“Rick & Bubba’s Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage” by Rick Burgess & Bill Bussey [REVIEW]


There are absolutely no surprises in this book, Rick and Bubba’s Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage by Rick Burgess & Bill Bussey. Look at the cover. Read the description. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself.

In short, if you’re the middle-‘Murica, somewhat Christian-y, suburban white person this is geared towards (who’s likely the exclusive group that reads this kind of Christian bookstore fodder), you’ll probably enjoy it. But not because you will learn anything. Not because you will grow. Not because there’s anything of substance or depth here. Just dad jokes and dad stories about how gosh-darn knuckleheaded these guys are, how hot their wives are, and how (gasp!) marriage is hard and requires communication and love. 

Along the way to those profound insights are the kind of conservative cultural Christian Evangelical tropes one expects from silly books like this. “Culture” is evil and bad and waiting to suck the Jesus out of you. Women should submit to their husbands and husbands should lead their families (“but not because we’re misogynists! We’re the first tell you our wives are far more capable than we are! It’s just because the Bible says!”). Keep God at the center of your life. Try to eat and be healthy, but also make fun of how obese you are. 

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Oh no! What’s a Feminist Fundamentalist to Do?


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This post is part of our on-going series about Male Feminist Theology.

Yesterday I wrote about my fears of hypocrisy when it comes to Church and Theology in relation to Women and their experience in the world. I talked about how some people see the Bible as a product of patriarchal culture, and therefore is simply wrong when it comes to women. Others (like myself) try and argue that the Bible is itself in favor of women exercising full authority and presence in the Church and Theological consideration.

But when I do this, is it just another form of fundamentalism to doggedly refuse to let go of my belief that the Bible “has” to be right in this area? Here are a few things that have at least helped me sleep at night and move forward in this pursuit of a Male Feminist Theology.
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The best piece I’ve ever read on Mental Health & the Church


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“I want to know if you smile when you see me happy again and if a tear runs down your face when you realize that your people are the reason I’ve never quite healed, that chemistry and not Christianity has been my cure.”

~ Lydia Childress,“They’ve Thrown Us Out of the Church Like Lepers”

That’s the opening quote of this amazing piece, “Jesus is not our Zoloft: Reflections on Mental Health and the Church”, by R.L. Stollar, and I think it captures well the heavy heart with which he writes.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Stollar, what he does or what his experiences in this area are, but this blog post is absolutely stunning. It is a response and critique of a recent Gathering on Mental Health and the Church conference, spearheaded by Rick Warren. He sees many things that encourage him, and some others that further dismay him. And he is spot on.

He points out the ways that the Church has wrongly seen mental health issues and mistreated those with them, and he beautifully charts a way forward.

Please read this. Yes, it’s kind of longer than most blog pieces, and doesn’t lend itself to skimming. But if all church leaders and Christians read this and took it to heart, it could change and help so much. The Church needs to hear this.
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How Preaching Saved Me from Evangelicalism’s Bible


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If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that Evangelical Fundamentalism is absolutely right: as I’ve embraced more and more what conservatives often label a “liberal” view of the Bible, it really has negatively affected my spiritual and devotional life.

When you think the Bible is itself the “infallible, inerrant, Word of God”–when you think that the precise words themselves hold a magical power–you do approach the Bible with a greater amount of awe, respect, and mysticism. I’ve written before how it wasn’t until college that I read any of the Gospels on my own, because I had this fear of reading the “literal, unfiltered” words of Jesus. They seemed so big and other-worldly to me.

I’ve loved the Bible my whole life. I still have the first Bible I was ever given as a child. I still vividly remember the evening on my parent’s bed after they had read a Psalm that had been stuck in the middle of the stories about David that it finally clicked for me that the Bible wasn’t just narratives, but also poems and other kinds of writing.

My Southern Baptist upbringing has got it engrained in me that my entire spiritual and devotional life should revolve around this book. No matter how much I tell myself otherwise, something in me always has (and always will) “evaluate” my spiritual health by how I engage the Scriptures, in both quantity and quality.
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Logos Bible Software & Evangelical Insecurity


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I use and love Logos Bible Software for my Bible study and seminary work. It really is an amazing piece of software. You can amass such a huge library of books and resources that all connect and sync up to one another.

The one problem is that they can only put the time and resources into putting out books that people will actually buy. This means that their library selection has long been skewed towards a certain demographic: American Conservative Evangelicals, usually of the “Neo-Reformed” variety.

I don’t tend to like the books that are geared for this market. Their theological assumptions seem to come first, and the text seems to often come second. I love reading robust, scholarly commentaries and books that help grow and stretch me; books that focus on the messiness of Scripture and how it is historically and culturally conditioned. Yes, this means I end up preferring writings from “liberal” (God, I hate that term) perspectives and institutions, even if my actual theological conclusions are fairly conservative.

So it’s been frustrating to me that Logos was lacking in this scholarship and thinking for some time. But in the past year, I’ve noticed this changing. More and more commentary series and scholarship book bundles are coming out by Logos that I am loving (though my bank account hasn’t). Maybe I just never noticed them before, I don’t know. But either way, I’m noticing it now, and I’m really happy.

Or rather, I was.
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The Privilege of Holiness; The Holiness of Privilege


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I was at a coffee shop this past weekend doing some schoolwork when this beautiful lesbian couple came in, got some coffee, and left. I don’t know what it was about them, but they were stuck in my mind for quite a while after this. I wondered how the America church would be relating to gays at this point had sweet, loving relationships like that been the primary display Evangelicals had seen all these years.

I remembered that, as I was growing up, one of the primary Evangelical apologetics against gay rights was the whole litany of emotional, psychological, and societal detriments that come with homosexuality. I can’t tell you how many times I was told about the higher rates of depression, suicide, relationship abuse, physical health problems, STDs, and rampant unsafe sexual practices among the majority of gay population. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) suggestion was that, when someone moves so radically against “the way God designed things”, great problems are sure to follow.

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On alcohol, abstinence, & the “weak in faith” | Romans 14:1-4


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Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Romans 14:1-4

Look at that first line. What an interesting way to open this discussion. How might this apply today? Mainly, I think it shows that this goes a whole lot deeper than just “don’t drink around people that have a problem with alcohol”, or some such usual application. Growing up, this was the main way these verses were used in my life. People would say “you shouldn’t drink alcohol, because some people might have alcohol abuse problems and, seeing you drink, it might lead them into their alcoholism.” This introductory line shows us this is a lot deeper than mere behaviors or doctrinal superiority.

As for the rest of these verses, there a few other big takeaways (other than the hilarious swipe at vegetarians, haha).

First, it does not say that because some hypothetical believers out there might not feel comfortable with some things that others who otherwise feel free to do those things should abstain all together, always, in all places. The burden here is on the person who is “weak”, or who is bothered. They bear the weight to communicate this to the community. They are to let it be made known, and the body is to respond accordingly.

This is Paul teaching us how to respond to the realities and messiness of actual, particular members in the community, not to act generally in anticipation of possibilities.

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Jesus: Rabbi or Lord? (Again, Evangelicals over-simplify)| Matthew 26.20-25


When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”
Matthew 26.20-25

Notice here how they all call Jesus “Lord”,  whereas Judas calls Jesus “Rabbi”,  or Teacher.  To the original Jewish audience here, this would have been noticed and significant. But don’t mistake this. This isn’t some Evangelical emphasis of seeing Jesus as “Lord of your life” and not “just” a teacher.

Rather, the difference is in seeing things in the new order versus the old one.  It’s probably significant that Matthew us the Jewish term “Rabbi” and not just the normal Greek word for “teacher”. To follow a rabbi was still intense and genuine discipleship, not some “lesser devotion”. The point is that Judas still didn’t “get it”. Therefore, Jesus points out how this ultimately condemns him.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Mark Driscoll: Now just another fundie, but it still hurts


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Let not those who hope in you be put to
shame through me, O lord God of Hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to
dishonor through me, O God of Israel.
Psalm 51

I have written before how much I enjoy my own ignorance of the Christian blogosphere. Things happen in evangelical corners of the world, that I have no idea about. I am happy to know more about the Ukrainian crisis than whatever crisis some mega church or celebrity pastor is going through.

And yet, somehow (usually Facebook), I always seem to keep up with whatever is going on with Mark Driscoll. He has lots of critics, and I am certainly one of them, and many of them seem to be grasping at whatever they can to “bring him down”. There seem to be so many Driscoll obsessions out there, be it plagiarism, making fun of “effeminate” church leaders, extreme church discipline, messy staff turnovers, un-credited ghost writing, or buying his way onto best seller lists. (If you care about those “scandals”, just Google them.)

I have big problems with how a lot of folks criticize Driscoll and the glee they seem to feel in each new thing we all find out. Lore Ferguson has the best and most beautiful articulation I’ve read of the unhelpful ways people levy these criticisms his way.

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The beauty of God’s heart for us | Matthew 8.1-3


When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
–Matthew 8.1-3

Is this not our constant prayer? And is this not God’s constant answer to us?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Saving Call of Christ: you’re already saved | Matthew 9.13


Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” —Matthew 9.13

 Notice here the emphasis. Evangelicals tend to stress how Jesus came to “save” (which he did, for sure). But Jesus here doesn’t day he came to “save” sinners. But rather to “call” them. I wonder if this speaks to the thought that salvation is everyone’s, and “evangelism” is more the process of calling people to be the saved people they are rather than to “get” or somehow “acquire” salvation. It’s a call to be something, not a call to get something.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Body of Christ, Broken (a guest post for Restoration Living)


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Yeah, that’s my family (I’m in the front left). This was one Easter Sunday in the 90’s in Dallas, Texas, at a time and place where (I promise) it was absolutely appropriate to dress like that for Easter (except the glasses, of course). I look at this picture a lot, and not just to chuckle. I find it so oddly and powerfully symbolic of what life in the Bible Belt was like.

You see, my family was deeply wounded by “Church folk” throughout my childhood. Just as in the picture, people in the Church would live their Christian lives dressed up and looking good, all while wearing masks, disguising who they really were. When things were hard at home, people at church had no categories to process it. After all, to be a Christian is to be cleansed by Jesus and walk in new life, right? Failures, sins, and brokenness were seen as signs of some disobedience – some place where you weren’t “okay.”

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And so begins a guest post I wrote for a wonderful site that should be on all of your radars, Restoration Living. Read the rest of the post here.

On Not Following the Christian Blogosphere (a plea)


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I pride myself on thinking that a large percentage of the readers of this blog have no idea of this odd subculture/alternate universe that is the “Christian blogosphere”. So for those that don’t know: there is a very large labyrinth of (largely evangelical) blogs and conferences and podcasts and websites that are dedicated to talking about “the” “Christian view” on any manner of things that (1) really don’t affect much of people’s real lives or (2) seem kind of weird to have a “Christian view” of.

It’s not simply talking about things from a Christian perspective (like this blog), but rather doing so with a particular reactive, evangelical, tribal “flavor”. I’m sure I fall into that at times here, but I’m not proud of it and I try to act against it.

the dangers of the Christian blogosphere

There are two primary things about the nature of these sites that more easily lend themselves to human weakness, I feel.
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Putting the FUN back in Fundamentalism! (vs. Atheism)


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For those that follow this blog only through WordPress, you may have seen the guest post yesterday–a beautiful meditation on spiritual realities that Autumn brings to our minds–and didn’t think much of it. It was pretty and all, but not controversial, right?

Not so, on Facebook.

A good friend, and Atheist (that we here at the blog know quite well), made a comment taking issue with references to the “Fall” and “first parents” (and even the Resurrection) on the grounds that these do not jive with evolutionary science. (Although I don’t think he clicked on the link to a similar post I wrote last year in which I used the same terminologies in the same way, but whatever.) He was surprised that I would have let a seemingly “young earth creationist” (someone who thinks the world was created in six literal days) post on my blog.

Though I assured him that this guest poster was not, in fact, a young earth creationist, and was merely speaking using the common poetic language shared by all of Christian theology and not at all trying to speak in scientific terms, he doubled down. Then, Christians and Atheists all jumped into this thread. Sarcasm, insults, and “who-said-what when” arguments began, all having little to do with the post, and more to do with who was condescending first, who understands genre theory, and who were the more aggressive and defensive parties in the discussion.
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Why was Obamacare necessary? Christians, it seems.


nyt-flowers-medicine-bw{abstract: My point in this post is pretty simple. Christians seek radical end-of-life care dramatically more than non-religious people, and this accounts for a huge portion of American Health Care cost. In this piece, I ask if this drove prices up, therefore creating the situation where, ironically, Obamacare (a policy Evangelicals widely despise) was necessary.}

I wrote a while ago about my own current preoccupation with my fear of death. It caused me to read several related things, including the amazing book, The Art of Dying. In it, Rob Moll carefully helps guide Christians back toward embracing death for what it is: our greatest enemy, yes, but an enemy whose sting has been turned into a doorway to Glory Itself.

And so, as the horror-turned-beauty that Death is, the book encourages us to spend our energy preparing for Death more than avoiding it. He encourages Christians to recapture the doctrine of the “good death”.

And yet, it seems that American Christians are prone to do everything but that.

Moll talks of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that Christians were three times more likely than those without religious faith to pursue aggressive end-of-life care, even though they fully understood they were dying and that the treatments would most likely not add any time to their lives.

One researcher told Moll, “patients who received outside clergy visits had worse quality of death scores than those who did not.” And if you have problems with this particular study, know that the book is full of research, studies, and interviews that lay out the pretty clear case that American Evangelicalism widely avoids preparing for death.

Now, we can talk about why this is and whether or not this is a sound Christianly posture another day (I happen to think it is not). Hopefully I’ll write a full review of the book in the weeks ahead. Today, though, I wanted to point out a huge irony this made me think of.
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