church nonsense, Light, war on women

Picking Your Paul

photoWe were both sipping mochas in a trendy downtown cafe.  Mine was warm and creamy, hers was iced.

Daughter:  It’s amazing how your pastor can preach a beautiful message about Martha and Mary and point out Jesus’ invitation to women to sit at His feet as disciples, yet your church expects women to merely fill seats and give money without any real participation.

Me:   That’s because Paul trumps Jesus.

Or, as Fake Mark Driscoll (@NotDriscoll) tweeted, “I’m tired of people saying Jesus gave women a voice.  If I’m not mistaken, about 30 years later Paul suggested they zip it.”

It doesn’t matter that the first person to whom Jesus whispered His Messianic identity was a woman.  And that many of the Samaritans from her town believed in Him because of her testimony.

It doesn’t matter that there are Old Testament precedents for women in leadership.  Deborah, after all, ruled over men as both a prophet and a judge.

It doesn’t even matter that Paul considered Priscilla his co-worker in Christ.

Paul wrote that women should remain silent in the church and by golly we are sticking to it.  Here’s what he said, “Women should remain silent in the churches.  They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.”  (1 Corinthians 14:34 NIV).  And what law would that be?  There is nothing in the capital l Law of the Old Testament that says women must remain silent.  And since he used the lower case l for law, I’m guessing he was referring to the Talmud, which is merely a collection of rabbinical teachings.

In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul wrote, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”  I being the operative word.   Therefore, Fake Mark Driscoll, it does not matter that Paul suggested that women zip it, because we are Jesus’s church, not Paul’s.

And let me just point out that Paul also wrote:  “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26, 28 NIV)

A friend posted this on Facebook: “The Bible is not trail mix, you cannot pick out what you like and leave the rest.”  For what unholy reasons does my church hold the teachings of the Talmud and Paul’s personal preference with an iron grip, while ignoring his co-ministry with Lydia and Priscilla?  Why do they ignore the Old Testament and the dignity and voice Jesus gave to women?

Satan’s strategy is to divide and conquer, and some of us are playing right into his crafty old hands.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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church nonsense, Jesus

Chasing Kings

 

Every time I walked past my parents’ vast library, the spine of a certain book would catch my eye:  Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm.  “Why would anyone want to escape from freedom?”, my inquisitive young mind would wonder.  I finally asked my mom about it.  She explained that the author – a psychologist – theorized that people don’t really want to be free.  It is too scary for them.  So they escape freedom by putting themselves under the authority of another.  That way they no longer have to take responsibility for their lives.  She said individuals do it and sometimes whole nations do it.  Apparently even trees do it.

Have you read the parable in Judges 9?  One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves.  They said to the olive tree, “Be our king.”  But the olive tree had a good thing going with its oil production.  It declined, saying, “Why would I give all this up to hold sway over you?”

Next they approached the fig tree, “Come be our king.”  But the fig tree replied, “I’m making some good fruit here.  Why would I give up such a sweet gig to hold sway over you?”

The trees approached a vine, “Come and be our king.”  But the vine answered, “Sorry, but my wine cheers people up.  I would rather be productive than hold sway over you.”

Desperate, all the trees pleaded with the thornbush, “Come and be our king.”  “Sure”, said the thornbush, “I’ve got nothing better to do.  If you really want me to be your king then come and take refuge in my prickly, gnarly shade.”

It seems we would rather have a bad king then no king at all.  Samuel knew this all too well (1 Samuel 8):

When Samuel was old and getting ready to retire, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.  But his sons were corrupt and they perverted justice.  So the elders met with Samuel and said, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

Samuel was no doubt heartbroken.  Are my sons really that lame?  Was my leadership that weak?  Prophets and judges have always lead Israel, will God go for this?  Am I a big, fat failure?

Samuel prayed.  The Lord answered:  “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  Listen to them, but warn them solemnly and let them know what will happen.

Samuel returned to the elders:  “God said you can have a king, if you really want one, but just so you know:  He will draft your sons into his military and they will have to run in front of his chariots.  He will force others to plow his ground and reap his harvest.  He will take your daughters to serve him as cooks and bakers and perfumers.  He will take your best fields, groves and vineyards and give them to his political cronies.  He’ll take all your best stuff for his personal use.  Eventually you will become his slaves and, when that day comes, you will cry out for relief.  But the Lord won’t be listening.”

The people did not care.  They wanted what they wanted.  So they ignored the warning.  “We want a king over us!  We want to be like everyone else!  We want someone to lead us and fight our battles for us!”

Samuel reported back to the Lord, who said, “Give them a king.”  And if you know anything about the history of Israel, then you know that everything the Lord warned would happen, did.

Now the question is, did a portion of the church make Paul our king?  Jesus came to bring freedom from the heavy burden imposed by the Pharisees.  Crowds of people followed Him.  They were amazed by the things He said, things they had never heard before.  But when He left us to return to heaven, did we seek to replace Him?  Do we prefer a king with skin on?  One who will provide concrete rules, guidelines and strict doctrinal truths by which we can measure our behavior and judge the behavior of others?

Following the letter of strict doctrinal law, difficult and tempting as it is, is much easier than following the Spirit of freedom and Love.  Jesus said He would build His church upon Peter’s understanding of who He is.  But my church seems to have built itself upon the manual provided by Paul.  How about yours?  Upon whom/what is your church built?

Fellow thinkers, what do you say?  Catholics?  Lutherans?  Presbyterians?  Baptists?Charismatics?  I’m hoping to hear from every denomination of believer.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

 

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church nonsense, Jesus, Light

Passionate About Paul?

 

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I love Jesus.  Not just because He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Not just because His is the Name above all names.  At least it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately, sinfully, at my church, and perhaps at yours, it isn’t.  It’s Paul’s.  For a while I kept track.  Two columns.  A hash mark every time Paul was mentioned or quoted and a hash mark every time Jesus was mentioned or quoted.  It was pitiful.  Jesus, I began to realize, is almost completely left out of Sunday morning services, and I miss Him.

I commented the other day that elevating Paul above Jesus is a nuance of false teaching.

The post garnered quite a bit of debate.  Some of it involved my comment:

One fellow commenter wrote:

“Paul and his gospel were “In Christ,” as long as that is acknowledged it should not be a problem. The ascended Christ hand picked Paul for the revelation of the secret which God kept hidden from the beginning. Through that revelation we are here in Christ’s place just as Paul was. Paul’s words were Jesus’s.”

This is a common church teaching, but are we sure it is actually true?  When did Jesus say that He hand-picked Paul to reveal these mysteries? I know Paul said it, but when did Jesus say it? Nowhere in Scripture does a voice from heaven say, “This is my servant, Paul, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him”. Paul certainly earned the right to speak by all he suffered, but I don’t think we should elevate his words to the status of a prophet. He never claimed to be a prophet. He was a church planter. We Protestants criticize Catholics for ascribing inerrancy to their Popes and yet we do the same with Paul. As you know, Paul was well-steeped in the teachings and traditions of the Pharisees, and ingrained teachings die hard. Perhaps that is why Jesus told His disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees. Perhaps that is why, high atop the Mt. of Transfiguration, God said to Peter, James and John, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to Him!” [italics added].

Another commenter quoted 2 Timothy 3 :16-17:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be Perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.(K.J.V)”

Except that when Paul wrote those words to Timothy, he wasn’t referring to his own letters.  He was referring to the Law and the Prophets.  Extrapolating that verse to include all that man has canonized may be a mistake on the church’s part.  No where does God include New Testament writings as part of His Holy Scriptures.

You, like this commenter, might be thinking:

“During the lifetime of Peter and Paul there was an understanding that what the Christian prophets were writing was “Scripture” (2 Peter 3: 14-16). 2 Peter 3:14-16 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Peter tells his audience that Paul’s letters are equivalent to “the rest of the Scriptures”. Of course the “rest” means that remaining of what was considered Scripture at that time; basically this means what Jesus considered Scripture. For those who do not regard Paul’s letters as Scripture as much as anything else, please read the above verses many times before making that determination.”

My response:  You may not be reading this correctly. You are linking Paul’s letters with “the rest of the Scriptures”. But, if you read it carefully, the link is actually between “these things” (the difficult to understand Scriptures that were being distorted) and “the rest of the Scriptures”.

Peter was linking the distorted Scriptures that Paul was writing about with the other Scriptures that were being distorted. In other words, Peter was saying that Paul was writing to them about these things that the unstable distort – just as they distort the other Scriptures.

If you diagram the sentence, you may see that I am correct.

Finally, a third commenter warned:

“Beware of those who try to remove the inspiration of the books of the New Testament away from the time period when they were written to the time when they were “officially recognized”. Those who do so have an evil agenda to try and subvert and overthrow our confidence in the New Testament books handed down to us as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.”

A few years ago I wrote a Bible study which included two chapters on the subject of Paul.  I was on my knees as I wrote asking the Holy Spirit to be my Editor, to guide me into all Truth and to prevent me from writing a single thing that was incorrect or untrue.

Now I am turning that Bible study into a book and my prayers are the same.  I ask God whether my thinking has gone astray.  Our conversation often goes like this:

Me:  “Am I unwittingly promoting an evil agenda?  Stop me if I am!”

Holy Spirit:  “Judge a tree by its fruit.”

Me:  “You and I have produced lots of good fruit together over the years, but what if it has become worm-infested?

Holy Spirit:  “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.  What is your aim, friend?”

Me:  “My aim is to know You rightly and to make You known. To lift high the name of Jesus and give Him His due.”

Holy Spirit: “Fear not, loved one, because there is certainly nothing evil about that.”

Turn on your television, your radio or your computer and you will be smacked in the face with the harsh reality that today’s church has been woefully ineffective at stemming the tide of darkness.  Why?  Because there is no power in the name of Paul.

The only name that has any power is Jesus, and if we Christians are going to be effective, we are going to have to bring Him back to church.  How is your church doing?  How much of Christ is in your Christianity?

I would love to hear your thoughts, but I will not approve comments that merely throw knee-jerk Scripture at me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Scripture.  But what I want to know is how your church is doing.  I want to know how this post strikes you emotionally, spiritually, logically?  Does it elicit any fear?  Fear not, if your faith is built on Christ, it will not crumble just because you question a few man-made things.  Jesus did it all the time.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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church nonsense, life

Greeting with Gusto

I went to church today because I was on greeter duty.  The hub says I’m a great little greeter.  My gift is teaching, but since I am a woman in a Baptist church, I greet.  With gusto.

I shake every hand, no matter how young and small.  I stoop down to look into the eyes of every bright little face that comes through the doors, so each one will know that he/she is seen.

Early this morning, before most of the church started to arrive, a young girl sat in the foyer in a wing-backed chair.  She was flipping through a Bible that she was barely old enough to read.  After a few minutes she closed it and put it on the table next to her.  I smiled and told her that God loves seeing her read the Bible.  I told her that every time she reads it her heart and her mind will grow bigger and stronger and more full of God’s love.  She took it off the table and opened it back up again.  That was enough teaching for today.

Come back tomorrow morning for some grown-up teaching that will blow your Bible-loving mind.

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church nonsense, life, Light

Transforming a Jealous Mind

I used to think jealousy was a victimless crime. I thought it only hurt the perp.  And that might be true as long as it stays a soul-gnawing emotion.  But, as I shared in a previous post, once it takes action it does all manner of damage.

So how do you get jealousy under control?  How do you transform a gnarly thought before it morphs into a gnarly action?  Here’s what I do:

1.  I remind myself that there is enough to go around.  I used to scratch my head at my older sister’s manipulative attempts to push my other siblings and me out of our mother’s heart.  She seemed to believe that if we weren’t there, there would be more room for her.  Her logic made no sense to me.  Even as a small child I knew that mom’s love for one would not diminish her love for the others.  A mom never runs out of love.  And a Father never runs out of blessings.  You fulfilling your dream does not mean I cannot fulfill mine.  God has enough for us both.

2.  I remind myself that we are a family.  The Baptist church is full of rugged individualists.  Our emphasis on a personal relationship with God seems to have corroded into an exclusive relationship with God.  It’s just God and me and no one else matters.  So we trample and claw as we race to the head of the class.  But I want to live in a healthy family, a family that spurs one another on toward love and good deeds, a family that is proud of and celebrates the successes of one another.  I want to live in a family where, when something good happens to one member, the rest rejoice in the knowledge that good is possible.

3.  I remember Payne Stewart For those who don’t know golf,  Payne Stewart died in a bizarre plane crash four months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open.  It was an exciting and iconic win.  After beating Phil Mickelson in a playoff, he took Phil’s face in his hands and put it all in perspective saying, “You are going to be a father!”  Phil had almost dropped out of the tournament before the final round because his wife was about to have their first baby.  Payne was a classy guy.  And Phil Mickelson was/is a classy guy, too.  But what if he wasn’t?  What if he had let jealousy tarnish Payne’s last trophy?

Several years ago I had the privilege of speaking at a week-long conference.  It was a huge and exciting opportunity.  Three days before traveling to the conference, I sat in my doctor’s office trying to process strange words.  Why was he talking to me about Gilda Radner?  We decided the exploratory surgery would wait until I returned.  This added a whole new dimension to my huge and exciting responsibility – a dimension I shared with no one but my husband.

Two women from my church, who had traveled to the conference as part of the ministry team, did their best to wreck my little chance to shine.  I ignored their whispered “Who does she think she is?” I graciously took their barrage of criticisms and suggestions under advisement.  And in my spiritually weaker moments I wondered whether they would feel guilty/sorry if I died.  Would they suffer at all knowing they had spoiled my one and only chance to “feel God’s pleasure”?

Thankfully, it wasn’t cancer.  But I remember that week any time even a smidgen of jealousy tries to sneak into my God-loving mind.  “Let her enjoy her turn”, I tell myself, “We should all get to take a turn without someone wrecking it.”

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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church nonsense, life

Something’s Wrong

200127_1863212696847_822020_nMy husband is at church alone this morning.  I stayed home to worship through writing.  I began my “service” the way I’ve started each day this week – by praying with Anne.  And just like every other morning this week, I whispered a salty amen.  And as I did, I realized that that few minutes of prayer did more to refine my sin-dappled heart than an hour at church ever does.

I sit in my well-respected mega-church and I am unmoved.  My mind is impressed with the well-rehearsed and well-staged music,  with the cool graphics and visuals, but my heart is unmoved.

I listen to the announcements and to the boasts of how awesome we are in all that we are doing and I feel like a spectator.  Like my only role is to give audience (and cash) to someone else’s vision.  To be a bricklayer in the building of an earthly kingdom.  But I long to lay bricks in the heavenly Kingdom.

I listen to the sermon hoping to hear from God.  It is a nice, generic, one-size-fits-all message.  It begins with some promise but it lacks Spirit.  It does not challenge me to love better, behave better, think better, relate to God better.  It just pats me on the head and sends me on my way.

I leave disappointed, frustrated and, if there were any visible threads of misogyny showing that morning, irritated.

Something is wrong when going to church does more harm than good.

Anne preached more in a week of prayers than my pastor has preached all year.  And she moved me much closer to who God wants me to be.

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church nonsense, Jesus, life, Light

Did Jealousy Kill Jesus?

I wrote a Bible study a few years ago and it was pretty darn brilliant.  My pastor, who was fairly new to our church, asked me, who was also fairly new to that church, to teach it.  To the women.  On Wednesday nights.  I knew the content would ruffle some baptist feathers, so I asked him to read it first.  He gave it high praise.  He said he agreed with 98% of it and he couldn’t prove me wrong on the other 2%.  Just a matter of interpretation.

Wednesday night attendance was sparse at that church.  There were two offerings for adults – a class for women and a class for men.  Because I was fairly new, I did not know that THWM (the head of the women’s ministry) had taught every Wednesday night class for at least the last twenty years.  This was her first time in a student’s seat.  And there she sat – right in the middle of the front row – loaded for bear.

I hadn’t uttered my first paragraph before she raised her hand and challenged me.  I politely responded that this was the lecture portion of the class.  Discussion would come later, so hold that thought.  She might be a slow learner, because she interrupted me several times more.  The next morning I was awakened by an angry phone call.  THWM was scolding me.  I was recklessly and dangerously straying from baptist doctrine to a class of vulnerable new believers.  “Good”, was my first sleepy thought, “they can study the Scriptures accurately right from the start.”  But instead of saying that out loud I asked her who those vulnerable new believers might be.  I wanted to know my audience so I had begun that first session with introductions.  I asked the women to tell me a little about themselves – including how long they had been attending that church, what was the extent of their Bible knowledge, etc.  No one had mentioned being a new believer.  THWM hemmed and hawed and said, “Well, none of them are new believers, but many of them don’t have much Bible knowledge.”  This time I said it aloud, cheerfully, “Good, then this is their opportunity to learn it accurately.  That way they won’t have anything to unlearn later.”

Week two brought more interruptions, more challenges, more negative energy from the middle of the front row.  And another angry phone call.

By week three the other women were uncomfortable.  And perhaps torn.  They seemed intrigued by the material but they also seemed afraid to enter into the discussion.  THWM had been in charge for as long as anyone could remember (shouldn’t there be term limits?) and it was likely she’d be in charge for another twenty years.  They had all been around long enough to know that her sweetness was saccharine and no one was willing to risk the bitter aftertaste.

Prior to the third class I asked God to show me the real issue.  THWM’s phone calls and accusations had been so scattered and flailing that I knew the problem was more emotional than theological.  After class, as I was putting the room back in order, THWM stayed behind.  She chewed my ear a bit and then suddenly blurted, “I could write a book, if I wanted to! I just never wanted to…but if God wanted me to, I would….”  And there it was – the real issue.  She wasn’t jealously defending the Scriptures, she was jealously defending her position as head of the women’s ministry and sole Bible teacher.

The next day I was invited to the pastor’s office for a chat.  THWM would be there.  Grateful for the revelation, I was prepared for our meeting.  I was gracious and poised knowing that the issue wasn’t what I was teaching, it was jealousy.  During the meeting I calmly answered each of her theological objections.  Frustrated in her attempt to get me thrown out for heresy in a straight up, honest theological debate, she resorted to taking liberties with the truth.  Blatant liberties.  Instead of addressing them, I went another route.  I dug deep into my feeble heart and grabbed every bit of kindness I could muster.  I shared that I had asked God to show me what was troubling her.  I linked it to her outburst about writing a book.  I assured her that I had no interest in being the head of the women’s ministry or in replacing her as the Wednesday night teacher.  I was simply doing as the pastor had asked. I had a ministry of my own, thank you very much, and it kept me plenty busy.

I expected the final weeks to go better now that THWM knew she would always be Queen of the Hill, but they didn’t.  She wanted more than position.  She wanted regard.  The highest regard.  She greedily wanted to be regarded as the one and only spiritual leader of that little flock of women.  The most knowledgeable, the most spiritual.  And so it continued – the sabotage, the complaints to the pastor, the class disruptions.  The only thing that ceased was the phone calls because we both knew what was what.

I had wanted our five weeks together to be a warm and wonderful time of learning, sharing and marveling at the genius of God as we grew closer to Him.  Jealousy killed that.  It killed the message Jesus had given me for that little class.  It killed the growth and the glory that would have been His as a result.  All that was left was an ugly display of the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 3.

Human nature has remained unchanged these 2,000 years.

“The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.”  Mark 11:18 NIV

Jealousy killed Jesus way back then and it is still killing Him today.

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church nonsense, life

My Mother the Whore

I mentioned that I might skip church this week, maybe even skip the entire summer.  I need a break from the misogynistic nonsense.  In response my darling offspring attempted to dissuade me with, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother”.

But here’s the thing:  If my mother were a whore, I wouldn’t visit her once a week.  I’d probably only see her on the obligatory holidays – like Christmas.  And Easter.

It’s time to start expecting more from mom.

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church nonsense, life, Light, Stories from the Island, war on women

A Tale of Two Meetings

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I was going to start with something light – perhaps an exposé of our deaconess duties being merely busy work for church ladies.  But that will have to wait.  Something has transpired that forces me to jump right in to the deep end.

Two weeks ago I met with a middle-aged, non-denominational woman who heads up a ministry to street women.  I invited her and her team, along with several of the women to whom they minister, to a fabulous all-expense-paid retreat.  The meeting was a delight.

The other day I met with a young Baptist woman who also heads up an outreach to street women.  The purpose of the meeting was to invite her and her team of volunteers to the same all-expense-paid retreat.  The meeting, I am sorry to say, was a disaster.

I had not met either of the women prior to my coffee dates with them.  What made one a delight and the other a disaster?  Being Baptist.

The older, non-Baptist woman brought her granddaughter – a precocious and confident five-year-old – to our meeting.

The young Baptist brought the vice president of her board – a sour-faced gentleman probably in his sixties or seventies.

When I explained the purpose of the retreat and extended the invitation to the older woman she said, “I don’t know how to respond without crying.”  She then started to tell me about the women she would invite and ended by saying, once again, that the invitation was an answer to prayer.  She was eager for the women of her ministry to hear what God had laid on my heart to share with them.  I left that meeting with a jubilant spirit.  I had met a new friend and I could hardly wait to get to know her.

When I explained the purpose of the retreat to the young Baptist, she expressed gratitude over the invitation for a time of refreshment but said she would need to see a written copy of the teaching I planned to share before giving me a final answer.  She had to protect the grown women on her team from possible heresy after all.  Because Baptist women apparently have no discernment of their own. That’s when I became nauseous.  I was cordial to the young Baptist but I left that meeting offended and a little ticked.  I composed a snarly but amusing mental tweet under the hashtag #ihatemychurch.

Fortunately, after it was all said and done, the dates didn’t work for the young Baptist and her team.  They had a fundraising event planned for the weekend of the retreat.  Thank you Lord.

I invited them because I wanted to hear what they had to say;  I wanted to give them the opportunity to hear what women who had escaped life on the streets had to say; and I wanted to give them the opportunity to hear what God has to say.  God, however, knew better and He spared me a bundle of wasted money.

Here’s what He told me that night as I was doing the dinner dishes:

1. Young Baptist women do not have a voice.

2. The sour-faced henchman was there to make sure it stays that way.

I could expound a whole lot on #2.  In fact, I have.  I’ll let you know when the book comes out.

With the non-denominational woman there was freedom.  Freedom to let women speak their minds, share their experiences, learn from one another and hear a fresh word from God.  With the Baptist woman there was oppression.  Palpable oppression.  She couldn’t even meet with me without a man there to supervise.  And that is when I knew I had to start my blog with this post, and with this question:  Should Baptists be rescuing women from the sex industry?  From human trafficking?  Will those women escape one form of bondage only to find themselves in a bondage that is far more insidious.  One that disguises itself as holy?

Shudder to think.

We’ve got a lot to talk about.

 

 

 

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