The real meaning of Christmas

Years ago I was watching television while wrapping Christmas gifts. There was a television show about the ‘true meaning of Christmas.’ They promoted the popular idea of giving gifts because the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. I knew they were wrong, but truthfully, I did not know the true meaning of Christmas.

It would be many years before I learned the true meaning of Christmas, and it would happen at the last place you would expect to learn about Christ. I learned the true meaning of Christmas after attending a mosque.

The Missions Division of the Baptist General Convention of Texas took us on a trip to a mosque in Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. The imam met us, asked us to remove our shoes, and then he showed us the shelf where we were to place our shoes. We were led past the wash room where Muslim men wash their hands, elbows, feet, face and nostrils before going into the main worship room.

We women had the option of wearing a headscarf and I did like the rest. We sat on the floor while the imam told us about their worship. He pointed to the upper room where he said the women chose to worship. He said they could worship with the men, but they chose to climb the stairs and privately worship there. The women also had to perform ritual washing of their body parts, separately from the men, of course.

The main worship area was a long rectangular room. The imam pointed out that the room was long so that it made the front row longer and, therefore, more men could be on the front row. He said they all wanted to be on the front row because it showed their devotion to Allah. He made his arms into wings, and he laughed as he showed us how they would nudge the other men out of the way with their elbow, and make their way to the front.

On the wall was the 99 attributes of Allah. My supervisor, who is a Christian Arab, said that none of the attributes said that Allah is love.

After it was over, we thanked the imam and put our shoes back on, we women took off our scarves, and we all climbed onto the bus to go back to our offices. One supervisor who was also a preacher (as they all were) threw his hand up high in the air and said:

“Thank God for Jesus!”

That is when I learned the true meaning of Christmas.

The Jewish people looked for a Messiah like King David. A powerful leader who would take down their enemies, make Jerusalem Jewish again, and who would die a mortal death, as all humans do. The scriptures promised them a savior and they anticipated his arrival.

What they got was not what they expected. Instead of a physical warrior who would defeat the Romans, they got a spiritual warrior who, instead of turning his eyes upon their enemies, turned his eyes upon their relationship to God. In particular, the laws they had expanded to make life miserable, and then the artful and deceitful ways they had of getting around those laws. Read Matthew 23 to see what Jesus had to say about their spiritual condition.

Jesus came to free us from the rigmarole that man had bound God with. All those laws didn’t mean anything (Matthew 23, Amos 5:21-24) because men had found ways to get around them. Jesus told them to love God with all their heart, and to love their fellow man. When love is the motivator, our worship of God, and helping our fellowman, will take on a different meaning. We will feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, treat others as we want to be treated, and give the Good News to everyone.

Instead of being like Jesus, we still desire to make laws for Christians, especially laws about what women can and cannot do, and I wonder if Jesus would have turned his eyes upon us.

The true meaning of Christmas is the freedom that Jesus gave us. No more rigmarole such as the way to wash your hands before eating, and not working on the Sabbath – things that had absolutely no spiritual significance in them. In doing away with these things, Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my load is light.” Matthew 11:30.

Thank God for Jesus!

(republished)

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Advent – should women be looking for the Christ child, or a husband?

(First published 2010)

Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, and churches will light the Hope Advent candle and the church begins its countdown until the Christ child is born on Christmas Day.

Many faith denominations do not light Advent candles, but almost all churches spend the month of December with Cantatas, children’s Christmas plays, and so forth. The song “A Baby Changes Everything” was popular one year and Don and I heard it sung at two different churches.

But do women really need Jesus?

Listen to what a man commented on my blog, “The man answers to God for the actions of his wife and children.”

Whoa! Did you catch that? How can a man answer to God for the actions of his wife and children? For that to happen we must find scriptures to support the following beliefs in the Bible:

1. That a husband is divine as he stands as a mediator between his wife and kids and God. The husband would have to be divine because it is a divine Jesus who stands as the mediator for the husband. (Job 9:32-35) Surely women wouldn’t need a human standing before God for her, would she? (1Timothy 2:5-6).

2. That the wife cannot speak for herself because she is an incomplete human being, incapable of coming before God for herself, and who has no hope outside her husband. (Romans 3:22).

3. That children are not complete human beings capable of having a relationship with God. (Acts 2:17).

There are no scriptures to support a man answering to God for the actions of his wife. In fact, each scripture reference that I have given says completely the opposite of what the person who wrote the comment said. Oh, but he is just one person. Nobody really believes like that, do they?

Cindy Kunsman can tell you that some seminarians believe it. Several years ago she was invited to a conference at a Southern Baptist affiliated seminary. Cindy says “Several young men asked how it was that I believed that they would not stand before God…to give an account and to intercede for their wives…These (young men) were seminary students.”

Advent – should women be looking for the Christ child, or for a husband?

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Sermons and violence

This post is about pastors’ responsibility in perpetuating violence against women.

It is Saturday morning and pastors across America are mentally rehearsing their sermons for Sunday morning. What is your pastor rehearsing? A Thanksgiving message this week most likely. We have much to be thankful for and it is good that one day a year we thank God for our blessings.

Thanksgiving is an American and Canadian holiday, and Thursday most of the world will not sit down to a feast with family and friends.

Many women and girls will not be able to sit down at all because their bodies have been abused, mutilated, or they are dead by the hand of some male family member or friend.

It is these women I want to talk about today.

It is the part your pastor plays in perpetuating this violence against women in America and abroad.

It is obvious, but it must be said anyway: Whenever women are told that they must submit to their husbands, then it is up to the husband to decide just how far she must submit. No church can limit him because they endued him with that power. Male headship means male rule. Whatever he rules, she must do – or be in violation of the Bible, or so they are lead to believe.

Ephesians 5 addresses physical abuse against women, but pastors will not admit that. In the society of 2000 ago, these women were being abused by their husbands who believed they had the right to do so. The letter from Paul was that they were to love their wives and to treat their wives like they would treat their own bodies. Don’t withhold food, clothing or protection from your wife. You would not hit yourself, so don’t beat her up. Wives, stay with your husbands because they are now Christians, and I am telling them to treat you better.

We teach our women that they must submit because the Bible says so. Then we take that message to mission fields all across the world. Submit to your husbands. The bible says so. We enslave them all over again. Instead of the words of freedom through Jesus Christ, we give them bondage to a culture that sees women only as sex and use objects. And we are not far from that culture ourselves.

Sex trafficking is a big ‘cause’ in American churches right now. That is like spraying water on a weed to kill it. The real reason sex trafficking is proliferating is attitudes against women. Women have always been devalued, and Religion has not stepped up and valued women. They can’t when they deny women full equality. So they make noises and send money and teach that women are to submit.

The World Health Organization says that 30% of all women have been abused. That is one in every three women you see. In some countries it is 70%.

The WHO says that risk factors for both intimate partner and sexual violence include: attitudes that are accepting of violence and gender inequality (perpetration and experience).

WHO goes on to say that to achieve lasting change, it is important to enact legislation and develop policies that: promote gender equality.

Except that it does not work to enact legislation to promote gender equality. The reason is that legislation has already been enacted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which EXCLUDED churches from having to treat people decently and fairly.

So listen to your pastor Sunday morning. Plan your Thanksgiving dinner. But if you are one of the three women who cannot sit down to dinner, or who cannot eat because of a sore jaw, it is time to do something. Contact your local women’s shelter, go to the authorities, or to your family. Tell your pastor. Make him think this Thanksgiving that he needs to speak out for women, instead of spending time speaking against women.

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Celebrate! Rejoice with us!

November 14, 2014, Christians for Biblical Equality Houston Chapter was honored by Houston Graduate School of Theology (HGST.edu) for our work for women’s equality. We are an official chapter of CBE, founded December 2011. I am one of the founding members.

Houston Graduate School of Theology had their first-ever annual congratulatory event for those who are making a difference in the lives of people (at least that is what I thought I heard Dr James Furr, the president of HGST say). They honored the women who helped found HGST 30 years ago with her husband. The next annual awards will be called the Delbert and Carol Vaughn award.  I had my picture made with Carol Vaughn.

The other groups honored for work with women was our group, CBE Houston; Her Call Ministries; and Metamorphosis.

The woman in the red jacket is a Church of Christ preaching minister and is the president of CBE Houston. My husband Don, who started me on this journey for women’s equality, is sitting in a chair. I am the one with the crown on my head (lights) and a beautiful pink pin given to me by someone very special.

Continue reading

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Unwrap yourself!

It is said that there are about 50 million Christians in China (40 million Protestant and 12 million Catholic). It is also said that house churches make up a large part of the Christian community and women are the leaders of these house churches.

My Chinese friend tells me that Protestant missionaries are now telling these women leaders of the house churches that only men can teach women, and that women must again take a secondary role in their lives.

For over 1,000 years, young girls in China had their feet bound and their foot bones broken to conform to this obscene tradition. It is believed that girls’ feet were bound to keep them from becoming independent.

I have just finished reading several books by Lisa See in which she shows how patriarchy was lived out in China. Girls were told to obey their fathers, then their husbands, and when they were widows, they were to obey their sons. In reality, obeying the sons began in the home with the first-born son.

In the 1860s and onward, American missionary women began going to China and opening Christian schools and teaching women. Male missionaries were not as welcome because men could not converse with women in that society. These women missionaries were largely responsible for the outlawing of female footbinding.

However, girls and women were still under the control of fathers, husbands, and sons.

It took the communist regime to give women freedom and independence. However old ideas and ways do not completely go away just because there is a new regime in town. Legally, women could be equals, but in practice, many were not.

It is a shame that it took a communist regime to give women legal freedom.

It is a greater shame that it is Christians who seek to take that freedom away from Chinese women.

What a turn of events! Chinese women were freed by communists, and are now bound by missionaries.

What is done in America is carried across the waters to other cultures, binding them to a culture that Christians have been freed from by Jesus Christ.

Take off your bindings! Unwrap yourself! Remove the wrapping from around your own female body. Wrapping the body is for the dead. We are alive! Claim your freedom through Jesus Christ.

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The un-civil rights of Christians

Today in church, I felt like I was the “N” word. I am a woman. I don’t live in the First Century, but what happened then still rules my church culture today.

My soul cried out. Tears came to my eyes. I wanted to kick, scream and throw something.

All because of a skit of the woman at the well, where the presenter said, “Jews did not speak to women alone.” Alone out in public, a woman was not to be spoken to.

Go to bed with a woman, get her with child, eat the meals she cooks, tell her how wonderful she is, and then allow every man and male child to treat her as if she does not exist.

Use her. Unwrap yourself before her. And then clothe her from head to toe and silence her mouth.

Why? Why did Jews treat women that way? Women were their wives, their daughters and their mothers. Yet they felt they had a superiority that allowed this awful behavior before women.

Jesus showed them a new way. A way where women could be spoken to in public. A way where women could learn and spread the gospel like the woman at the well.

What have we learned? What has the Civil Rights Movement or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 taught us? You would have thought that it forced by law the respect of all people. But it did not.

You see, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exempted churches and religious organizations from treating black people and women with basic human kindness. In particular, it exempted churches from mistreating women by limiting what they could and could not do in church.

Truth be told, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should never have been necessary. But it was because men made those laws that treated black men and women disgracefully. We needed a Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it was men who made the laws that treated women disgracefully.

Today the church badly needs a Christian Civil Rights Act. But don’t hold your breath. As long as Christians think they can continue to keep women from preaching and in submission to all males, they will do so.

Are you ready to speak out? Are you ready for the Christian part of Christianity?

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Defining equality

Somebody by the name of Peter C made this comment on Krishk.  “Egalitarians take a modern political ideal – that of equality – and choose to worship it. Consequently they inevitably distort it and ironically end up abandoning it and, if applied within the church, God Himself.”

The title of the post was “Tim Keller women and ignoring your own rules.” After his comment, the post was closed to comments. But something has to be said in response to the ignorance Peter C expressed.

My response is very simple: Egalitarians do not claim or desire that women are better than men. Complementarians both claim and desire that men are superior to women. Which attitude is more like Jesus?

Jesus is our standard, and since Jesus did not commit women to husbands, or to males, and because Jesus did not deny women anything based on their being women, then we cannot in good stewardship of the gospel, do so either.

When “equal” is qualified in any way, women become unequal in whatever way a religion decides to define it.

Are you ready for equality? If not, why not?

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