the Lads to Leaders program for two years at the church in which I grew up. At the time, I found the organization to be quite helpful in gaining more Bible knowledge and the annual convention to be an enjoyable experience, but little did I realize the sinister nature lurking beneath the surface, behind the Christian façade. Now, some fifteen years later, I look back and shudder, appalled at the very thought that this institution continues to pollute the minds of young people. Below there are three reasons for my aversion to the program that I have outlined. Feel free to correct or criticize as you see fit.
Issue #1: Competition
I realize that we live in a society where contests create kings and winning takes precedence above all, but the question must be asked whether or not this mindset has a place in our spiritual lives. At the annual convention, young people ranging in age from elementary school to upper teens gather together to compete in such activities as preaching and songleading, striving to best their peers and to earn the good graces of the ultimate judge of talent, God. The judging is subjective, with winners being chosen on the basis of personal preference and others sent home to wonder why their worship activity was not worthy. Young people are left clutching their worthless certificates of participation and asking tearfully, “Why?” Why is it that these individuals deem themselves the arbiters of what constitutes good worship? When the adoration of God becomes a competition, everyone loses.
Issue #2: Devaluing Females
As the father of two young girls, there are few issues closer to my heart than those affecting them and the obstacles that lay before them in life. Historically, the Church of Christ has been an incredibly unfriendly place for females who have gifts outside of cooking, cleaning, and birthing babies. In accordance with this wholly false view, Lads to leaders has strove with all of their organizational might to show young ladies that their spiritual gifts are of little value except to be quarantined away, shielding the eyes and ears of any masculine figures that may be nearby. Flexing their Pharasaic muscles, they turn away the prying eyes of all men, even the fathers of the young ladies who only wish to show their support. The role of women may be debatable to some, but that in no way excuses the actions of those who would bar a father from watching his five year old daughter read a Bible verse. There are few things more deplorable than the degradation of young children.
Issue #3: My Experience
As Rachel began her kindergarten year in 2007 and became eligible for the program at our congregation, I approached it with some sense of trepidation. I knew from my previous experiences and from that of my good friend Mark who clashed with them the prior year that Lads to Leaders, as an organization, held views that conflicted somewhat with my own, but I did not realize just how deep the fissure between us was. So, as a concerned father and fellow Christian, I wrote to them, earnestly asking for some clarification of their policy, specifically that regarding fathers and five year old girls reading a Bible verse. Their terse reply, dripping with condescension and revulsion over the fact that I would dare question them, was all that I needed to forever block them out as a possible activity for my children. In essence, their answer to my query was that this is how it is and if you don’t like it, we don’t want you. That was all the answer I needed.
So, that is why, for some six months of the year, my family has nothing to do with Sunday evening services at our congregation. Because our church is so small (150-200 on Sunday mornings), there is no reason to offer an alternative for children on Sunday evenings (a decision for which I do not fault them), so we choose to remain at home and enjoy each other’s company. This has worked for the past two years, but judging from the peer pressure that Rachel already receives, I can tell that it will soon become an issue that we will be forced to deal with. We will just continue to swim against the tide and work to raise our kids in the best way that we know how and to make things hospitable for all.