When Journalists (or op-ed writers) Get Biblical

Speaking of credentials for ministry, I am not sure it’s a positive development when any Tom, Maleek, or Kasheena can give speeches or write columns with the idea that they know what the Bible teaches. Bonnie Kristian (seriously) decided to challenge Mike Pompeo for a speech in which he referred to Iran’s hostility to Israel as a carry over from the way Persians regarded the Israelites in the book of Esther. In this contest, Kristian has some expertise on foreign policy and has written a book on “flexible” Christianity with a foreword by Gregory Boyd and endorsed by Jonathan Merritt (excuse the genetic fallacy). Meanwhile, Pompeo is a member of an Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He also operates under the hardship of being a member of the Trump administration.

Here is the point of contention: Pompeo doesn’t understand Esther.

The linchpin of Pompeo’s CUFI treatment of Iran was the scriptural book of Esther, which in his telling is evidence that Iran has for centuries been a hotbed of anti-Semitism. “That same twisted, intolerant doctrine that fuels persecution inside Iran has also led the ayatollah and his cronies to cry out, quote, ‘death to Israel’ for four decades now,” Pompeo said. “This is similar to a cry that came out of Iran — then called Persia — many, many years ago. The Book of Esther teaches us about this.”

No, it doesn’t. As Duke Divinity professor Lauren Winner has explained, Esther is rich in themes worth exploring: “There are a lot of lessons about how power works in this story,” challenging us to examine “our own displays of power in our own smaller empires, even if the empire is no bigger than … than our own heart.” And “Esther is also a story about exile,” Winner adds, “about being an exiled Jew, an exiled person of faith, and what it means to live in a place that is foreign, to live in a place where you are foreign, where you and your kinsman are aliens. Esther is a book about how to live with your community in a place that is indifferent to you or hostile to you.”

Kristian goes on to state that Esther is also a story about courage and she supplies a link to a piece by Rachel Held Evans.

Bottom line: Pompeo’s use of Esther is “inexcusably misleading.”

The editors at The Week actually know enough about the Bible to conclude that Kristian is on firm ground? Kristian herself appeals to a Duke Divinity School professor, with a terminal degree in religious history but who is also an Episcopal priest, and a parachurch blogger to be able to say with such certainty that Pompeo is wrong? Couldn’t a better point have been that the Secretary of State should simply use assessments of the middle East from the contemporary world rather than trotting out a part of Scripture that is likely to provoke Christians, Jews, and Muslims?

But if Kristian is going to enter the fray of the authoritative interpretation of Esther, at least let Christopher Guest have a stab:

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Evangelicals Have Been At This Longer than Woke Millennials

Eric Weinstein, of Intellectual Dark Web fame (Bret’s brother), recently tweeted how novel the ideas and language of social justice warriors are:

But for evangelicals, “social concern” has been around for almost forty-five years:

The Lausanne Congress, sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, drew 2,700 peopple from around the globe — at the time the largest-ever gathering of evangelical Christian leaders.  The Assembled believers — ministers and lay people, racially diverse, the vast majority of them men — would be part of a singular moment in postwar evangelicalism.

Like all of the major presenters, [Rene] Padilla had pre-circulated a paper, a rather scholarly treatise on the centrality of repentance to Christian ethics. The audience was not surprise, then, to hear Padilla lecture his fellow participants at Lausanne on the sins of the evangelical church, and on its failure — their own failure  — to take seriously Jesus’s call to social action. What was remarkable was the controlled fury emanating from the stage. Padilla challenged the room to remember that Jesus had demanded that his followers confront the “darkness of the world”  But evangelicals, he pronounced, had focused so long on individual sin that they had forgotten that darkness included materialism, racism, class division, political abuses, and, quoting Reinhold Niebuhr, “collective egoism.” (Melani McAlister, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders, 85)

Of course, one way of looking at this is that evangelicals have been ever consistent in their call for social justice or social concern.

Another is that this is something that regularly repeats itself among Christians who want to immanentize the eschaton because they believe the gospel is not really relevant if it prepares someone for not the present but eternity.

And yet, if this social concern regularly repeats itself, from Walter Rauschenbusch to Rachel Held Evans, why has it accomplished so little (especially now that it has support from mainstream journalists, elite universities, and at least one of the major political parties — not to mention Silicon Valley)?

Now This Would be Funny (or not)

Unlike this:

Tim Keller: (Walks outside on beautiful fall day, inhales deeply, and sighs contentedly) This is such a lovely day that you could never imagine unless you accepted that yesterday was so much more oppressive than you ever dared imagine (and then he sat on the bench at the bus stop to pose for pictures).

Rachel Held Evans: What exactly are you implying about Kathy Keller?

Keller: Umm. Nothing, really. I just am saying that this particular day is pleasant because I get to have lunch with New York Times reporter, Nick Kristof.

R. Scott Clark: You know that bus doesn’t go to Nebraska.

Keller: (Starts walking east on 83rd Street) Why would anyone want to leave the city?

Evans: You don’t know any reporters of color?

Keller: I don’t have to respond to critics. Never have, never will

Does Great Commission Publications Need More Books about Sex?

Christianity Today carries a story that Life Way Christian Bookstores (a subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention) is not carrying Rachel Held Evans new book (who is she anyway and does she read Tim Keller?) A Year of Biblical Womanhood (biblicism alert). Evans contends that the reason is her use of the word “vagina.” The report goes on to list books that Life Way does sell and how many times these authors use the v-word:

A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Douglas E. Rosenau
86 (plus images)
The Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment by Clifford & Joyce Penner
73 (plus images)
The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverley LaHaye
62
How to Talk Confidently with Your Child about Sex by Lenore Buth
42
The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun) by Sheila Wray Gregoire
19
The Body Book by Nancy Rue
6 (at least in the 2000 edition; LifeWay’s is the 2012 edition and was not available for review)
Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex by Josh and Dottie McDowell
6
Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll
5
Every Young Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn
4
Crazy Good Sex: Putting to Bed the Myths Men Have about Sex by Les Parrott
4
The Language of Sex: Experiencing the Beauty of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham
3
Sex Begins in the Kitchen: Creating Intimacy to Make Your Marriage Sizzle by Kevin Leman
3
Nobody Told Me: What You Need to Know about the Physical and Emotional Consequences of Sex Outside of Marriage by Pam Stenzel and Melissa Nesdahl
3
The Healthy Marriage Handbook by Louise Ferrebee
3
Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships by Harry Schaumburg
2
The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women by Gary and Barbara Rosberg
2
And the Bride Wore White by Danna Gresh
1
Reclaiming Intimacy: Overcoming the Consequences of Premarital Relationships by Heather Jamison
1
Capture His Heart: Becoming the Godly Wife Your Husband Desires by Lysa TerKerust
1
The Bare Facts: 39 Answers to Questions Your Parents Hope You Never Ask about Sex by Josh McDowell with Erin Davis
1
God on Sex: The Creator’s Ideas about Love, Intimacy, and MarriagebyDaniel Akin
1

The notable aspect of this story is not so much Christians talking publicly about a word used to describe female genitalia as it is the volume of books that Christians write about intercourse. This is all the more glaring since Life Way states describes its first “core value” as:

1. The Bible
We believe the Bible is the eternal, infallible, inerrant Word of God and is the plumb line for everything we say and do.

So while it is controversial in the Convention to use the c-word (Calvinism), female private parts are relatively common depending on who is discussing them.