Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Be Angry...and Sin Not

A great clamor has arisen over the recent public sin of Jack Schaap, deposed pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana.  I know mine is  rather insignificant in the sea of voices, but I feel compelled to speak.  

I am thoroughly outraged by those who claim that this is nothing more than a mortal man who fell prey to temptation.  Forgive and forget.  Move on.  

I am equally outraged by many who are gloating over Schaap's fall, who are delighting in his demise, and who are mocking the grief of FBC's congregants.  

I don't belong in either camp.  Yet I can sympathize with folks in both because I have belonged to both camps at one time or another, and honestly, even now I find myself vacillating at times between the two.   Here is my perspective, for what it's worth.

I am a sinner.  Not just your average, run-of-the-mill sinner who sometimes speaks impatiently to my children, or selfishly demands my own way, or who doesn't serve my neighbor when it's inconvenient.   No.  It's far beyond that.  "I am a sinner" is more than an intellectual statement of faith for me...it is a felt truth.  For the sake of my sons, who may one day read my blog (and who will eventually know of my sins...just not through this venue!), I won't disclose my particular sins here.  But, suffice it to say, they span most of my adult years and they cover a wide gamut of jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching wanderings that, if known, would cause some to cast me off.   Please, don't sit and speculate about what those sins might be...that's not the point.  The point is, I have known great sin.  I have cried out in abject despair with the Psalmist, "...my sins have taken such hold upon me that I am not able to look up.  They are more in number than the hairs of my head and my heart has failed me!  O Lord, let it be thy pleasure to deliver me; make haste, O Lord, to help me.  I am weary of my groaning; every night I wash my bed and water my couch with my tears.  Save me, O Yahweh, for the waters are coming even unto my soul!  Deliver me from my persecutors for they are too strong for me!" (Psalms 40, 6, 69 - Coverdale Translation)

When once...or more than once...you have found yourself in that pit, covered with shame, unable to save yourself, crying out for mercy, you can never EVER view anyone else's sin in the same way.  When you have seen the frailty and rebellion of your own heart and yet find yourself rescued by the grace of God, you will be unable to delight in the fall of any other human being.  Your heart will be filled with sorrow, with compassion, with empathy, and with prayer for the sinner and everyone who has been devastated by his sin.  

From this vantage point, I empathize with Mr. Schaap.  I grieve for his wife.  I grieve for his congregation.  I grieve for his children.  I grieve for him and for the burdens of guilt and shame that he will carry for a very long time.  I grieve for that young girl who is likely devastated by her own shame and loss and sin.  I grieve for all those who looked to him as an example, because even though I think they shouldn't have, or even though I think their admiration was mindless and idolatrous...the truth is, they have still been devastated.  Their faith is being sorely tried.  They are asking hard questions about the sovereignty of God, about His goodness, about His church, about sin and evil.  HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN and WHERE WERE YOU?  What is true?  Whom can I trust?  This devastation is designed to lead all who are broken-hearted to the feet of Christ  to acknowledge His supremacy, to abandon all our forms of idolatry, to remember that man is but dust, to humble ourselves, to seek His redemption in its fullest sense, to mourn, to repent, to cry out for mercy, and to wait for Him to raise us up again. 

This situation also calls us to examine our own hearts and lives...to be honest before the Lord about our own temptations and sins...to be transparent with others about our weaknesses...to ask for help before it's too late...to acknowledge and repent of our own arrogance toward a brother who sins...to learn what it means to "restore a fallen brother in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted."   

BUT...(did you know that was coming?)...

BUT...I would also suggest that there is more here than meets the eye, as is evidenced by the furor of many former members who experienced similar sins in this church's past.  Yes, man is man in every era, so in that sense, we should not be surprised when any man in any church in any era is overtaken in a fault.  But this church and school system have a history that makes this latest incident even more disturbing.  There are, as the law would call them, aggravating circumstances that elevate the grossness of this sin.  

The first aggravating circumstance is created by the sermons issuing forth from the FBC pulpit.  They are fraught with arrogance, with denigration of women, with self-righteousness, with way too many sexual references (both implicit and explicit), with a sickening tone of false-piety, with distortions of The Scriptures and The Gospel.   Pharisaism is rampant.  I am speaking as an outsider now, but I was once fully-integrated into this body that some call a cult.   I was once filled with the same sense of self-righteous indignation at others' "sins."  I even - to my great shame - reported those whom I caught committing  the grave sins of wearing slacks (gasp!) or going to a movie (horrors!).  I am mocking myself, but seriously, folks.  Because I submitted to what the church leaders taught, I BELIEVED that these were sinful behaviors and that one could not be a Christian and do such vile acts.  I am 100% serious.  This is the form of legalism that dominates this place and once I broke free from it, I realized how very false and unbiblical it is...how much it violates the freedom and grace of The Gospel...how utterly absurd and ridiculous it is!    The problem is, there remains at FBC a prevailing sense of spiritual superiority and a deep running pride that permeates Schaap's sermons and that needs to be purged.  Not only is that pride ungodly, it is absolutely unjustified.  

It is unjustified because of this second aggravating circumstance.  While girls who wore slacks, or boys who held a girl's hand, or kids who went to the theater were punished...yes, I said punished (spanked at school, given "demerits", publicly called out and humiliated, etc.)...when sinful, immoral, Commandment-breaking behavior was discovered among the school or church male leadership, it was ignored.  Diminished.  Swept under the rug.  Our family was forced out in order to shut us up...like others before and after us.  

Now, let me be quick to say this.  I have had no personal contact with Jack or Dave Hyles since we left Hammond.  I have visited Dave's Facebook page and, quite honestly, it seems that he has genuinely repented and has found in Christ the mercy we all desperately seek.  He appears to be a grace-filled man who is gentle and godly in his speech and in his thoughts and in his response to others who are not so gracious toward him.  It's likely that he belongs to the Lord and has been redeemed.  NONE OF US IS BEYOND REDEMPTION.   However, it seems to me that the Hyles men never quite understood the destructive nature of their actions.  The consequences, the hurt, the pain, the humiliation CONTINUE, in large part, I believe, because there has not been private and/or public repentance, restitution, and restoration offered to the many, many girls who were violated during their reign.  I think this is a necessary step that would result in much good for the Kingdom of God.  Every single girl who was victimized on any level NEEDS to hear Dave say, "I violated you.  I robbed you of your innocence.  I used my position of power to seduce you.  In doing so, I misrepresented Christ to you and I am sorry...for all I stole, for the hurt, the humiliation, the confusion, etc."  I believe that sincere, personal apologies would provide the possibility of healing for most, if not all, of those young women (now middle-aged women) who were denied the dignity of an acknowledgement or an apology in the past.    

And then, because Jack is dead, I think a representative of the church - in his stead - ought to make a public acknowledgment and apology for all the past sins that he actively hid in order to protect himself, his son, and other men in power.   This would be a compelling testimony to the integrity of The Body of Christ, a  much-needed validation of the wrongs done to the victims themselves, and it might even repair some of the collateral damage to the families and friends of the victims.  I'm not talking about a "PR" statement in order to "save face."  I'm talking about a humble apology from someone in authority who recognizes and enters into the deep grief caused by this organization and its leaders in the past...who offers no excuse, no justification, no softening of the facts.  Just a truthful, from-the-heart, meaningful public apology. 

As I listened to the FBC service from Wednesday night, I actually heard one of the men who has been there for 30+ years say, "This church has been a safe place for young people for decades," and I wanted to scream, "LIAR!!  LIAR!!  STOP THE LIES!  YOU KNOW THAT'S NOT TRUE!"  There is no reason to perpetuate that myth.  That public lie cuts to the heart of every girl who was pursued or violated by a man in a position of authority.  It, AGAIN, declares that what happened to them either "didn't really happen" or "it didn't matter."  And let me tell you.  It mattered.  It STILL matters.  These women matter.  AND SO DOES THE NAME OF CHRIST, which has been blasphemed because of the hypocrisy and deceit.

Besides the offering of personal apologies from Dave (or other offenders), and apologies from the church's leadership, the church needs to humbly and thoughtfully examine its view of women.  I know the view I was given of myself as a woman and of my position of subservience in relation to men.  I was taught that my role was one of silence and unquestioning submission.  The intensity of that teaching and its form have escalated over the years because recent sermons I have heard from Jack Schaap are even more offensive and hateful and ungodly than anything I remember hearing while growing up there.  His view of women is nauseating.  His view of the superiority of men is even more nauseating.  FBC needs to search the Scriptures from outside of their presuppositions and let the Spirit of God open their eyes to their errors.   

Because of the arrogance and false piety, because of the history of abuse at FBC, and because of the unbiblical, hateful view of women, I believe this new situation ought to arouse our indignation.  I believe that both we and they should shine the light of truth into every corner and expose all the deeds of darkness.  We and they must not take this lightly.  It cannot be treated as a normal case of a brother who fell and needs to be restored.

And that leads me to the other aggravating circumstance, which is this: Jack Schaap didn't "have an affair" with another woman.  Jack Schaap, age 54, had sex with a 16-year-old girl who was under his authority and under his counsel.  He is old enough to be her grandfather and he held sway over her in a position of power and authority.  If you, for one moment want to equate the two, think of any 54-year-old man you know and any 16-year-old girl you know and let that sharpen your perspective.  It is a grotesque violation.  It is abusive.  It doesn't matter one whit what the "legal age of consent" is in Indiana (abortion is legal too...that doesn't make it ethical or moral or right!).  She was a tender sheep in his flock who needed wise shepherding...and this is what she got?  God help that child.

Before I shift gears and say this next thing, let me be very clear, in case I haven't been clear enough yet.  I HATE what has happened at FBC...then AND now.  I HATE the misuse of authority...I HATE the violation of innocent young women...I HATE the covering of sin in order to retain power...I HATE the pretense that holiness prevails when known wickedness is brewing underneath the surface.  I despise all of that.  

BUT...(yep, there's another but...)

BUT...while I understand the anger of so many who experienced the sins and hypocrisies of FBC in the past, I am truly appalled at the venomous speech spewing from the mouths of professing Christians.  Don't shut me out yet.  I too am VERY angry.  I too have had a wide range of memories and emotions stirred up by the recent news.  I too am thoroughly disgusted by the fact that this is STILL happening.  I, like many others, am fed up and want to see the past and the present remedied in righteous ways, even if that means the end of FBC!  I get it.  I do.  The anger, the demands, the drudging up of the unresolved past...these things are largely appropriate and necessary!  

But we cannot resort to personal hatred.  We can and should pray the imprecatory Psalms...that the enemies of God would be put to shame, whoever they might be in this situation.  But we should also pray for complete and full repentance for everyone involved.  We should not delight in their suffering.  We should long for them to experience the same mercy and grace of which we have been made partakers.  We have to find a way to hold both in hand...the righteous anger and the demand that everything be laid bare and finally dealt with must be held in tandem with the reality of man's fallenness.  

There is David, after all.  (I am NOT saying that J.S. is a David...but truth is, I don't KNOW who he is and what is in his heart right now.)  Remember, David took advantage of a woman who was also under his care...he misused his authority over her...when he was done with her, he was willing to cast her aside... he made heroic attempts to hide his sin...when that didn't work, he resorted to murder.  That's about as low as a soul can go, people.  And we know from David's response to Nathan, that he was willing to arrogantly and harshly judge his fellow man for stealing another man's sheep, in spite of his own, more heinous sin. 

But we also know that when confronted, he repented. It appears that he grieved deeply and for a long, long time over his sin.  And of course, he and others suffered many consequences for many years.

My point?  Let's not embody the arrogance we despise.  Let's not rejoice in Schaap's fall.  Let's not fill our hearts and mouths with venomous, vengeful speech.  Let's speak the truth.  Let's express righteous anger (which doesn't have to be passive or timid!).  Let's turn up the light and the heat so that all remaining corruption is brought into the open.  But let's stop short of setting ourselves up as "better than."  Let's not add to the shame of Christ by calling for castration or his rape in prison.  Let's remember who we are and whom we represent.  Let's offer love and rebuke and encouragement and truth where it's needed.  Let's pray for those who have been despitefully used.  Let's pray for courage and wisdom for the men in leadership, who appear - for the first time in FBC history - determined to bring justice and restore the honor of Christ and His church.  Let's pray for all whose faith and lives have been crushed by Schaap's sin.  Let's pray for righteous judgment to be meted out.  Let's pray for healing for that young lady-child.  Let's actually attempt to reflect the character of the One whose name we claim.  Be angry...and sin not.

Feel free to comment and give your perspective, but I ask that you forego profane, hateful, or rude comments or sordid details that don't need to be aired in this particular forum.  I apologize if my own commentary has been hurtful to anyone.  That is not my intent.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Paleo Schmaleo!

Until Monday, I had resisted the "incredibly strong temptation" posed by the ever-popular, paleo phenomenon known as KALE.


OK.  I confess.  There was actually ZERO temptation value.  I had no desire whatsoever to try it...primarily because it is all the rage in the Paleo way of eating (which, by the way, I eschew for the simple reason that it is based on a highly-flawed philosophy, in my opinion...well, OK...the real reason is because they ban a soul from CREAM and BUTTER BACON...my dietary staples!!!)

Anyhow.  I saw a large bag of kale in the grocery store on Monday and decided to give it a go IN SPITE OF its trendy popularity.  Basically, it tastes like bitter cabbage, but I'm OK with that.  One time, I smothered it in Asiago Peppercorn dressing...another time in lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt, and Splenda...but my favorite version was this rebellious NON-PALEO concoction:

Saute red onion in bacon grease until slightly tender.

Add kale to skillet and continue to sauté until dark green, but still somewhat firm.

Add crumbled bacon and pepper jack cheese.

Stir.  Eat.  YUM.