Note for Hot Topics – Christian Nationalism

These are notes that may be of interest to those who have heard my message on Christian Nationalism, which I identify as a heresy.

For a brief introduction to the concepts and problems of Christian Nationalism, I refer those interested to an article by Paul D. Miller at the Christianity Today website. Miller provides a good introduction to Christian Nationalism in the 21st century from a sound Christian perspective.

I mentioned an article by Brian Zahnd that I read while preparing this message. It is entitled Thinking Tikkun Olam in Istanbul. I’ve saved in my Evernote files a classic quote from this meditation: the means are the end in the process of becoming. Ponder that for a while!

I would also recommend Zahnd’s book Postcards from Babylon: The Church In American Exile. He also recently made a video with the same title that includes interviews and comments from various Christian scholars. You can see a trailer here, or purchase the full version here. This video is also available to stream online from Amazon, from Google Play, and from iTunes – and even from Vudu! The lowest rental fee I saw recently was $2.99.

The Holy Post recently did a podcast episode that features Christian Nationalism that may be of interest to some. This podcast considers the historic roots of Christian Nationalism, which are quite, er… disheartening?

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Notes for Hot Topics – Sex and Gender

These are notes that may be of interest to those who have heard my message for June 4, 2023 in the hot topics series. In this message I address the topics of biological sex, gender identity, and sexuality. I referred to several resources in the message and will link to them here.

I have read, referred to, and been influences by several works by Mark Yarhouse in this portion of the Hot Topics series. The books I found helpful include Homosexuality and the Christian and Emerging Gender Identities which Yarhouse co-wrote with Julia Sadusky. Yarhouse leads the Wheaton College Sexual and Gender Identity Institute which provides other resources that may prove useful.

I showed a picture of Franklin Roosevelt as a young boy to illustrate changing notions of femininity and masculinity. There is a Smithsonian Magazine article entitled When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? It discusses notions of masculinity and femininity across the generations.

The study of how people categorized the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5.22-23 is on page 32 of the book My Brother’s Keeper: What the Social Sciences Do (and Don’t) Tell Us About Masculinity by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. I read about it in Debra Hirsh’s book Redeeming Sex.

I highly recommend several talks by Sarah Williams, Research Professor of Church History at Regent College. These include:

  • Sex in the Post Modern Story – I have linked to Sarah Williams’ three-part talks at Corban University in the past. They are really terrific and relatively easy to follow in spite of tackling big issues. In the first, she shares some powerful personal experiences. In the second she addresses not only issues of sex, gender, and sexuality but a vision for what it means to be the body of Christ! These are available on SoundCloud.
  • A Sexual Reformation? Marriage and Sexuality in the Contemporary Paradigm – This is a very accessible one hour talk on the invention of “sex” as something apart from covenant or producing children. It was given as part of the Christian Thought and Culture class at Regent College.
  • Marriage, Sex, and Family in Historical Perspective – This is a 16 hour class from 2019 given at Regent College considering cultural understandings of gender, sexuality, marriage, and family from the early church to the present day. It’s one of the most helpful classes I’ve ever worked through.
  • Sexuality in the Modern Paradigm – This is a two-hour evening public lecture at Regent College on how private moral decisions have important public implications.
  • Mapping Gender is an 18-hour course taught in 2010 at Regent College around questions of identity, gender, sexuality, and theology. It is massively informative and helpful.

This is the 1930 Lambeth Conference, Article 15 pronouncement by the Church of England.

The National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness offers a downloadable PDF entitled LGBTQ2S Terms and Definitions. The LGBTQ2S Learning Community also offers a number of related training resources.

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Notes for Hot Topics – Approaches of Various Churches to LGBTQ+ Issues

These are notes that may be of interest to those who have heard my message for May 28, 2023 in the hot topics series. It addressed some approaches of various churches to LGBTQ+ issues in church life.

For convenient access, we have hosted a page with the Friends Church Southwest counsel on contemporary issues from 2016 on our church website. The 2016 version of Faith and Practice is available as a pdf file online here from FSW. The 2016 counsel on contemporary issues begins on page 11. You should be aware that new statements on contemporary issues were included in the revision to Faith and Practice approved in February, 2023; however, the 2023 version does not seem to be published online yet. In the interim, we have a pre-publication draft of the 2023 Faith and Practice that can be downloaded here. The new counsel on contemporary issues begins on page 18. There may be small changes in what was approved at the annual conference that are not in the pre-publication version.

This is the website for City Church Long Beach, which I mentioned in the message for May 28, 2023. There is a 2018 YouTube video in which the City Church pastor, Bill White, explains how City Church came to their approach to being radically welcoming. He cites Romans 14 and 15 as being foundational to their approach. The video is about 14 minutes long and worth your time to view. Bill writes much more, and writes well, on this topic at this website.

Mark Yarhouse is a Christian counselor who has written a number of books that many Christians find helpful. He works with the Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender, which offers many resources oriented towards addressing sexuality from a traditional Christian perspective. This is their statement of faith. If you hold a traditional Christian view of sexuality and need resources, check him out. His knowledge is broad and his advice practical and loving.

Redeeming Sex is a challenging book by Debra Hirsh, who with her husband Alan led a church that welcomed those from unusually difficult or broken life backgrounds – people who were quite uncomfortable in most churches. I found quite compelling the Hirsh’s approach to the ministry to which God called them, described in the later chapters of the book. Essentially, they accepted broken people as they were (we are all broken) and focused on Jesus. This book is open and frank in its discussion of sex and sexuality.

Beyond Gay by David Morrison is a book in which the author describes his journey from working with a major gay advocacy organization to a very different life with Jesus. He began worshipping at a church accepting of LGBTQ lifestyles (for which he remains thankful) and then moved to a church with more traditional teaching on Christian sexuality.

Matthew Vines started the Reformation Project as an organization committed to “advancing LGBTQ inclusion in the Church,” where he serves as Executive Director. His goal is to offer “theological resources for an orthodox and affirming Christian faith.” Matthew Vines is one of the most prominent Christian advocates for same-sex marriage.

The website I mentioned that lists churches to clarify their approach to LGBTQ issues and women in leadership is There are other similar websites.

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Notes for Hot Topics – The Bible and Sex

This weeks message is on the Bible and Sex. Here are links to some of the resources that I used and that you may be interested in pursuing for more information.

Matthew Vines is a well-known gay Christian activist and speaker. He is known for a viral YouTube video, entitled The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality, and for his speaking and writing to re-interpret the Bible so as to leave room for same-sex relationships for faithful Christians. There is a transcript of his Youtube video that I found very useful in pursuing study. Vines doesn’t so much present new arguments as effectively use social media to publicize scriptural interpretation that was little known before. He usefully converys the various approaches to scripture that are employed to support committed same-sex relationships as an option for a Christian marriage.

Joshua Gonnerman, a Phd student in Historical Theology who calls himself a Gay Christian, wrote an article rebutting Vines’ arguments. In this article, he refers to Elizabeth Scalia’s article entitled Homosexuality: A Call to Otherness? that many find helpful. Gonnerman also wrote powerfully on the churches failure to be family for gay people.

There are a number of links to other resources that one can trace from the articles and websites above. The Spiritual Friendship website is a place of links to good resources and frank discussion around issues related to sexuality.

I’ve appreciated the insights of Sam Allberry over the years. He has a website. He is an effective public speaker and popular writer more than a scholar.

Robert Gagnon is one of the most accomplished scholars focused on Paul’s letters in the Bible and sexual issues. He has a website. Gagnon is thorough to a fault. Reading him is like reading a commentary! (The Kindle version of his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice has 667 pages.) He also wrote a book with Dan O. Via entitled Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views where his consideration is only 58 pages. Via’s opposing argument is only 39 pages. Then each gives a response to the other. The first of the “top reviews” of this book on Amazon can give you a taste of what you would find in the book. A couple of years ago I worked my way through the audio and some assigned reading for Gagnon’s Regent College course The Bible, Homosexuality, and Sexual Ethics and decided I didn’t need to tackle the books.

If you want a very, very simple overview of the interpretations of scripture related to same-sex issues, consider the New York Times article Debating Bible Verses on Homosexuality. The article Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights is a useful introduction to the current state of affairs among evangelical Christians.

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Edward J. Carnell on Fundamentalism

In his book The Case for Orthodox Theology, Edward J. Carnell commented on the difference between orthodox Christianity and fundamentalism, and identified tendencies of fundamentalism of any stripe. I am reminded of these characteristics of fundamentalism in the context of various contemporary political and social controversies when I listen to advocates of various positions – even positions with which I may agree! Present day discourse is so… absolutist? I’ll leave further application of that thought to the reader, however.

Critics also brand orthodoxy as fundamentalism, but in doing so they act in bad taste. Not only is it unfair to identify a position with its worst elements, but the critics of fundamentalism often manifest the very attitudes that they are trying to expose. The mentality of fundamentalism is by no means an exclusive property of orthodoxy. Its attitudes are found in every branch of Christendom: the quest for negative status, the elevation of minor issues to a place of major importance, the use of social mores as a norm of virtue, the toleration of one’s own prejudice but not the prejudice of others, the confusion of the church with a denomination, and the avoidance of prophetic scrutiny by using the Word of God as an instrument of self-security but not self-criticism.

The mentality of fundamentalism comes into being whenever a believer is unwilling to trace the effects of original sin in his own life. And where is the believer who is wholly delivered from this habit? This is why no one understands fundamentalism until he understands the degree to which he himself is tinctured by the attitudes of fundamentalism.

The Case for Orthodox Theology by Edward J. Carnell, (c) 1959, by W. L. Jenkins, The Westminster Press, p. 141.
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About “Breath Prayers”

Have you ever heard of breath prayers”? They have a long history. You may recall a series a couple of years ago in which I mentioned the “Jesus Prayer”.

Anyway, Sarah Bessey recently published some breath prayers with brief instruction on how to pray these very short prayers that I think many may find helpful. Check it out! It’s a practical way to keep oneself centered on the One that matters most.

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Tuchman’s Law

I (finally) read Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century”. I received it in hard cover decades ago as a gift from my Uncle Joseph Pike and it has been on my stack of books to read “soon” ever since! I obtained an unabridged spoken audio version and listened while gardening.

In the introduction, Tuchman amusingly names a phenomenon she observes as she studies “deplorable developments” in history. She terms it “Tuchman’s Law”, herein quoted:

Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and rapists. The fact is that one can come home in the evening—on a lucky day—without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena. This has led me to formulate Tuchman’s Law, as follows: “The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold” (or any figure the reader would care to supply).

Tuchman, Barbara. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978; p. xviii.

It took me a moment to identify the spirit of the comment. Then I laughed out loud. The time it took me to identify her intentions with the comment one might consider a deplorable development in my history. I think this was the highlight of the entire book for me. One can extend her observation to social media and the 24-hour news cycle of our time. People have to talk about something. All the time. Amplifying the deplorable is par.

Overall, let’s just say that the 14th century was a time in which the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of Jesus were rarely, if ever, in spiritual alignment. But what’s unexpected about that? I did gain in my appreciation for how pre-modern folk used numbers as generic amplifying adjectives rather than precise mathematical quantities. I suppose that’s a valuable talent for reading ancient texts.

As for recommending the book? I appreciated it, but had expected somewhat more scholarly depth from a famous scholar. I suppose she wrote for a more popular audience. I found it somewhat repetitive; however, I suppose that is an observation of the human condition and the times more than her writing about it. It is a worthwhile investment of casual reading time.

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A Podcast episode on Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lay!

The Rest is History podcast had a recent episode over-enthusiastically entitled The First Abolitionist covering the life and abolitionist work of Quaker Benjamin Lay. Lay set out to convince Quakers in the Americas that slavery was a great evil back when slavery was simply taken for granted over most of the world. As usual, historians Sandbrook and Holland are tastefully entertaining in their telling of Benjamin Lay’s otherwise sobering story. Please note that his podcast contains description of the torture of enslaved people, and is not intended for younger audiences.

For more background on early Quaker abolitionists, see articles on John Woolman and Anthony Benezet.

Benjamin Lay painted by William Williams in 1790. Image from National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, via Art Resource, New York
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A new podcast from The Atlantic

​I listened to a new podcast from The Atlantic recently called Holy Week. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, just before Holy Week of 1968 leading up to Easter on April 14 that year. The podcast is about the fallout from King’s assassination, reviewing some of the events and personalities of the times. It considers some of ​​what his assassination meant to those for whom Martin Luther King Jr. represented hope… or weakness! And more…

​I remember the week after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In my mind I can picture the burning cities and clashes between protesters and police or soldiers that I saw on the evening TV news as a boy. Traumatic times, indeed.

To make it even more interesting, read Alan Jacob’s essay The Blues Idiom at Church in Comment for more insight and an interesting application.

​​I think perhaps this is all related to why I so appreciated Esau McCaulley’s Reading While Black! The perspective he presents has much in common with what I learned from the Quaker side of my family (particularly my grandfather, Albert Pike), who also taught me to appreciate Martin Luther King Jr. as a boy.

All of these are well worth your time.

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On Women in the Church and in Marriage

In the past I wrote a series of posts considering biblical teaching on women in the church and in marriage. Several people have asked me about this recently so I thought I’d make the posts easy to find by adding a page that serves as a table of contents for these posts, and linking to it. And now, in 2023, the “Hot Topics” message Church teaching about Women refers to these articles yet again, so I am republishing.

In a nutshell, I argue that God created humans, male and female, to stand as peers in carrying his image. God often calls women into leadership and teaching ministry. It is God’s call that makes a leader or teacher or preacher in His church – nothing less will do. And no human organization can rightly oppose what God does. Regarding marriage, I argue that the best plan for marriage is a partnership of mutual submission under the headship of Christ.

I mention the Bible Project as a valuable resource on the creation narratives in Genesis, both podcasts and videos. One particular video on human identity may be helpful. There is another, older video by Tim Mackie video that you may find helpful. The Bible Project is a tremendous resource!

Last Sunday I mentioned trends in American higher education in which more women were attending college than in the past. Here are some statistics over the last 50 years.

A recently published, excellent new book, Tell Her Story: How Women Led, Taught, and Ministered in the Early Church, by scholar Nijay Gupta, lives up to the description in its title. This is a very helpful book – highly recommended!

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