September 28, 2007

Preparing Women for the Future: What's the Plan?

Every day it seems that conservative Christians are taking a hit from the liberal left who argue that because Scripture doesn't speak specifically about topics like abortion or embryonic stem cell research, then it doesn't have anything to say about those topics at all. It's true that Scripture doesn't address every possible subject under the sun, but it does provide the framework through which we can process our day to day living. Consequently, in humility and love, we can address even the most complex areas of our lives without compromising the authority or integrity of Scripture. What does that have anything to do with preparing women for the future?

Today women of all ages are faced with a plethora of choices and confront difficult decisions, most of which Scripture has little or nothing say. Bible studies and small groups do their best to promote the character and virtues necessary to live in today's world and succeed in promoting a biblical life ethic. This works well for the women who are involved in these groups. But the challenge of living in today's world - and in the near future - is understanding what we confront. It's not enough anymore to know "right from wrong" for at least 2 reasons: 1. our world has declared that there is no right or wrong because truth is determined by the individual, and 2. It's not always clear that an action or decision is wrong or lacks virtue because it might covered in a blanket of warm words or arguments: therapeutic, self-esteem, merciful, reasonable, etc.

Preparing women to live in this world in the future - and even the near future - necessitates that we address actual issues women face, it's not enough to teach about what makes a woman virtuous or excellent....that needs to be there, but there needs to be more. Wherever and whenever possible, reach out to experts or find resources to address specific areas of a woman's life. How is technology making her life easier and more complex at the very same time? What is the affect of assisted reproductive technologies on a young woman and her [future] husband and [future] family? Why does it matter that she understand that she understand the influence of pornography on the family? How can we be responsible citizens that care about the environment and also be respectors of the image of God in all persons? How do people think and does it actually affect their day to day living? Can an evangelical Christian woman have a career? How does the Christian worldview shape our work, worship and womanhood? These are just a few of the topics that all women need to talk about today. Think about how to prepare women for the future and work this into your ministries as much as you can.

September 27, 2007

Synergy: Leadership Summit for Women

Coming up next week, October 4 and 5, is the Leadership Summit for Women taking place at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Among the speakers is one of my favorite thinkers, Carolyn Custis James, author of When Life and Beliefs Collide and president of the Whitby Forum. This is definitely an event for women in leadership within the Christian community. I plan to be at this event, so if you haven't registered yet, plan to do so as the deadline is quickly approaching. Be sure to say hi if you see me!

September 26, 2007

Out of the Box: My Vision for Women's Ministry

When I began to blog at Intellectuelle a while back, I introduced myself by way of sharing my vision, what's been driving my passion for women. I'm glad to look at it again as nothing has changed, it's just good to go back and remember some of the details as a way of avoiding some of the distrations. So I share this with you so you know that I'm on a mission from God and what it looks like.

I just don't fit in the box...and I never really have. I've always cringed at the activities of the typical church women's ministry because what I saw seemed either to focus on a single group of women or lacked the quality and depth of books and studies not intended specifically for women. If you say I'm making broad sweeping comments about women's ministry, you might be right. But the fact is, in many churches, women with more intellectual tendencies are looked upon to nurture others - as they should - but usually are expected to keep their intellectualism to themselves. Women's bible studies are often very poorly written...with the exception of some great materials by Elizabeth George, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Kay Arthur, Jill Briscoe, and a few others.

When I entered into seminary studies in 2002, I promised myself that women's ministry was the LAST thing I would ever participate in. That promise was reminiscent of the one I made when I was 18 - that I would never work in the fast food industry. So far, I haven't flipped a burger, but God seemed to have other plans for me with regards to women's ministry.

I came to the conclusion during one of my graduate courses in bioethics that women's ministry is, indeed, in need of a face lift (but please do not confuse that for some unnecessary nontherapeutic physical enhancement) and that I am called to this work. Born from this was The Foundation for Women of Faith in Culture, its primary mission being to support the spiritual maturation of women through biblical, theological, and worldview education. I'm excited to say that people are finding this ministry on the internet and are responding.

My hope for Intellectuelle is that it is a place for men and women to reflect on faith and living, but I hope especially that it brings together a community of women who will continue the discussion of what it means to be a thinking Christian woman - and that the Church will take notice of our discussion and our existence.

September 25, 2007

Nancy Pearcey: Scholar for Worldview Studies at PBU

I am so pleased to read that Nancy Pearcey has been named Scholar for Worldview Studies at the Center for University Studies at Philadelphia Biblical University, (PBU), Langhorne, PA.

She will teach, speak and write on the integration of Christian thought with scholarship and the application of Christian perspectives to the academy and across the culture. She is the first-ever faculty scholar to be appointed to the Center for University Studies which PBU recently established to advance its vision of scholarship and cultural engagement.

Highly regarded as "one of the few female intellectuals in evangelicalism," a former agnostic, has addressed staffers on Capitol Hill and at the White House; actors and screenwriters in Hollywood; scientists at labs such as Sandia and Los Alamos; students and faculty at Stanford, Dartmouth, Princeton, USC, Ohio State, and the University of Georgia; as well as educational and activist groups, including the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

She's my hero. :)

September 20, 2007

The Medical Right: Executive Summary

For those of you who are just becoming familiar, The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has recently made public a report on what they term "the medical right" which is essentially the scientific counterpart to the religious right. The purpose of the report is
to provide information on how the incorporation of religious views into secular policy and law is limiting medical services.
The issue of the RCRC is that certain views, what they term fundamentalist biblical values, are having a real influence on the American people and the public square. People everywhere get that abortion and legislation that undermines or infringes upon parental discretion or the conscious of pharmacists is bad. So instead of letting the people hear and be persuaded by prolife groups, the RCRC is doing two things: undermining the credibility of prolifers who appeal to scientific truths, and promoting a secular agenda such that even if they could not undermine their science, they could silence them on the basis of their religious motivations.

The report goes on to assert that the views of the "medical right" contradict "accepted medical consensus" and that to the degree in which they have influence should be cause for concern, especially to those who "value scientific integrity."
Equally disturbing is the disregard of the principle of the separation of church and state in the drive to impose sectarian religious tenets on people of all faiths and beliefs. In sum, the Medical Right threatens basic democratic values by its determination to impose its theological views on a religiously pluralistic public.
So who decides? This so-called "religious coalition" is foolish if they really believe secularism can speak for everyone and protect the rights of everyone. Secularism may not have it's own divinely inspired book (outside of the secular humanist journals) and a higher power (outside of each individual, that is) to which they appeal for truth, but secularism is, nevertheless, a worldview with it's own set of presuppositions and values. In this case, secularists such as those of the RCRC believe that preborn life is not life, or (to be slightly generous) they believe it's less valuable than older, more mature life.

Also interesting to me about this organization's views about religious perspectives is that they fall into the postmodern quagmire of nothing being true. For them, the highest value is inclusivism at the expense of truth and religious perspectives, including any that they hold including their perspective on secularism, are just their own personal values that cannot be true for everyone. So in a pluralistic, yet democratic society, who decides anything? The last I knew, "we the people" have something to say, so the only way to influence "we the people" against fundamentalist biblical values is to silence the medical right with the doctrine of secularism, slamming them up against the wall of separation - or so to speak.

September 19, 2007

The "Rogue Gallery" of the "Medical Right": See If You Made the List!

rogue (rg)
1. An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.
2. One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.
3. A wandering beggar; a vagrant.
4. A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.

1. Vicious and solitary. Used of an animal, especially an elephant.
2. Large, destructive, and anomalous or unpredictable: a rogue wave; a rogue tornado.

I thought it would be fun to look at the definition. It must have been written by a liberal....note the reference to the elephant. But anyway, who made the list?

1. American Academy of Medical Ethics
2. American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists
3. American College of Pediatricians
4. Americans United for Life
5. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
6. Care Net
7. Catholic Medical Association
8. Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity
9. Christian Medical and Dental Society
10. Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer
11. Concerned Women for America
12. Elliot Institute
13. Focus on the Family
14. Medical Institute for Sexual Health
15. National Association for Prolife Nurses
16. National Right to Life
17. Pharmacists for Life International
18. Pregnancy Centers Online
19. Pro-Life Maternal-Fetal Medicine

I'm only sorry I'm not visible enough to have made the list.

Note the introductory material....if you're listed here, you're "controlling the 'facts' of the Medical Right." This document is made available as a resource of the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice. Consider it free publicity, your donors will love it.

September 18, 2007

The Medical Right: Remaking Medicine in Their Image

Have you ever heard of the "Medical Right" ?? This term is used "to show the connection of religiously influenced medical organizations to the 'Religious Right,' a political force primarily comprising fundamentalists in the Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions."

A report written by Marjorie Brahms Signer, the communications and policy director of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, spends countless pages showing the interconnectedness of organizations and coalitions like The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, Americans United for Life, The Christian Medical and Dental Association, Family Research Council, Do No Harm, etc. I'm left asking, so what? I know you're curious now, read the whole report here.

This report is fundamentally a list of unsubstantiated assertions about what Christian prolife conservatives think about human life and dignity and what they (supposedly) don't understand about science.

From the Foreword:
As we researched the organizations and individuals in this religion-politics-medicine network, a pattern became clear: science and medicine are being purposely used to provide a convincing rationale for political activities that appeal to Religious Right constituencies.
The charge of politicizing the issue does nothing more than fuel ignorance on their own side because until the lives of every person at every stage are safe from experimentation and extermination, this is and should be political. Of course, it need not be a Democrat vs. Republican debate, but pick a side and be a liberal or a conservative. But I do find the above quote curious in that networking is a very smart thing to do, and if science and medicine were on your side, wouldn't you also "purposely use it?" What is unstated in the above quote, of course, is the belief that science and medicine are not on the side of the Medical or Religious Right. This becomes all too clear as Signer's position in the remainder of the report.

More soon: The Executive Summary

About the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Located in Washington D.C. and online, their mission states (in part):
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice brings the moral power of religious communities to ensure reproductive choice through education and advocacy. The Coalition seeks to give clear voice to the reproductive issues of people of color, those living in poverty, and other underserved populations.

While our member organizations are religiously and theologically diverse, they are unified in the commitment to preserve reproductive choice as a basic part of religious liberty.

Our rational, healing perspective looks beyond the bitter abortion debate to seek solutions to pressing problems such as unintended pregnancy, the spread of HIV/AIDS, inadequate health care and health insurance, and the severe reduction in reproductive health care services. We support access to sex education, family planning and contraception, affordable child care and health care, and adoption services as well as safe, legal, abortion services, regardless of income.
Rational; theologically diverse; safe, legal, abortion services.......these all seem to be very warm, welcoming terms, everything a good public relations strategy would encompass. Smart, pluralistic, safe, and legal do not look beyond the abortion debate, they ignore it.

The RCRC statement on ESCR is lacking some serious content. Perhaps the organization is uninformed about the process of SCNT and the desire for proponets of ESCR to clone embryos for research. And if they are uninformed about SCNT (I doubt it), it's time for them to learn why bioethicists like myself are concerned not only for human life and dignity in all stages, but also for the young women who are being exploited by the pursuit of their eggs. It is difficult to believe that the best interests of young women are really the highest concern of pro-Roe activists. Willful disregard for the health and respect of young women is a prerequisite to the pursuit of ESCR.

But what about this "moral power of religious communities" ?? I'm not exactly sure what it means. It seems to suggest that a certain degree of influence in the area of reproductive choice on the part of this pluralistic religious community is something to be recognized and engaged. Is that really any different from the "moral power" leveraged by prolife conservatives? I don't think so.

September 17, 2007

"The Medical Right"

Talk2Action's frontpage article "The Medical Right: Remaking Medicine in Their Image" contains so much that it deserves a very lengthy response, so I will be spending the next few weeks offering an analysis of this and the 80 page document they have posted here. I encourage all of you to read this.

The article I am referencing in this post is just a lot of the same bad arguments that are usually lobbed at the prolife community. How I wish for something new.

Here is the essence of the article at Talk2Action and the 80 page document by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:
Religion comes into the equation because the Medical Right operates from a generally unstated, implicit and unwavering biblical worldview and intends to enact its version of Biblical values into law. The “sanctity of human life” is Religious Right Speak for the Medical Right non-medical definition of the beginning of life.
Once again we are seeing people with a particular worldview, and in this case an obvious liberal bias, suggesting that only conservative Christians have a worldview. As soon as anyone begins to make statements about when life begins - or when it doesn't - they are engaging in a metaphysical dialogue that really goes beyond science. But at the same time, we know that at the earliest stages of development that an embryo is indeed a human life. ESC researchers don't ask for dead dog embryonic stem cells to study....they want living human embryos.

More to come.

September 13, 2007

Keeping the Faith?

Religion has no place in the public square. Questions of law should be decided independent of religious voices lest we shove religious views down people's throats. Secularism has the ability to speak for everyone.

These are just a few of the rationales used to sanitize the public square of the religiously influential. My response to them has been and always will be this: simply, the public square cannot be cleansed of religion or worldviews because everyone is driven by them. There is no pure secularism; there is no neutrality.

So, much to my surprise and amusement, I read in today's Chicago SunTimes the religious - even "biblical" - arguments in support of a new Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Aurora Illinois. Dubbed as "pro-choice clerics," they have declared a day of prayer for this Sunday in support of this soon-to-open facility in Aurora.

"The religious right believes that they have heard the voice of God, and they try to impose their hearing of it on the rest of us by law......But there are many women of faith who have heard a different voice of God when they've prayed." These are the words of the Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons of Oak Park, Illinois. It's clear from her words that the problem isn't that religious views are informing public policy, it's that certain religious views she disagrees with are informing public policy.

Rev. Larry Greenfield of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago inserted a "biblical" argument into the controversy. "To deny somebody choice is contrary to what I believe to be the teachings of Jesus as a Christian." A great deal needs to be said about drop-kicking Scripture into this debate, but I most certainly enjoy the fact that it came from the side who embraces the killing of the unborn. Talking about Scripture in an authoritative fashion as Greenfield has done offers an opportunity to deal with the much debated topic of absolute truth and religious pluralism and the ethical implications tied to both, especially as it pertains to social justice. To be clear, abortion is an issue of social justice, but not because of the "choice" or lack thereof, but because of who it hurts - the unborn child and the mother.

I'm thankful the door has been opened, this is a matter to which Scripture does speak.

September 12, 2007

Amy Simpson on Women's Ministry

It seems I missed this awesome post by Amy Simpson on August 28th, titled "Why I Don't Do Women's Ministry." Like the Invisible Christian Women post at the TCW Editor's Blog, this also addresses the complicated culture of women's ministry. And while you might not agree with Invisible Christian Women or this particular post, it's definitely worthy of your consideration.
It’s been a long time since I attended a women’s Bible study, luncheon (why don’t they just call them “lunch”?), or anything else just for Christian women. I’ve spent enough of my life feeling bored, self-conscious, and out of place (think junior high gym class).

In my experience, the people who plan these events make all kinds of assumptions about who I am as a women. For starters, most assume I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom (and the best time of day for a meeting is, of course, 10:00 in the morning). They also seem to believe I enjoy making refrigerator magnets, spend most of my time thinking about fashion and chocolate, and can think of nothing better than getting away from my husband and kids (even though I’ve been at work all day) and hanging out with my “girlfriends.” This isn’t me—at all.

I used to think I just didn’t fit. Somehow I wasn’t like most women, and this probably had something to do with my spiritual life, so I should try harder to fit in. Now I realize that’s not true. In fact, the funny thing is, I don’t really think I’m a misfit. Most women I know feel the same way I do about women’s ministry programming. I know that women’s ministries do connect with many women and provide important opportunities for growth. But they seem to be focused on serving a relatively small segment of the population. So I wonder: Why do so many of our women’s ministry efforts treat women as if they all have the same lifestyle, schedule, goals, affinity for June Cleaver, and penchant for pink roses? And why are we expected to call ourselves “girlfriends”?

I don’t mean to undermine the importance of women’s ministry, or trivialize the effective ministry that’s happening in many churches. But by and large, I believe our churches are running shallow, one-dimensional programs that miss important opportunities to minister to many women.

I more than identify with this post....I've made the same complaints, same assessment and have asked the same questions. Are we taking the next step? What is the next step? I want to see this discussion continue because it will help to free more women who participate in women's ministry, to know that they don't have to conform to a certain image. Biblical or Christian womanhood, or whatever you want to call it, necessitates a high view of Scripture, an understanding of Christ's holiness, man's sinfulness, the precious gift of redemption, etc., but it doesn't require that we all take an interest in similar things and lead similar lives. I believe the culture of women's ministry in the local church is shifting. More are being stirred to speak out on the blogs about this culture, more Christian women's writers are doing more than supplying fluff, and more and more women are entering seminary and phd programs in order to serve women in the church(not a requirement of course, but quite refreshing). What are you doing to include more women and shatter the stereotypes?

September 6, 2007

The Legacy of Dr. D. James Kennedy

Separation of Church & State...definitely not a notion held by the now departed Dr. D. James Kennedy. Much of his work is defined by his understanding that Christian voices have a role in the public square and therefore, have an equal opportunity for influencing and impacting culture. Regarding the so-called "wall of separation," some have quoted him as saying that the concept is "diabolical," a "false doctrine," and "a lie propagated by Thomas Jefferson." I can't say that I disagree because to use a misinterpretation of the Constitution to silence any particular group or particular way of thinking is to completely misunderstand the intent of the writers and the words on the paper.

Kennedy was successful in getting my attention as a child. Raised in a politically conservative home, it made sense to me that the my the source of my values should be a part of the communication of my values - the Christian worldview being one of many voices vieing for predominance in the public square. But I often hear the complaint that Christian conservatives are too wrapped up in legalism, focusing on what we should and should not be doing. Ethics, I believe is a key component of the Christian faith, and I believe Dr. Kennedy understood this to be true, also. What we are to do as followers of Christ is to act ethically in and through responding to needs in the world: caring for the widows, the poor, the vulnerable. To ignore these people would be unethical....unchristian. So it hasn't been a stretch for me as an Ambassador of Christ into all the world to agree with Dr. Kennedy that the public square is an important and necessary location for the influential role of Christianity on all of society. This is not because I am merely interested in society conforming to the evangelical Christian ethic, but so that lives could be genuinely affected by what is good, true, and beautiful.

I am thankful for the work of Dr. D. James Kennedy and I know he has served the Kingdom well. He may not have been as prominent as Robertson, Falwell, or Dobson, but he played an important role in stirring and equipping the grassroots.

September 5, 2007

The Passing of D. James Kennedy

Mega-church pioneer, evangelist, religious broadcaster, key figure in the "religious right".......the legacy of D. James Kennedy is one of a person with a great deal of impact on the church and culture. This year is proving to be something of a transition year for Christian conservatives, first in the loss of Jerry Falwell, then in the passing of Dr. Kennedy. I can only hope that the vision of theirs, to allow Christianity to participate as a voice in the public square, will continue under and new generation of leaders.