Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bible Blushing

Recently I was reading my TNIV Bible on the commuter train whilst going out to meet some friends for dinner. Unfortunately, I happened upon Ezekiel 23:20 during my reading. The NIV/TNIV translation is rather, er, explicit, and I turned a bright shade of red (I am sure) after I digested the passage.

I think I am going to stick to reading New Testament books whilst in public.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bible Tales

I recently dug out my first Bible. It was a imitation leather-bound "Good News" version . My dad and stepmother purchased it for me when I finally decided to attend comfirmation classes. My stepmother inscribed it for me in her beautiful handwriting, and it was a great introduction to serious Bible study.

When I completed confirmation, I was presented with an utterly gorgeous New American Standard Study Bible. It had a concordance and other study tools, and I thought that I appeared to be a very serious student of the Bible with this heavy book on my arm. It has never been far from me, and its wear testifies to the 22 years that I have toted it around.

When I entered seminary, I decided that I needed to get a new Bible. The New Revised Standard version was currently all the rage, as it featured "inclusive language", a very important thing for a girl-preacher in a liberal seminary. It is a nice translation, though oddly enough, it seems to have dissapeared.

My latest purchase is a simple copy of Today's New International Version, also controversial for its "feminist" leanings, despite being the product of evangelical scholars. I read parts of it last night on the "L" (public transit train).

It's really weird reading the Bible again. But in a good way.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Crazy Community Part III

The eviction of Linda, Ernie, their four small children, and Bob was not cause for great distress among our ministry members. Linda and Ernie had been told, by God, that Ernie was to quit his job and that they were to hit the road for an unspecified period of time. This transition was to work out nicely, though, because the Cornerstone Festival (sponsored by our friends at JPUSA) was to take place on the heels of the eviction. Linda and Ernie could camp at the fest and stay there until the JPUSAites had left. After that, they would stay at campgrounds "wherever the Lord led".

Linda organized the purchase of group tickets for the fest as well as a collection for the "food fund". All of us gathered at their home in order to divy up the tents, sleeping bags and camping equipment, and while a few of us were sent to the campground to get things set up, others remained behind to help Linda and Ernie pack up their stuff and put it into storage.

The weather was rainy and cold that day, and I felt dispirited as I sat in the cold rain trying to look after Linda and Ernie's children while they (and one of the least, ahem, intellectually gifted members of our group) whined and protested against the cold and the forced confinement of the tents. Eventually the rest of the folks showed up, and we settled into a week of Cornerstone. I, for one, had a great time, though several of our members kept their long faces, convinced that most of these trinitarian heretics were going to hell.

Unfortunately, this attitude had really started to bug me, and by the end of the fest, I had decided to break with the group. I got a ride back home with an old friend and had determined that I would never see Linda and Ernie again. This is not the first time that I have made God laugh at my plans.

A few weeks after Cornerstone I went to the doctor to get my school physical. It was during this fateful appointment that I learned why my jeans no longer zipped. I was pregnant, and pretty far along, too. Faced with the choice between a late second trimester abortion or carrying the pregnancy to term, I chose the later (though I seriously resent those who choose to read a political, or even a general moral, significance into this private choice). This meant, of course, that "college" wasn't going to happen anytime soon.

Unwed motherhood in 1987 was certainly not the great scandal that it had been even a decade earlier. I was still humiliated, though, and tried to keep my condition a secret. My parents, bless them, supported me in my decision to carry the pregnancy. My parents weren't going to force me to work during this time, so for the next 4 1/2 months, I was going to have a lot of time on my hands.

Of course the "gospel grapevine" ensured that everyone in the ministry had heard of my predicament. Eventually Linda, Ernie, and Bob came back from their sojourn and contacted me to offer assistance. They had, in fact, been living out of their cars and tents for 40 days and 40 nights when they decided it was time to come back to civilization. I was grateful for their kind care. As it turned out, they were still homeless and jobless, but they, along with several other ministry members, were living in a tiny apartment. It wasn't clear what exactly was going on, but the situation did not sound good.

As my pregnancy progressed, I often thought of the "old days" (though only a few months had passed) and spent my time brooding over my fate. Much of this sadness was lifted, however, when I received a ministry newsletter in the mail. . .

Stay tuned for Part IV.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crazy Community Part II

(Sorry for the delay. Life and a death in my immediate family has slowed down my writing a bit!)

Our crazy ministry/church was really getting going. Most of us had decided that we were going to live communally and began making preparations for that eventuality. Never mind, of course, that none of us had any money. Never mind, of course, that some of us were still in high school or college. Never mind, of course, that those of us who were not in school were severely underemployed. We were, by golly, going to buy property large enough to keep all of us in some level of comfort, and do. . .something.

So we did what any self respecting group of potential communards would do, and called JPUSA, the holy grail of Jesus Freakism. JPUSA pastor Glen Kaiser (also the lead singer for REZ, one of the most radical "Christian Rock" bands of that period) took mercy on us and came out to talk to our motley crew about living in community. I felt very important as I composed at list of serious questions to ask, as I was quite sure that our band of ruffians would only grovel at the Great One's feet, ignoring the whole purpose of our meeting.

(Actually, while our musician-boys did a fair amount of groveling, they also had some good questions to ask as well. Glenn was kind and patient with us, and I bless his good soul for driving all the way from Uptown Chicago to Des Plaines. His insights were memorable, and maybe if we had been more mature, we would have eventually reached our goal of intentional community.)

The ministry at this point featured three affiliated bands and regular Bible studies. Many of us continued to attend local churches, but were quite convinced of our spiritual superiority. One reason for this is that Linda and Ernie had absorbed the teachings of some folks in Wisconsin, which put us uncomfortably in the "hetrodox" camp. Our doctrinal distinctives included nontrinitarianism and a belief in "Jesus Name" baptism via immersion. Some people might have lumped us in with with Oneness Pentecostals, but that wasn't quite accurate either. For one thing, while we denied the trinity, we never fully articulated how our position differed from trinitarianism, other than that Jesus was God in flesh and that God's proper name was "Jesus". The other differences were that we didn't believe that Jesus-name baptism was entirely necessary for salvation and we didn't believe that you had to speak in tongues as evidence of salvation. We also didn't hold to the "holiness" codes of dress and hair length espoused by most "oneness" people. But our peculiar baptism theology was enough to give us both a sense of self-rightiousness and persecution.

Of such sentiments are fringe movements made.

Meanwhile my parents were becoming distressed. In fact, most everyone who still lived at home had distressed parents. Convinced that Linda and Ernie (in reality the most guileless human beings I have ever met) were out to brainwash us into a weird cult, my mother wrung her hands and peppered me with questions. My father was threatening to withhold tuition money lest I throw away a college education on "growing vegetables in the middle of O'Hare field" (I think he was confusing us with the Hare Krishnas.). But I was eighteen years old and was determined to exercise my first amendment rights. Others stood up to their parents manfully as well, and our general disrespect must have really furthered the cause of the gospel. (sarcasm mode on)

The merriment continued as one of our members actually moved in with Linda and Ernie in order to get the ball rolling on the communal living. "Bob" was one of the most zealous human beings that I have ever known, and was truly on fire for God. He had his own contracting business, and the sadly underemployed Ernie went to work for him. (Other members considered this to be our first "ministry business", though only two of us were actually employed by this venture.) Unfortunately, Linda and Ernie's landlord took a dim view of these proceedings, and evicted Linda, Ernie, Bob and the kids. This was ok, however, because a new chapter was about to open in our fledgling community.

To be continued. . .