God showed us His desire to be with us in the greatest possible way. He came to us in the person of His Son. He gave this promise of His coming decades before it happened so people would know He was coming—the Messiah, the Deliverer—and they would be assured that He intended to be with them. He gave a promise to King Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah when His enemies besieged him. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
The central theme of the Bible is the relational presence of God. God intends to be with us in real intimacy and vibrant, daily fellowship. This began in the Garden and will be consummated at the end of time with a “new heaven and new earth,” where the Garden will be restored, and those who know Him by faith will live with Him forever. “With you” is the consistent and glorious promise of God to man.
The Promise Until Then
All along the way in human history, God has made ways for us to be with Him, and He with us. He came to the Patriarchs and spoke through the Prophets, calling us back to Himself. The building of a tabernacle, a “tent of meeting,” was a sign that He was present, as was the temple in Jerusalem, filled with the Holy of Holies. Through a great sacrifice, He will be with us.
God showed us His desire to be with us in the greatest possible way. He came to us in the person of His Son. He gave this promise of His coming decades before it happened so people would know He was coming—the Messiah, the Deliverer—and they would be assured that He intended to be with them.
He gave a promise to King Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah when His enemies besieged him.
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By Tim Shorey — 6 months ago
I’ve learned that one part of true faith-filled “waiting” is quietness. “In quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). Quietness is the opposite of striving and panic. It speaks of peaceful rest, a calm while at the storm’s center. As the psalmist put it, when mountains tremble, waters roar, nations rage and kingdoms totter, the trusting weary remain “still,” knowing that God is God (Psalm 46:1–11).
I’ve mentioned before that life is a waiting room. I’ve lost count how many big needs my wife Gayline and I have been praying for—and waiting for—for years! A headache healing. Cancer healing. Children that need the Lord. Unconverted family and friends that still don’t believe. Racial healing in our church local and the Church. Fruitfulness in certain gospel endeavors. Spiritual revival in the Church. We’re still sitting in the waiting room for these and so many others.
And I’m sure we’re not alone. All God’s children have needs and grieve losses. We all believe. We all pray. We all weep. We all wait.
If I had one more sermon to preach, it’d be on this text: “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:30–31).
I’ve preached the whole chapter of Isaiah 40 many times, and my most frequent sermon summary of it is this: “God over all, because of Christ, gives strength to the trusting weary, in his time, according to their need, to do the remarkable for his glory.” That’s all in the Isaiah 40 text. And as I say—for a lot of reasons—if God ever gives me strength to preach one more time, that would be the text and summary that I herald.
One point in Isaiah 40 that I notice this morning is the word “wait.” It implies a period of delay in the meeting of our needs or wants, which is why I say: “God gives strength . . . in his time.” There is almost always a time-gap between when we become aware of a need and when God meets it. We have to wait because his clock moves slower than ours, and he’s never in our kind of hurry. So we sit in the waiting room of life.
By Samuel D. James — 2 years ago
Written by Samuel D. James |
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
The recovery of American masculinity will be a counterrevolution of dignity, encouraging men to embrace their God-given strength, competitiveness, and desire for meaning as signposts pointing them toward a rich life of worship, temperance, and self-sacrifice.
The firebrand gender philosopher Camile Paglia once famously declared that there is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper. Provocative as always, Paglia’s point is that, historically speaking, the extremes of human achievement—both superlative genius and murderous sociopathy—tend to be occupied by men. Society, Paglia argues, must therefore pay close attention to masculinity because the stakes are particularly high. The trajectory of the American male over the past few decades is proving Ms. Paglia unnervingly correct.
Conservatives have often sensed an anti-masculine bias in elite spaces of journalism, higher education, and pop culture. This was the animating spirit in a recent speech by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., to the National Conservatism Conference. Hawley’s talk, titled “The Future of the American Man,” eloquently summarized many concerns that religious and traditionalist Americans have about contemporary masculinity.
Hawley pointed out that record numbers of young men are failing to graduate, work, or marry, and that this constitutes a genuine social crisis. Moreover, as Hawley observed, the emerging generation of American men do not seem to have a definite vision for their lives. Vocational ambition and community leadership are increasingly ceded to women, as many twenty and thirtysomething men languish in inactive lifestyles dominated by video games and pornography.
These are trends conservatives certainly should be talking about, and Hawley should be commended for talking so transparently about them. But if “The Future of the American Man” gets the symptoms correct, it names the disease only in part. Throughout the speech, Hawley casts the current plight of masculinity on “the Left,” arguing that third-wave feminism’s misandry is at the heart of Democratic and progressive policies, and thus, the primary agent of this crisis.
By John Murawski — 8 months ago
Queer theology is a mature, established theological subject of scholarship now in its third decade and armed with well-honed arguments that queerness is grounded in biblical texts and classic commentaries. Most newly minted ministers coming out of mainline divinity schools today have some exposure to queer theology, either through taking a queer course, reading queer authors in other courses, or through conversations with queer students and queer professors.
Vignettes from progressive Christianity today:
A Presbyterian church goes viral online for marking the Transgender Day of Visibility with a public prayer to the “God of Pronouns.” The congregants of the church, First Presbyterian of Iowa City, pay obeisance to “the God of Trans Being,” giving due glory to “the Great They/Them.”
The United Methodist Church boasts the first drag queen in the world to become a certified candidate for ordination. This traveling minister, who describes drag ministry as a “divine duty,” is lauded by a Florida pastor as “an angel in heels” after appearing in that church in a sequin dress to deliver a children’s sermon and denounce the privilege of Whiteness and cis-ness.
At Duke University’s Methodist-affiliated divinity school, pastors-in-training and future religious leaders conduct a Pride worship service in which they glorify the Great Queer One, Fluid and Ever-Becoming One. The service leads off with a prayer honoring God as queerness incarnate: “You are drag queen and transman and genderfluid, incapable of limiting your vast expression of beauty.”
And the Presbyterian News Service offers online educational series such as “Queering the Bible” (2022) and “Queering the Prophets” (2023) during Pride Month. A commentary in the former refers to Jesus as “this eccentric ass freak” who challenged first-century gender norms.
These examples from this year and last are just a few illustrating how progressive churches are moving beyond gay rights, even beyond transgender acceptance, and venturing into the realm of “queer theology.” Rather than merely settling for the acceptance of gender-nonconforming people within existing marital norms and social expectations, queer theology questions heterosexual assumptions and binary gender norms as limiting, oppressive and anti-biblical, and centers queerness as the redemptive message of Christianity.
In this form of worship, “queering” encourages the faithful to problematize, disrupt, and destabilize the assumptions behind heteronormativity and related social structures such as monogamy, marriage, and capitalism. These provocative theologians and ministers assert that queerness is not only natural and healthy but biblically celebrated. They assert that God is not the patron deity of the respectable, the privileged, and the comfortable, but rather God has a “preferential option” for the promiscuous, the outcast, the excluded and the impure.
Thus it is in the presence of the sexually marginalized—such as in a gay bathhouse or bondage dungeon—where we find the presence of Jesus. In the language of queer theology, queerness is a sign of God’s love because “queer flesh is sacramental flesh,” and authentic “Christian theology is a fundamentally queer enterprise,” whereas traditional Christianity has been corrupted into “a systematic calumny against hedonist love.”
Such claims may seem outrageous and offensive to the uninitiated, as do the antics of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the group of provocative drag queen nun impersonators scheduled to be honored at a Los Angeles Dodgers’ “Pride Night” on June 16—this coming Friday.
But queer theology is a mature, established theological subject of scholarship now in its third decade and armed with well-honed arguments that queerness is grounded in biblical texts and classic commentaries. Most newly minted ministers coming out of mainline divinity schools today have some exposure to queer theology, either through taking a queer course, reading queer authors in other courses, or through conversations with queer students and queer professors, said Ellen Armour, chair of feminist theology and director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality at the Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Courses on queer theology are offered at the leading progressive divinity schools, such as Harvard Divinity School, whose spring 2023 catalog lists “Queering Congregations: Contextual Approaches for Dismantling Heteronormativity.” The class trains ministers and educators in “subverting the heterosexist paradigms and binary assumptions that perpetuate oppression in American ecclesial spaces.”
Wake Forest University’s divinity program offers a course called “Readings in Queer Theology” and another course, “Queer Theologies.” The latter course’s catalog description shows how the field has proliferated and branched out into its own subspecialties: LGBTQ+ inclusive theologies, intersectional queer of color critiques, queer sexual ethics and activism, and queer ecotheologies.
Back in 2018, Duke divinity students walked out in protest during the divinity dean’s State of the School speech to demand a queer theology course. Today Duke Divinity School offers a certificate in Gender, Sexuality, Theology, and Ministry, “where we privilege questions of gender and sexuality in the academic study and practices of theology, ministry, and lived religion.”
Queer theology is punctuated by a penchant for the outrageous and the scandalous, deploying graphic, carnal—and at times pornographic—imagery for shock value and dramatic effect, but its core religious claims are dead serious.
“Critics will say that a ‘Queer Jesus’ is a perverse or blasphemous fiction, invented by queer folks for reasons of self-justification, or accuse me and other LGBTQI Christians of being deviant,” queer minister and author Robert E. Shore-Goss wrote in 2021.
Shore-Goss is an ordained Catholic Jesuit priest who fell in love with another Jesuit, resigned from the Society of Jesus, and worked as a pastor in the MCC United Church of Christ in the Valley, in North Hollywood, Calif. MCC stands for the Metropolitan Community Church, reputedly the world’s most queer-affirming denomination that includes churches that perform polyamory nuptial rites to marry multiple partners.
“Jesus has been hijacked by ecclesial and political powers since the time of Constantine and right up to the present,” Shore-Goss wrote. “Jesus’s empowered companionship or God’s reign is radically queer in its inclusivity attracting queer outsiders. … Jesus is out of place with heteronormativity; he subverts the prevailing heteropatriarchal, cis-gender ideologies, welcoming outsiders.”
Perverse, blasphemous, narcissistic, heathenish, heretical and cultish are the ways in which queer theology will appear to traditional Christians and to many nonreligious people with a conventional notion of religion. Robert Gagnon, a professor of New Testament theology at Houston Baptist Seminary, described the movement as a form of Gnosticism, referring to a heresy that has surfaced in various periods of church history. Followers of Gnostic cults claimed they possessed esoteric or mystical knowledge that is not accessible to the uninitiated and the impure, Gagnon said, a belief that often leads to obsessive or outlandish sexual practices, like radical abstinence and purity, or libertinism and licentiousness.
Beneath the theological posturing about disrupting power, he said, is an insatiable will to accumulate power.
“They’re only for subversion until they’re in power,” Gagnon said. “And then they’re adamantly opposed to subversion.”
Shore-Goss initially agreed to a phone interview for this article, then canceled with a rushed email: “Wait a second I searched Real Clear Investigations and it is a GOP organization, and I will not help you in the GOP cultural genocide of LGBTQ+ people. They are full of grace and healthy spirituality.” Isaac Simmons, the Methodist drag queen known as Penny Cost, also initially agreed to an interview, excited to hear that this reporter had read six queer theology books, sections of other books, along with other materials: “Just about all of those books are on my bookshelf!! You are definitely hitting the nail on the head!” But Simmons/Cost never responded to follow-up emails to set up a phone call. Other queer theology experts either declined comment or did not respond. One, based in England, requested a “consultation fee.”
Encountering the established scholarly oeuvre of queer theology is an introduction to titles like “Radical Love,” “Rethinking the Western Body,” “Indecent Theology,” “The Queer God,” and “The Queer Bible Commentary,” a tome co-edited by Shore-Goss that “queers” every book in the Old Testament and New Testament, exceeding 1,000 pages. Queer theologians invite readers to see God as a sodomite, Jesus as a pervert, the disciples as gay, the Trinity as an orgy, and Christian unconditional love as a “glory hole.”
By “queering” holy writ and “cruising” the scriptures—two of the ways in which queer theologians use gay slang to describe their hermeneutical strategy—God’s revelation is “coming out” (of the closet), and those who opt to transition their gender experience the power of Christ’s resurrection. In the apocalyptic proclamation of the pioneering queer theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid: “The kenosis [self-emptying] of omnisexuality in God is a truly genderfucking process worthy of being explored.”
Queer theology presents itself as an apocalyptic, revival movement, rendering queer people as angels and saints who are a living foretaste of what’s to come, when all binaries and man-made social constructs fall away as remnants of heterosexual oppression and European colonialism. There is a sense in which to be queer is to be the chosen people, those favored by God to spread the good news.