©00 The Media Desk
Even more to argue about.
Well, we never got to the singing fat lady in two. The Media Desk didn't notice until the piece was put to bed and Levite said we'd have to do that one next time when bothered about an addendum.
It's next time.
This time we're going to deal at length with three questions (three dancing, get it? anyway...). All three of which are dynamite under the foundation of the Church as the numbers begin to count up from 2000. And, of course, several wide-ranging and almost pointless detours.
Women participating in the worship service. Isolationism in the local congregation. And; Just how far should the Church go on issues that are not of Salvation caliber?
We're going forward anyway, Levite stops the discussion and watches the kickoff.
Is there a place for the public performance by women in the corporate worship service of the Church of Christ on the Lord's Day?
A little background to the question first, he says.
A local church which Levite is familiar had the following incident occur. Which pointed to more problems than just the propriety of the performance in question.
A wanna-be elder expressed concern to the defacto administrative head of the local church that he was very concerned that one of the women that sang on a regular basis 'moved around' too much when she was singing and he thought it'd be better if she stood behind the pulpit.
No, he was not kidding.
We touched on self-control in 'dancing one'. The 'elder' needs to get himself under control and let her sing her song. As long as the young lady doesn't disrobe in an ecstatic fit of glorious revelation and climatic spiritual self-expression, he needs to take a deep breath and get over it. Remember good King David and his choice for expressing worship? The problem here is not how much feeling, and yes, soul, the woman was putting into her song. Oh, by the way, while she was no supermodel, she was not real tough to look at either, certainly not the fat lady we mentioned earlier.
The problem is whether or not some of those that lead the church and those that want to can keep their eyes above the beltway and focus on the song.
But what was even more disturbing was that the administrator did not nod gravely and then tell the elder that he'd ask the young lady to not sway quite so much, but it might be better if he sat and prayed for better concentration and self control the next time she sang. No. The self appointed buck stopper of this church stepped to the young lady and Told Her to stand still when she sang.
This also led to a void in the performances presented to this church for several months.
While this harkens back to other issues within the church when there is no recognized leadership and hierarchy as prescribed by Scripture and a single man assumes the role of Elder and Deacon and Evangelist and School Marm and Blacksmith and, well, you get the idea. It also shows what can happen when the Men of the Church put the burden for modesty and their own self-control on the women.
In the Bible...
Oh, the Media Desk was wondering if you thought we'd get far into the second page of this claptrap without opening a Bible did you? OK, the first two didn't go half a page without scripture, but we had a lot of background to go into on this one.
First Timothy 2 : 9. Levite puts his finger on one word in the verse.
Modesty. That's it.
It is MEN that are told if he looks at a woman lustfully he has already done the dirty deed in his heart. As long as the woman is dressed at least halfway like she has some sense, she's OK as far as Scripture goes.
Yet some churches have taken the modesty provision and run with it to three stitches this side of a nun's habit and said anything less is immodest.
OK. Let's look at modesty. What is it?
Well, to start with, Paul's provision was written in a patriarchal society where women were little more than a possession at best, and an inconvenience at worst. In that society, modesty depended on which street corner you were on. To the Greeks and Romans, well, modesty meant little, if anything. To the Jews, well, they were not as strict as that Islamic nightmare come true, the Taliban of Afghanistan, but they certainly did not allow miniskirts.
-From the Media Desk to those of you that don't watch hours of CNN at a time. The Taliban are an extremist militia cum quasi political fringe religious group that since the early nineties have managed to knock Afghanistan clear back out of the industrial age. They are so fanatical that if a woman is walking down the street and a Talib man sees her ankle he can kill her on the spot without fear of reprisal from her family or the government. Women under their rule have no rights. Period. It is true, as of the end of 1999, a goat has more rights than a woman in Afghanistan. See references elsewhere on the Desk, under the Afghan chain letter in fact.
So, in the society of the first century Roman Empire, a non-Jewish woman could show she was a Christian by not dressing like the Gentile women. Which meant, not flaunting it. To extend this to today, she would dress so as not to flaunt it. But, she does not have to wear a little hat and skirts down to the ground either. Common sense needs to be the dictator here, not some half embarrassed self-deluding man with no idea what he's talking about.
For instance. How many times have you heard it said in churches, usually within earshot of some of the younger crowd, that, "It's a shame for a man to have long hair." And, just as usually, spouted by some balding gentleman with the best of intentions. Well yeah, Paul said that, in First Corinthians eleven. And if that is the only verse the gentleman can quote, bless his heart, but he needs to look a little further into the book. It was a shame, not a SIN!
These are not salvation issues.
Tattoos, nose rings, long hair, and green lipstick are not mortal sins.
They may not be a good idea, the teachings are generally against it, but they are NOT sins.
Mark that, we'll come back to it. Right now we are taking a right turn back to the women issue.
We looked at teaching in the second of this series of articles. In that, Levite held to the idea that a single session of teaching does not a position of authority within the church make. Since then, nothing has been offered to change that position. And if they had, he would have offered the special music / song leader / accompanist scenario as an example.
Ministry in Song or Music is a recognized branch of the Ministry of the Church in all but some of the odder organizations. If some fruitcake was to say that if a woman was up front singing is Ministering to the Church and thereby usurping the authority of men just as assuredly as she would be preaching or teaching, what could the church answer?
'No, its different if she is just singing a special. That is not teaching.'
Sorry. Some of the most beautiful imagery of our faith is communicated in song.
'Tis midnight, and on Olive's brow The star is dimmed that lately shone; 'Tis midnight, in the garden now The suffering Savior prays alone.
'Tis midnight, and from all removed Emmanuel wrestles lone with fears E'en the disciple whom He loved Heeds not his Master's grief and tears.
'Tis midnight, and for others' guilt The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood; Yet He Who hath in anguish knelt Is not forsaken by His God.
'Tis midnight, and from ether plains Is borne the song that angels know; Unheard by mortals are the strains That sweetly soothe the Savior's woe.
"Olive's Brow" Words: William B. Tappan, 1822. Music: William B. Bradbury, 1853.
After the chills go away, say that's not a powerful message. That no matter who sings it, they are not ministering to you. That what is being communicated there is not part of the Gospel message.
So how can you say that a woman singing something like that is not ministering to, is not teaching, you? Especially if she is singing with feeling and a voice that doesn't sound like a cat caught in a screen door?
So it's OK for a woman to minister as long as she's singing. She can be in front of a room full of men and teach through song, or maybe even poetry, but not in speech.
Pardon us while we look for that line in the sand.
The authority is in the ordained office, NOT in a piece of furniture or an ugly jacket with a funny collar. It is in the duties assigned as laid out in the New Testament and the constitution of the local congregation (which should be in agreement by the way), not what's printed out in this week's bulletin as somebody that is going to read something or play the flute before the sermon.
But it is amazing how many church boards and gossip circles (which are sadly very often the same thing) get into dumb gear and can't get out of it over something that should be an accent to the worship service, not its center. Specials and offerings of praise through the use of the various talents of the group should be a highlight of the service, not a pillar of it. The church should be built around love for Christ and His people, not around who sings better or whether or not a seven-year old girl's skirt may have been too short or some teenage boy's hair was too long up front during the Christmas play.
Levite sits back and spouts off a list of things that he has heard here and there and elsewhere about people who worry about such things. They worry about stuff like perfume that is too powerful, or they shouldn't have worn a Harley-Davidson T-shirt to church. She had a skull ring on, or he had a cigarette behind his ear. His girlfriend is black or she's a Catholic or he was in prison...
Hey! Flash from the NewsRoom!
Maybe even more.
The people that look a little rough, or talk a little out of line, and maybe don't seem to fit in are there for HIM, not for you. God wants them in the Church, and to do that, he needs to get them in the church. And if you look down your nose at them and whisper behind their backs, you might convince them they don't belong here, and if you cause one of His sheep to go astray, what's The Good Shepherd promised to do to you?
Too many people get caught up on the trivial stuff. As long as the packaging is not overly offensive, look past it. If they smell like a chicken factory, maybe you should offer to take them home for a bath and a change of clothes instead of whispering about them. OK, maybe the saying on the back of their T-shirt would make Stalin blush, find them another shirt or offer them yours. If they are there to worship, pray that their praise to God is sweet incense to Him and then ask the Lord to send them some deodorant for next week.
Think about John the Baptist and others in the Book. John wore a nasty shirt and ate bugs and screamed doom at the powers that were. Peter fished naked. Jesus ate lunch with the motorcycle gang members and politicians of his day. 'Psst, he was seen yesterday with a ... prostitute...' Imagine the tongues wagging behind Him on that one!
Yet the people of the Church today get so caught up in outward appearances, they forget that this will all pass away. The fine building they go to will not last as long as some of the great cathedrals of Europe, some of which have stood unchanged for nearly a thousand years. Their designer clothes that are the latest style this month will be sitting in their yard sale next month. Yet Christ compared the fancy Jews to whitewashed tombs. Beautiful outside but inside full of everything foul. Matthew 23 : 27. Are we so different?
Look at that section of Scripture. Why did Christ condemn them? Could it be because they said this and did that? They stood around congratulating each other on how pious and religious they were, and let people starve and die without the Word they were supposed to be teaching to the people? Is that what many outside the church see in us?
OK, so we are going to touch on the salvation issue again. You'll live.
Do the people outside see people inside that won't stop to help them change a tire because they might get grease on their suit? Can't help clean up a mess because they might ruin their nails? We don't have whatever it is you need because you MIGHT pawn it and buy rum and we don't approve of pawnshops.
How stupid is it to obsess over the fact somebody watches soap operas or goes to the casino when they are not even a Christian to start with?
What does that have to do with the woman up front singing and making some old coot sweat because he can't keep himself in line?
Levite takes a deep breath and ignores the commercial during the football game.
Are we running some women out of the church that do not want to be reduced to the role more often associated with the Amish than with the Church of Christ Jesus because we the men of the church have interpreted scripture for our own comfort instead of the good of the Church?
Is it rightly dividing the Word of Truth to say this is permitted and this is not when both are essentially the same.
"A difference that makes no difference is no difference." You don't want to know where that comes from, Levite says with a smile.
But there are church leaders that draw those lines. Not based in Scripture or if they are, they are drawing from one specific verse and ignoring all others.
Like failing to live the witness they should to other churches in their area. Boy, this gets Levite right up and screeching like he's on stage. We can't join the county ministerial association because the Church of the Divine Cheeseburger belongs and WE KNOW they teach false doctrine and if we're seen associating with those heathens people will think we endorse their deviltry. If the Tabernacle of the Immaculate Reception burns down, we'd better not see any of our members out there helping them rebuild because they teach that the designated hitter violates the Law of Moses, and we know better.
"Men of Athens, I observe you are very religious in all things..."
Paul didn't ridicule them, or refuse to go near Mars Hill because that's where the false gods were worshipped. He went there precisely because, BECAUSE! the people there were already halfway home. They believed in something. He did not tell them they were wrong, he didn't make fun of their statue of this or that. How far would he have gotten with them strutting around and saying, "I'm right and you ain't and I'm not going to play softball with you."
Nah, Paul had a little more style than that.
But these same people that refuse to associate with drunks, and Presbyterians, and lesbians send money to the Sun Worshipping Headhunter Evangelism Fund.
Explain that one.
Could it be because the SWHEF is doing its work in some country they can't find on a map while the Gay Lutheran Pole Vault Team is right down the street? Or maybe its because those brave missionaries are doing the dirty work for them? Maybe they believe that since the guy with the spear and the crocodile tooth in his nose has never heard the Word so he is more at risk than the couple with the beer hats at the race on Sunday morning.
Its safer to pay some bright eyed college kid to renew his passport and spend sixteen hours on a plane than it is to talk to the couple on their way to the race.
"Maybe if our church has a cookout with their church, some of our members might decide they'd rather be members of their church." Levite growls like some sour old cuss.
"Maybe if I talk to a Raving Lunatic Pentecostal my faith will be shaken and I'd end up going to their church." He says in a lousy falsetto.
"Or this one;" he says in his own voice, "I used to talk to Tom, Dick, and Larry at work, and they never listened, so why talk to Scott, Bill, and Janet?"
Because Janet might listen. The guy with the beer hat might decide to come see. The anchorman on the Gay Lutheran Team might want to hear the Gospel. You don't know.
Maybe you need to work on your faith a little. Where are the best three verses that explain that coming to Christ is more than a 'sinner's prayer'? How do you explain to somebody that they do not need to be a vegetarian to be a Christian? Can you show that the Saints do not turn into pretty little angels with wings that sit around on clouds all day?
Maybe that is why you would rather give money to the missionaries that go 'over there'.
These people have not grown in the faith. Paul talks about Christians not being able to bear tougher teachings in First Corinthians three. They were milk babies.
What were those teachings they could not stand to hear? It's not hard to figure out. Preach a sermon on sin, or on putting faith to work on Thursday afternoon. And you're getting close to the mark. Mention self control in the light of gluttony to a room full of fat preachers and see how it goes over.
Some Christians think they need to be well-versed in stuff like 'regeneration' and a bunch of big words only heard in seminary. Or you think you have to memorize the New Testament and be able to recite Philippines 2 : 14 at the drop of a hat.
That's a handy verse, Levite says he'll have to remember that one.
Just by living you are a witness. Just by being nice to the guy with the beer hat you show him there is another way. Sourpuss Christians drive more people away than do TV evangelists. Those that run around telling each other to be dour and solemn and if somebody laughs in church they are in danger of the very fires of Hell are helping nobody.
When he was growing up there were several Cranky Christians around Levite's home church. Now he knows several in a couple of local churches on the East Coast. Rumor has it some churches in Kentucky are full of them. They are not an endangered species. It seems some mainstream denominations are trying to corner the market on them.
Look at the words of Paul. He was having a great time! In some of his letters Paul seems to even be thumbing his nose at the authorities of his time.
Paul was in prison. And he is basically saying, 'Caesar's people say Hi!' to the Church at Philippi. He had to have a sense of humor. Philippians 4 : 22.
OK, now this guy had been stoned, shipwrecked, snakebit, beaten, and thrown in prison, and he has to have his tongue firmly in cheek when he says things like 'I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand' in several letters.
Not all of Christianity is 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God'. Read it! Click here.
Jonathan Edwards recently delivered what has been called one of the greatest sermons ever preached in America. If you've never read it, a copy is available on The Media Desk web site. See Link Above.
It is a scalding indictment of everything wrong with the Christians in Edwards' area. He brands his people sinners, period. Comparing them to insects, pointing out to them that the devil is eager to meet them. Their evil doings were bringing God All Mighty to flaming wrath against them as HE prepares to cast them into the waiting Pit.
Mr. Edwards great speech was not delivered all that recently, although it was yesterday considering the History of the Church.
It wasn't even the 20th century.
In fact. The above statement where it says 'in America' is somewhat misleading. The vile sinners Mr. Edwards was frying in their pews were not even Americans, yet. Those contemptible worms lived in Connecticut in 1741.
Yes. SEVENTEEN forty-one. Thirty-five years before the Revolution.
Sin was a hot topic back then. The restoration hadn't really begun yet. Neither had anyone ever heard the term 'politically correct'. Nobody worried about offending the secretary of the 'Ladies Committee'. If you saw something wrong, you addressed it from the pulpit, no matter the collateral damage.
But this napalm blast from the preacher was aimed at a salvation issue. Sin. Yeah, that's a salvation issue.
Would something like that be appropriate on say, a man wearing a necklace?
Don't laugh. Churches have split over less.
There are those within the walls of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ that brand you a LIBERAL and say you are walking into the FIRE if you allow a woman to wear a dress that shows her kneecap. Levite knows a couple of them, personally.
Saint Paul picked his fights carefully. Not every issue before the church demanded a Holy War, then or now.
Music in the service is one issue that is NOT. The definition of modesty is another. So are things like vegetarianism, smoking, and buying a Korean car.
Levite once heard a Baptist say with a very straight face and deadly sincerity that if a Baptist voted Democratic he might not really be saved.
Does that apply to a Dem that's pro-life? Many of them are. How about for an office that has nothing to do with Nuclear Weapons or anything else that is a moral issue, say, Register of Wills, or Sewer Supervisor. The good Baptist got a little red in the face when Levite pointed out that some Republican politicians are pro-choice. The man said they weren't real Republicans, Levite added; Like Jesus was?
It is something people do a lot. Something they don't personally like becomes an issue that can cancel your ticket to heaven. How many tirades from the pulpit have been aimed at rock music, or long hair, or watching the Miss America Contest on TV?
To the Amish, having a flush toilet in your house is a Salvation issue. Find that in the Bible.
When Paul went bare knuckles with Peter over the circumcision issue, it wasn't circumcision at all that was the problem. Both Peter and Paul had been cut, oh yeah, Jesus had been too! Paul had snipped Timothy himself, but Paul refused to force Titus to be made into a physical Jew. Levite has heard that this is yet another example of the inconsistencies and contradictions of the Bible.
Well. No it ain't.
Timothy was a half Jew by birth and was being sent to preach to Jews. Titus was all Greek and had no intention of going anywhere near a bunch of Jews. There was no loss of credibility to Titus being a natural man or not. Timothy was a whole different story, once the hard headed Jews found out he was not one of them, that would have been the end of his ministry.
Peter, being Peter, which proves he could not have been perfect as the Catholics say he was as the first Pope, got it exactly wrong and was falling into the false teaching that you had to become a Jew to be a Christian and had to keep the law in either case. Cephas, Peter by any other name, knew better, he had seen the great sheet vision, and had been there when Christ commended the Centurion for his faith even though he was a Roman. Yet he got stuck in stupid and Paul had to straighten him out in front of everybody that mattered.
A sidelight about that first Pope business. If you read Acts and Galatians and some of the other New Testament, James, the half brother of Jesus, would seem to be the leader of the early church. But that's if you READ the BOOK, which few Catholics seem to have ever done.
In Romans and Galatians, Paul makes it clear what battles need fought, and which don't. In Corinthians, Paul labels things that need addressed, serious problems that can spread throughout the church and cause it to fall away as a body, open sexual immorality being one, drunken brawls under the guise of worship being another.
But again, many of the most sincere members of the church you could ever want to meet cry and moan about things ranging from men wearing an earring to not having a pro life bumper sticker on your car.
No, he's not kidding. Although Levite doesn't wear an earring, or a wedding ring, or a watch for that matter, he also does not have an anti abortion bumper sticker on his truck.
One brother in the church wanted to know why. The back of the brother's car looked like a rolling billboard for that particular social ill. Levite pointed out that while every one of the brother's eight or nine stickers decried the evils of abortion (Abortion stops a beating heart, It's a CHILD not a CHOICE, etc), none of them offered any solutions to the underlying problems that made such a heinous act an acceptable course of action to a generation of women.
The brother became silent, then started into a speech about how he was trying to raise awareness of the problem. Levite agreed and said that he was now aware of the problem, exactly what could he do to prevent one more abortion. The brother went into voting pro life, picketing Planned Parenthood and started something else. But how will that stop more abortions either now or in the long term?
Like everything else. Abortion is more complex than stapling signs to telephone poles can cure. Young girls need to learn common sense and moral values. Boys need to be taught self-control and responsibility. Education. Not that tripe being served up in the government schools, but real life education focusing on the fact that choices and actions have consequences.
Choices and actions.
Even in the church, choices and actions have consequences. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
A church that allows its leaders to run off on non-Scriptural tangents is going to face the music sooner or later based on that decision.
A nation that allows its leaders to get off on some dangerous silliness that serves their own interest instead of the country's faces the same thing.
It's this kind of nonsense that led Martin Luther to send his mail to the Archbishop and start all the trouble with the Roman Church in Germany. The good part of all of it was Luther translated the New Testament into German from Latin so the common people could read it for themselves.
Didn't Luther nail his '95 Thesis' to the church door? The Media Desk asks.
"That was intentional grounding you dingbat!" He screams at a referee a thousand miles away.
Maybe, comes the answer from Levite when he calms down. It's unlikely what was posted was the only copy of the thesis, otherwise it would never have made the splash it did from Wittenberg to Rome. He probably sent the good Archbishop that was selling the soul of the church as a fundraiser one copy and posted a spare so the locals would know something was afoot. Then he ran off several hundred copies to distribute to his friends and neighbors. Remember, there was a new toy in Germany in the early 1500's, the printing press, and Luther was a master at exploiting it. Either way, it was the reaction of the church hierarchy to what he had published that led to his excommunication from the church and the beginnings of the Reformation.
The Pope, being infallible of course, was blindsided by Luther and the troubles up yonder. With a royal accomplice and a people just learning to read, Luther started his own brand of religion that in thirty years or so was recognized as a legitimate church by the Emperor. The firestorm started by Luther continues to this day.
Back to the point.
Not every issue, should we have vegetarian pizza, can a church sell T-shirts for a fund raiser, what about if you are seen watching a sporting event sponsored by a beer company, is considered serious by "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" standards.
Look at Revelation two and three for a minute.
These seven churches were in dire-straits from some things that were serious.
Jesus was not upset with them because somebody bought a lottery ticket or had a son with long hair. The reason he was going to remove a church's lampstand, or cast the church onto a bed of sickness was a little bigger than that. They had willingly allowed false teachers in to deceive them, the church as a group was committing acts of immorality, or their faith was dead.
In First Timothy 6 : 8, Paul says,
This is after he gets done dressing down those that seek to contrive division within the church over little things. How little? Disputes about words. Sounds like he's talking to a lawyer there doesn't it?
He tells Timothy to fight the good fight. Is it a good fight to go to battle over a woman who is otherwise good and modest who happened to wear a dress that came above her knee one time? Is it a good fight to argue about a hymnal that has one Christmas song in it that mentions Santa Claus once? Should you call up a Crusade over a guy that enjoys listening to rock music when he's working on lawn mowers?
In First Corinthians 5 the immorality that was spreading was a man living with his father's wife. And we are not talking about her staying in a 'mom in-laws' apartment out back either. But the sin of the church was that they seemed to be BRAGGING about this instead of rebuking him and asking him to go on down the road. If the church had condemned the practice and not fellowshipped with him, there would have been no story. But instead, they reveled in it. They shut off the immoral people of the world from the church, but welcomed this guy into it.
Which was exactly backwards. Read chapter five. Paul WANTS them to witness to the evildoers of the world, but not wallow with them. Those of the Body of Christ should be above all that, and lead by example. Not to do things even those lost in sin wouldn't do. Which is what the man with his father's wife was doing.
Some say the teachings in Corinthians are confusing. They are not. It is most simple: Do what you know GOD wants you to do.
If you are a good mature Christian who knows that the kingdom of God is more than food and drink. And long hair and earrings. And TV sports and credit cards. And short skirts and imported cars. And silly songs and cigarettes. But this guy over here is still weak and can't get past the fact that you wear a Cubs hat when the Cubs stadium serves hot dogs with mustard and that's a sin. Paul simply said, if that causes him to stumble, take off the Cubs hat and apologize.
Then let the weaker brother sit still in his faith until the Lord comes?
Paul wrote the letters to instruct them. He told them they were babes in Christ at several points, and then he taught them. He told them to be mature in their thinking in 1 Cor 14 : 20. In fifteen he is showing them a mystery, which if they were to stay forever as children in the faith, they could never hope to understand. In 9 he tells them about how he is FREE in Christ. Not bound by the LAW or by men. But being free, he is a slave to all. Could somebody that is nothing but a Kindergartner in Christ comprehend that?
Some people cannot handle the FREEDOM of CHRIST.
They balk and stagger when they have to make a choice. Unless it is cut and dry, they over react, or don't react, or do something stupid because some man who thinks he has authority says it.
That's what this is edition is all about.
The Christian's and the Church's choices.
Each church and each woman has to make a choice as far as how much participation in the worship service they can do. What is right for the church over here, may not be right for the church over there. What Mrs. Brown feels is right for her, may not be kosher with Miss Smith.
Each Christian and each church must decide how involved they are to be in their community. Maybe this elder will run for the school board, maybe that deacon feels he shouldn't even vote. Neither position is wrong. If it is right for them and they can justify their reasoning when asked so who's to say otherwise.
And the final question.
If the Bible says it, say it, and stand behind it.
If it does not. Shut up about it.
Enough for now, Levite says. He begins a fiery commentary on the network football program that is now winding down. He reaches for his Bible to see if there is a "Thus sayth the LORD" about ex-jocks being TV commentators, and finds one about the instant replay from Matthew