Sunshine Bloggers Award

Good morning world!

It’s a chilly winter morning here in the south-east corner of mainland Australia, but made a little bit warmer by the fact that my blogger friend Jenny Lynn has nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award.

I hadn’t heard of this until yesterday, but it sounds like a little bit of fun (and lets be honest, my blog is usually about sort of serious topics so its a lovely patch of levity).¬†The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to bloggers by other bloggers who believe them to be creative, positive, and inspiring.

Once nominated, a blogger is required to 1) thank the blogger who nominated them and link back to their blog, 2) answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated them, 3) nominate eleven other blogs and 4) give them eleven questions to answer, 5) notify your nominees and display the rules and The Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post.

So thanks Jenny Lynn! I love reading your stuff too. The 11 questions she asked are as follows:

  1. What are your main sources of inspiration for your blog posts?¬†Long car trips with my husband. I guess you could say he is my muse. We’ve always loved throwing around ideas, and truthfully it was his brain that I fell in love with first. We have undergone a lot of change in the last couple of years, and it has lead us to really examine a lot of things about life, faith and happiness. Where we used to nerd-out over politics and such, we now nerd out over things like belief, doctrine, contribution to society, and how to express our faith best in todays world.
  2. Do you have to work around kids or family while trying to create content and run your blog? If yes, then how do you do it?¬†¬†This is a hard question, given my wonderful nanny called in sick today! I have two incredible kids, a son aged 2 and a daughter aged 7 months. We’ve just moved into a new house with a study that I’ve set up to make that a bit easier. Usually, supernanny is here while I do my paid work (under my other name so as not to confuse my Christian commentary/fiction readers and my neurology-communication clients) and I take a few hours a week to blog as Kit Kennedy. Its a juggle, but writing is what makes me tick. And its ¬†not a healthy thing if a mother stops ticking, right?
  3. Do you prefer coffee, tea, or neither?¬†Coffee. All the coffee. And then when I’ve consumed enough of that to make my adrenal glands HATE me, all the herbal tea.
  4. What are you afraid of?¬†People, relationships, over silly things. Once you’ve faced a loss of community over something that should have been just an uncomfortable conversation, its hard not to fear that. The people I’ve got around me now are just wonderful though, and I think that in truth its an unfounded fear. Still, its a case of once bitten twice shy.
  5. What is one thing you want to accomplish in your lifetime? I’d like to get my momentum back in fiction writing and be signed to a major publishing label. I’d also love to write a book in Lake Como, Italy. Not about Lake Como, Italy. Just, you know,¬†in¬†Lake Como.
  6. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Happy, and managing life with two tweenagers with as little stress as possible.
  7. What are some short term goals you have for yourself?¬†The old, classic “get fitter and healthier” goal applies here. I’m measuring this goal in a drop in blood pressure rather than a drop in weight though. I’ve also just moved into a house with a garden I can¬†do¬†something with, which enthuses me greatly. Its just that I don’t know a thing about gardening. So “learn a thing or ten about gardening” is also a goal. I also want to learn how to ferment gut-healthy foods like keffir, kombucha and such.
  8. What are you passionate about?¬†An examined faith. Centuries ago, people didn’t know the Bible because literacy was low, or because only the clergy had access, or because it was hand-written by scribes. We now have Bible apps on our phones, and we can read it (well, a large percentage). Yet, still, we don’t. We don’t examine our faith, we don’t know which doctrines we believe and the implications that has on others. I love examining all of that, because I believe an examined faith is a strong faith. I strongly believe faith is relevant in modern society, but we need to know why and how to present that.
  9. Tell us something embarrassing or silly that you‚Äôve done/that‚Äôs happened to you.¬†Once, as a young spring chicken on a work trip, I was trying to impress two state managers of the company I worked for while we walked down the busiest street in Sydney during peak hour. I stepped off the curb in my sky-high heels, and into the cuff of some poor strangers pants. He was walking fast in one direction, and I in the other. He lost his pants, as my heel yanked them down. I lost my dignity as I almost face-planted in Pitt Street. *Almost. Turns out I’m quite the acrobat.
  10. Dark Chocolate, Milk chocolate, or white chocolate lover? If I have to choose, milk chocolate. But I believe there is a place in the world for them all!
  11. What is a food that you think is disgusting/unappealing that most other people like? Mushrooms and avocado. My husband is a devotee to both.

My Nominees are: 
1. Jenny Lynn (but I don’t expect her to answer my questions! I do want to acknowledge that I enjoy her blog though)

2. Beauty Beyond Bones 

3. Christian Fiction Girl 

4. Help Me Believe

5. Rachel Held Evans 

6. Perfect Chaos

Okay so I have to confess here…these are the six I carve out time to look at. Its hard with ALL THE CHILDREN. I’m going to have to pledge to find another five bloggers to love by the time the next awards come around.

In terms of questions, I’d love to know:

  • What drives you as a writer?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve (in terms of writing/philosophy/doctrine or culture)?
  • Was your earliest memory positive or negative?
  • Is God a actually republican?
  • What are your favourite topics to write about?
  • What are your favourite topics to read about?
  • What was the first book you remember buying?
  • If you could have anyone in the world to dinner, who would you invite?
  • Do you have any writing rituals (things that get you going)?
  • What would a perfect day look like for you?
  • Night owl or early bird?

This is all just a bit of fun, so I don’t expect you to play along! But I really enjoy reading your stuff, so I wanted to acknowledge that. Thanks! And keep doing what you do. It matters to people, and I’m one of them.

Cheers

Kit K.

The Transformational Power of Admitting “I was wrong.”

“There is transformational power in admitting you got something wrong.”¬†

I just listened to the most amazing Ted Talk. The speaker talked about how you can’t rush the process of transformation, and that process involves owning up to, rather than sweeping aside, the things you were wrong about. He spoke about how admitting you were wrong will tick some people off, because they were invested in the old you. He talked about how, when someone can’t admit they were wrong, they are not growing. And this should serve as a warning to those who follow them.

The whole talk had me nodding and murmuring my agreement (somewhat geekily I guess, given I was sitting in a café.)

Honestly, it was an amazing talk. You should give it a listen (I’ve pasted it below, but don’t ruin the suspense by scrolling down to see it just yet). The guy giving the talk only¬†just¬†gave mention to what he was wrong about. It wasn’t the true subject of the presentation, but gosh, it was massive. It took a lot of humility to do what he did – stand on the world stage and say “I got something wrong.”

If you were anywhere near your teens or twenties at the height of the 90’s evangelical purity movement, you know this guy. You were probably handed his book by a youth leader or mentor, and you might have felt a little kick of something like shame when you realised why you were reading it.

The speaker was none other than Joshua Harris, author of the international bestseller “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” This is the book that made him famous. Its the book literally sitting on millions of shelves, that was translated into several languages. At the height of the purity movement, this was the guidepost that urged us to guard our hearts and keep our desires in check. Now, after it’s first readers have grown up, Harris is noting that it seems to have had a few not-so-positive effects.

Harris recounts an interaction on Twitter in which a reader told him his book was used against her as a weapon. Harris did an uncommon thing, when it comes to big name Christian celebrities. He apologised. It wasn’t tokenistic either. He went on to open his website up to stories of the impact his book had. Some of them were resoundingly positive. Others were heart-wrenching. He is now making a documentary on it, one that is saying, “I was wrong about this.” He’s not throwing the whole baby out with the bathwater, but there’s a lot he is copping as not quite right.

Wow.¬† Just wow,” I thought. Its the same thing I said to myself when Benny Hinn admitted he was wrong about the prosperity gospel, or rather the extreme he used it for. (Read my take on that here). Its the same thing I thought when I read Billy Graham’s take on what he would do differently. (Read that here).

I truly believe that, when people say “I was wrong” about something, especially if they do it on a potentially humiliating public platform like Harris did, we ought to sit up and listen. These are people who are deeply conscientious, who are growing in their faith and the expression of it. These are people who are safe to listen to. (Don’t base your entire life on their expression of faith. That’s dangerous. Your relationship with God is your business and responsibility. But they’ve been doing some soul-searching and they’ve changed because of it.)

Harris’s Ted Talk is about the transformational power of admitting you were wrong. Honestly, its liberating!

But I can’t really call this a complete review unless I talk about the subject he says he was wrong about: his book.

I can’t say honestly that it hurt me. Much. The stories on his website vary a lot in content. The sadder ones include claims that it was legalistic, a flyswatter to whack people who stepped out of line, or that it was used to control people. I can’t disagree with those points, whether through reading these accounts or recounting my own observations that spanned multiple churches I encountered over the years.

Many a story on Harris’s website came from Christians in their 30’s who are still waiting for their life partner. Some stories came from people relationally paralysed either by fear of giving too much of their heart away, or by the strength of their desires. One particularly unsettling story came from a 30 year old guy who simply cannot accept a mate who has had sex, even if it was just a mistake from her past. I read that account with two types of heartbreak – one for him and all that he may have lost by never finding love, and one for the girls he has rejected. Has this book given rise to a pseudo-Biblical form of “slut shaming”, even in a time when we understand more about grace and forgiveness than we ever did? Quite possibly.

In hindsight, I remember reading the book and feeling a certain pressure to marry the first guy I “courted.” (Spoiler: I did, and he’s the best thing that ever happened to me). I am the eldest daughter of Christian ministers. There was a whole church and a whole network of churches that would see my every move. It was like living in a fishbowl. Oh the pressure to get this right!

I remember one lady in the church telling me off for flirting with a guy. She wasn’t my mother, and it wasn’t her job to police my behaviour. And I wasn’t flirting! I had zero feelings for the guy. But the shame I felt over that was huge. It wasn’t the only time I was pulled up for flirting. I truly believe this had a big impact on my ability to interact with members of the opposite sex. I tried my utmost to relate out of a stoic, “I have no sexual desires, I don’t even want to get married, you know, unless its God’s will for me,” kind of persona. If even flirting was sinful, then gosh, I was evil! I’d done it more than twice. I have a naturally bubbly personality. I love to connect with people. Part of me died.

University was a particularly interesting time for me. When I was “outed” as saving myself for marriage, and when my fellow students discovered my flirting-disability, bets were laid. I felt so humiliated, and then all the more on guard with my peers. I was just a girl trying to find her way in the world. Now I was a trophy. A scalp to be claimed. A¬†virgin.¬†And that became the thing that everyone knew.

(Side note: Apologies to the guy who asked me out for dinner, and who was greeted not only by me but also the other 11 members of our study group. I totally missed the “its a date” memo. I will never forget the look on your face.)

(Another side note: I don’t blame my parents at all for being among hundreds of thousands of church ministers globally who embraced this book and used it! Heck, we were all in the 90’s purity movement. And you don’t need a shot-gun or baseball bat if your teenagers are afraid of dating to the same degree that they’re afraid of hell. My parents were just doing their best! I’m just sharing how I feel about Harris’s book and its effect in hindsight.)

For many people, this book was a lightbulb moment. For me, and apparently for a lot of other Christian kids, it was fear-inducing. I was afraid of natural desires God had given me. Guess what: I wanted to get married. I wanted to love and be loved. I wanted the full experience of that and I felt all sorts of guilty about it. Imagine my mortification when an itinerant minister with the boomiest of voices began to call my parents church his home and insisted on loudly “Blessing” me with a husband – Every. Single. Sunday. (I still cringe)

I finally married when I was 29, and I don’t regret for an instant that I saved myself for my husband – my soulmate,¬† best friend and life partner. I guess, in some way, I have “I kissed dating goodbye (IKDG)” to thank for that. I guess in some way¬†we¬†do. Truly, I’m happy about it.

But post-marriage, we had a thing or two to learn about switching-on the desires that we had been told all our lives were bad. Yeah, yeah, you can kiss and hold hands and¬†stuff¬†when you are married. You can even flirt, you know, if you want. But the guilt doesn’t go away instantly. (There’s a whole lot I could write on that topic, but I won’t yet because its a whole lot of disarmed honesty! Haha!)

I have a number of good looking, educated, eloquent, funny, amazing, single Christian friends who are of an age now where they look around at other friends with kids and wonder why its not them. They’re still waiting for “the one.” I’ve often ranted to my husband “Why don’t guys just ASK HER OUT? I mean, she can even COOK! Wife her already, someone!”¬†I sometimes think this is the legacy of IKDG. We can’t go out for dinner with someone unless there’s a bloody strong chance they are “the one.” It carries a disproportionate feeling of failure if that dinner date doesn’t result in a second date, a third, an engagement ring, a white dress, a picket fence, 2.5 kids and an SUV.

I wonder how many others felt guilty for even flirting. I wonder how many others felt bad that they wanted so darn much to get married and have kids. “What if it isn’t God’s will for me?” and all that.

My thoughts on flirting now – It lets you know what good chemistry feels like. And chemistry matters. If you are dating someone and there’s none, then hold up honey! Warning bells.

My thoughts on Christianity and sexuality now – Can we stop pretending that because we are Christians, sexuality doesn’t play a central, sensitive part in who we are? Can we take it off the list of things we don’t talk about? Sure there is a Biblical approach to sex, and I don’t for a second regret saving myself for marriage. But gosh – sex, relationships, sensuality, desire for connection – they’re all God-designed. Can we not feel shame over owning something that is God-designed?

I applaud Josh Harris for standing up and saying he was wrong, and for expressing his regret at the legalistic fly-swatter his book became in more than a few instances. I hope he can also see the good it did (and I think he does). But adjusting our stance is a good thing.

My husband and I have two beautiful kids now. I adore them and hope they never face heartbreak. I’d love it if they fell in love with and married the first person they dated. I’d love it if they saved sex for marriage. I really hope they do and I’ll raise them to believe that true love waits. But I’ll also raise them to believe that flirting isn’t bad, and our desire for love is normal and good.

Hopefully they’ll marry younger than hubby and I, and I’ll get a lot of years with my grandkids! If I have to wait until I’m in my 70’s to chase the grandies around the park, I’m gonna be pissed.

If you’ve read Harris’s book, if you love it, if you hate it, if you feel it helped, if you feel it hurt – I urge you to check out his Ted Talk and his website. At the very least it will make you view change and the admission “I was wrong” as a wholly good thing no matter what it applies to. It might even release you from some baggage you have felt over the years. It doesn’t have to reframe how you feel about faith, sexuality, relationships or desire.

But you should know me by now! I like to think. I like to challenge thinking. And I have a firm belief that truth will prevail. I hope no one looks back on the 90’s purity movement with bitterness. A lot of good came out of it. But one perk of the passage of time is that we build on the generation before us. That doesn’t and shouldn’t involve taking their word as gospel. It should involve extracting the truth, and discarding that which is harmful, then moving on to a closer, better, more compassionate expression of faith.

Just some thoughts!
Kit K.

Over and out.

“Just Choose Joy.” Um. No.

This post might be a bit of a rant. I’m okay with that. It might have very few scriptures to back up the stream of consciousness. I’m also okay with that. After all, I’m not a pastor or a theologian. I’m a Christian who is exploring faith, turning it over, turning it inside out, and examining all the different ways the light can refract.¬†

I have an issue that I want to throw a little light on myself. This week I listened to a new song by a band I just love. And it well and truly pissed me off. The song was titled “Joy.” Its catchy. Its not untrue. But it sends a message I think can be a little harmful, because it is so often repeated in churches across the globe and it can create unhealthy pressure.

The opening scene in the video clip showed two news anchors covering a mega-storm that was devastating the nation. One anchor was presenting the negative side of the story. The other was frustrated that she couldn’t find the upside. Spoiler alert: the one who was trying to find the brighter note was the ‘right’ one. Because he was choosing joy.

Fair point. Learning to choose joy is a good thing. Learning to have faith in God when the situation seems dire is wonderful as it can take the lid off the pressure cooker of life. If you can choose joy, then you should. Good for you.

But for heavens sake (pun not intended), if there’s a mega-storm coming at you, threatening to level everything around you, you don’t have to be happy about it. If you are happy about it, I’m really worried. Or suspicious that you have a dishonestly inflated insurance policy and you’re getting a windfall out of hurricane whatever.

Negative emotions are ok. They are fine. God made them. They shouldn’t be what we build our lives on, but they are an essential part of the process of life. If we can’t embrace the full spectrum of human emotion, if we only allow ourselves to express “Christian” emotions of peace and joy, then we almost guarantee the other God-designed emotions will become bottled, fermented, and explosive. I remember when I was young, my mum used to make non-alcoholic ginger beer. It was relatively uneventful until one batch fermented too far and blew up. You should have seen the mess. Wow. It covered everything in the shed.

It’s a decent picture of what can happen when we deny ourselves the honesty of sadness, anger, grief etc. you know, when we just choose joy. Those other emotions become all-encompassing. They then have the potential to derail things.

If you are going through a mega-storm in your life, don’t feel pressured to feel joy.

Grieve, if you have faced loss. God made grief. He turned His head away when His son was crucified. He couldn’t look. I think He felt grief then.

Be angry, if you have been wronged. Didn’t God invent anger too? Didn’t Jesus express anger in the temple? Didn’t God tell us “be angry but sin not?” The emotion is not the sin, friends. Keying your ex-boyfriends car, or rage-spending on a credit card that doesn’t belong to you is the sin. (Insert a million other possible examples)

Be sad, if you are facing sadness. Didn’t the Bible give us enough examples of God feeling sadness when he looked at the human race? Why do we lump these emotions in a basket marked “Bad?” They’re human. And given the fact that God is no stranger to these emotions, I’d even say they’re divine.

I refuse to use the term “negative emotion” any more. Emotions are necessary for us to process life. But if you want a key to peace, and indeed joy, then the trick is to let God in the troughs with you. Don’t force yourself to always appear is if you are on the peak. He sees all your grief/anger/sadness already. Why not let Him share it?

I kinda blame the faith movement for this maladaptive approach to human emotion. There were a lot of good things about the faith movement, but this one stinks. You don’t have to be up all the time. Gosh! Even God isn’t.

I’ve been a little curious looking around churches and seeing a lot of depressed and anxious people. I don’t know what the statistics are for the church globally, but I suspect that in some cases, our statistics on depression and anxiety could actually be worse than the unchurched world. Why?

I have a theory (Okay… a few). One of them is that we think Christianity demands perfection of us, and perfection means faultless emotional “upness”. But my goodness that is so inauthentic.

In the last couple of years, I’ve given up faultless emotional upness. I’m happier than I ever was. I used to think, like a lot of Christians think, that we need to let our light shine constantly so a dark world can see and be drawn to our faith.

But newsflash. Candles flicker. Stars twinkle…in that things get in the way of their light so they are momentarily more dull. Clouds get in the way of the sun. The only light sources that are constant and unwavering are artificial.

Lets not be artificial. It hurts us. It makes us inauthentic. It makes others wary of what we are hiding.

You don’t have to choose joy all the time. Sometimes you need to choose a good cry, a session with the punching bag, or a journaling session when you pour out your broken heart. Do this, and joy will be easier the next day, or the day after that. Do whatever helps you process the hurt and then you’ll be able to find the sunny side again in time.

Just saying.

I hope joy is always easy for you. If it isn’t, you are in good company, friend. Jesus, most of the world, and me are right there with you.

Cheers

Kit K

Regarding Bishop Curry and the Royal Wedding

Has anyone else out there noticed the equal mix of furore and praise that has been thrown out into the social-mediasphere over the sermon Bishop Michael Curry gave at the royal wedding? There seem to be 4 sets of reactions: 1) I love this! 2) This is hilarious, 3) Shut up already and 4) how dare he say that!

The final one seems to come from Christians. I missed the royal wedding thanks to two kids with raging temperatures and a husband who could (kinda understandably) only calm one down at a time. Time heals all wounds they say. I hope it heals my bitterness over leaving my friend’s mini-wedding party right after Meghan arrived at the chapel.

BUT! I read the transcript, and I have to say – I agree with every word.

It seems Bishop Curry is a polarising character. He is an LGBTI advocate and a social justice warrior. He has added his voice to many a noble cause. I’m sure he’s stepped on the odd toe. But his sermon wasn’t about anything racially or equality-charged. In my opinion, it didn’t contain anything that should wave a red flag in front of a conservatively theological bull. His sermon was about something that should be entirely unoffensive.

It was about love.

And my, my, how offended people have gotten over that. I have read complaints over why he didn’t use his microphone time to give a Billy Grahamesque altar call to the world. Yet, his sermon did talk about the redemptive love that drove Jesus to the cross.

I have also read complaints about the over-emphasis on love. Yet Jesus did talk about love a heck of a lot. John 13:34 tells us “a new commandment I give to you. Just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another.” That was right from the mouth of the big guy. 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us “And now these three remain: faith hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.” I’m absolutely committed to keeping this blog entry super short, so I’m not going to go into the countless times the Bible urges us towards the way of love. I’m not going to go into the ways that Jesus, in the New Testament, urges us towards love.

What I want to say is this: Perhaps when Bishop Curry took to the podium, he wasn’t just sending a message to the non-Christian world. Perhaps he was sending a message to Christians, and indeed to the head of the Church of England who was sitting in front of him.

The church today is divided. It is political. There are several taboos and passionate points. I tend to think that there are a lot of things the world needs less of, but the world could do with more of kind of thing Bishop Curry was talking about. His sermon was a call to unite. Perhaps if you were given the opportunity to take the microphone in front of the world, you’d say something different. But you weren’t. He was. And perhaps his words were inspired by a God who is calling us to love better.

That’s always a good idea. Just saying.¬†

In the past, I’ve been guilty of something a lot of Christians would probably find themselves guilty of if they thought about it. That is, I listened to sermons with an ear for what the person next to me should get out of it. Let’s not do that with this exhortation towards love. Let’s not sit there exasperated about what he should have told non-Christians in that moment. Maybe he was only talking to them in part. Maybe he wasn’t talking to them at all. We can all love better.

Plus, there was nothing theologically heretical in that transcript. Those scriptures are actually in the Bible, and his interpretation of them is actually reasonable. Also just saying.

Bravo Bishop Curry. Perhaps if you had of made an altar call, some people would have responded. But imagine if every Christian who heard that sermon took on the challenge to show the love of Christ better. The ripple effects would be magnificent.

Over and out, people!

Open Theism – Fact or Fallacy?

I read a term today I’d never heard of before – upon reading its definition, I should have heard of it. Why? Because as a millennial Christian, its the form of faith presented most often to me. It is¬†Open Theism.¬†Although its a newbie to me, I thought I’d flag it here for a couple of reasons: 1) I believe we ought to know what we believe and 2) we ought to think about the contradictions it presents us with.

By means of a super-short introduction to the term, I once again turn to the font of all well-referenced and researched wisdom – Wikipedia.

“Open theism says that since God and humans are free, God’s knowledge is dynamic and God’s providence flexible. While several versions of traditional theism picture God’s knowledge of the future as a singular, fixed trajectory, open theism sees it as a plurality of branching possibilities, with some possibilities becoming settled as time moves forward.Thus, the future as well as God’s knowledge of it is open (hence “open” theism).” Read more about it here.

Theologians have flagged a few problems with this. One is that classical theism paints us a picture of God fully determining the future. This is the predestination doctrine, if you like.

Other theologians believe that God gives us free choice, but His omniscience means that He already knows the future and what choices we make.

Enter¬†Open Theism.¬†Open theists hold that: “These versions of classical theism are out of sync with: 1.¬†the biblical concept of God and 2.¬†the biblical understanding of divine and creaturely freedom¬†and/or result in incoherence. Open Theists tend to emphasize that God’s most fundamental character trait is love, and that this trait is unchangeable. They also (in contrast to traditional theism) tend to hold that the biblical portrait is of a God deeply moved by creation, experiencing a variety of feelings in response to it.” (Once again. Thanks Wikipedia.)

It seems to be a doctrine I was raised with, which is funny given its relative newness to the theological world. Apparently it was Richard Rice who pioneered the Open Theism train of thought in 1980 with his book “The Openness of God.” Since then, ¬†many a modern theologian has published on the matter.

It raises a question or two, and its conclusion seems to be one that both atheists and open theists agree on. That is the traditional characteristics of God don’t make sense. If He is omniscient, seeing all whether past present or future, He can’t be omnipotent and all-good. If so, He couldn’t see evil and still let it happen.

So that’s one big ouch for the doctrine, and I have to say its an uncomfortable moment when you read an atheist argument and go “Hmmm. Fair point.”

There are three other problems I see with Open Theism. They are the issues of predestination, prayer and what we do with free will if God can just re-write the future.

Super¬†quickly, because this so wasn’t going to be a full expose, just a quick post:

  1. To decide whether or not Open Theism is a doctrine you subscribe to, you need to decide whether or not you believe in predestination. Now, this isn’t a cornerstone doctrine to me, so I’ve never really examined it. If we believe in predestination, then there is no true free choice. What were the two trees in the garden? Why would God put them there if He already knew the outcome? Now the issue of predestination is one that could easily be argued from both sides. I always thought I agreed with it, but that was until I realised the following.
  2. If we believe in predestination, then what is the role of prayer?¬†I *think* it was CS Lewis who said “Prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me.” So perhaps he was a predestinationalist. I read that quote and I sort of agree with him. But then what of the whole, NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) and Faith Movement’s emphasis on spiritual warfare? If we believe that prayer changes things, then we mustn’t truly believe in predestination. One has us thinking that the role of prayer is to change us. The other has us thinking that the role of prayer is to change God. If the latter, then what of the immutability of God (that is that He cannot change?)
  3. If God can re-write the future, what are the consequences of free will? Open Theism emphasises the love of God above all. It holds that He is very moved by creation and is moved in various ways. Then couldn’t we do anything with our free will and then simply turn around and say “Yep. Sorry. Good to go with your best plan now.” The modern church, or at least the branch of it that I’ve been exposed to the most, talks a lot about destiny. “Destiny” seems to imply predestination. Predestination clashes with Open Theism in that Open Theism offers up multiple possible trajectories that ones life can take, thus burning the predestination theme to the ground.

This is one of those rare posts where I’m putting out more questions than answers. I’m not sure where I come down on this whole Open Theism thing. I posted it because, well, I haven’t posted for a while and its what I’m thinking about today. Those three points at the end will be things I’m thinking on.

If we put every doctrine that sounds appealing into our proverbial back-pack of beliefs, then we can end up with an inconsistent faith. Perhaps it takes a lifetime and beyond to fully understand God, and perhaps there are no right answers to these things. But perhaps its a good thing to think about. If we are about predestination, then we need to surrender to the will of God and just coast through life taking it all as it comes. I guess there’s a peace in that. If we aren’t, then we need to delve further into the why and how of prayer, and understand there’s a certain responsibility in how we pray.

Anyway! Thats my brain dump for today. Hope ya’ll have a fabulous weekend.
Cheers
Kit K.

Church Reformation – the Billy Graham Edition

Its 2018. The year still feels young, even though we have just ticked across into May. This post has taken me a lot longer than I thought it would, but I wanted to write it anyway. Because its been burning in my mind since Billy Graham passed away a few months ago.

I’ve heard many a preacher stand on the podium and talk about the need for church reformation. It surely is an easy case to argue. I, myself, am not sure that God would look happily on every aspect of His bride at present. I’ll spare you the examples. We know that churches are made up of imperfect people. How could we expect perfection of ourselves?

There is one thing I’m sure of though, and that is that the type of reformation the church needs isn’t the kind that points at the splinter in a brothers eye without dealing with the plank in ones own. That’s why when a giant of the faith passes on some information about what he would do different, it’s wise to listen.

In the early moments of this year, one such giant died. Billy Graham left this world bound for the eternal plain and with that, the world got talking. The criticism was as loud as the praise. (So much for not speaking ill of the dead!) Thousands if not millions paid tribute to him as if he was a saint, while members of the LGBTI community detailed their hurt over the harsh words he had directed at them and others railed against his brushes with the law when it came to tax evasion.

Thousands upon thousands spoke of the impact his life had on theirs. It was one heck of a mixed bag. I don’t think even Micheal Jackson had so many negative articles written about him when he died – a fact that seems more than a little unjust.¬†I’m grateful for the good stuff, while I also acknowledge the not-so-shiny.¬†My own parents were converted at a crusade they attended on their honeymoon. Mine is a life that has been touched by Billy Graham’s shadow, as it were.

I’m absolutely sure the guy was imperfect, and had his not so great aspects. But I’m also sure that the way to reform the church isn’t by nitpicking giants like this.

It’s by learning from them.

I struggled to find an article in which he reflected on his life and talked about what he would do differently. When I did, I realised why it was so hard to find. It’s an area the church in the western world seems to be wading further and further into, and I wonder if it’s because of the seductive promise of power and influence. What was the one thing big Billy Graham said he’d stay out of if he had his time again?

It’s the area of politics.

In an interview with Christianity Today¬†in 2011, he said: “‚ÄúI also would have steered clear of politics. I‚Äôm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes cros¬≠sed the line, and I wouldn‚Äôt do that now.‚ÄĚ

Graham had in fact been tied up with President Richard Nixon, and his is a legacy that thinned the dividing line between church and state by what some call ‘a relentless pursuit of civil religion.’

It’s a cautionary note in Billy’s story, but it wasn’t explained. The interviewer carried right on through to the next question. I couldn’t help but dwell on that statement though. Why would he steer clear of politics? What’s wrong with that?

I can’t pretend to know what Billy was thinking. But I do know this: the church has always been counter-cultural. It gives me great unease when it seeks to be otherwise. Jesus wasn’t a populist leader. Quite the contrary. It was him and twelve guys. The movement started from there but it didn’t seek power and influence. It served. It served the orphans and the poor. It served the widows. It served those shunned by society. Of course it reached those in high places but that wasn’t the emphasis.

The church in the book of Acts was as small number in a big world. My fear is that, in the modern era, the church fears losing its relevance, and thus it seeks out power.¬†But there’s a saying that contends “Power is not innocent” and there’s the problem.

After thinking about this for months, and letting it challenge my own standpoint, this is the opinion I’ve come to: The church, and the men and women of God who lead it, should maintain innocence and righteousness, should be a voice for good, and should avoid blurring the line between the State and the sacred.

I could list pages and pages of ministers who have gone off the rails when handed too much power and influence. Its a seductive thing. It allows¬†human¬†leaders to confuse their own ideas with the voice of God, to start believing their own hype, to turn a blind eye to abuses and injustices while saying to themselves “the end justifies the means.” It isn’t like this because people are bad, but because of the effect of power, and of the people who revolve around those in power, and potentially the way it’s easy to ignore counsel when there is no one you answer to. (Hmmm. Big can of worms there! Shutting the lid on that for today!)

When we look at the life of Jesus, we see His approach to power summed up nicely in Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus brought himself low, to the point of death, even death on the cross. He was the ultimate servant, who God then elevated. But that elevation was God’s responsibility, not ever that of a human. Politics causes us to seek out the popular vote. It seeks for man to elevate us, whereas a life of service to the church is a calling to servanthood in its purest form.

The church should be a powerful voice for good. But I believe it is best kept separate from the State. Having the two institutions separate creates a healthy tension, in my opinion, and creates potential for the other to stay on track.

There is an example of the church and state becoming completely intertwined. (Okay, theres a few. Henry VIII is one. So is the Vatican. Both of those carry obvious cautionary tales.) I’m referring to Constantine. Many laud his achievements for the advancement of Christianity, but others point out the ways in which he married a pagan state with a Christian God and emerged with a mixed, state-sanctioned faith.

This is our danger.

I’m absolutely not saying Christians don’t belong in politics. In a representative democracy, there should be room for all creeds. But I am suggesting that if you are called to the cloth, you mightn’t be called to the crown. If you find yourself edging towards the other, do consider the words of Billy Graham and ask yourself if you are crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

My considered opinion is that the church should put pressure on government to maintain fairness to all people, and freedom to all religions, whilst the government should ensure that citizens involved in churches don’t find themselves at the mercy of organisations who think they are above the law. Jesus said “render unto Caesar what is Caesars.” This protects the vulnerable people who often seek out the church to find healing. There, they should find safe harbour, not political agendas.

Being a pastor or minister (the Christian type) is a sacred role. It’s there to serve and love God’s people, teaching them and discipling them according to the word of God. Its role is not to rule them. Each believer’s walk with God is their own responsibility. When the state tells us how we ought live that out, we have problems. If you can’t imagine that, go watch the Handmaids Tale. (Yes, I know dominionists will cite Genesis 1:28 when God tells Adam to have dominion – but He was referring to fish, animals, plants and insects. Not people.)

The power and pull of politics might be seductive, but it is a different calling entirely. It is to represent the will of the people, not the Will and word of God.

My fear, yes I use the word fear again, is that many a person who has sought out influence and power has done so because they fear their own vulnerability. But for pastors and ministers, and indeed for Christians, our God is our sword and shield. So what if we stay countercultural and never overpower the culture of the day? That is probably our place – to show a dark world there is a light they can follow.

I’m aware that this post may come across a bit abrasive to some. That is not my intent. It is simply to call our attention to Billy Graham’s one regret, and to urge Christians not to fear where the world will go but to have faith in a God that has all the power we will ever need. If you are a Christian in politics, great! Serve with honour and integrity. Be a person of your word. Represent your people. Find good counsel and heed it.

If you are a pastor thinking of crossing over, if urge you to consider the undue influence you may wield over people who may think your word and the word of God never differ. It’s a dangerous line to blur.

Just some thoughts! Have a fab weekend, friends.

Kit K

These, the Hill’s I’ll Die On

Afternoon, from my sunny corner of the world. I had planned on my next blog piece being on the late, great Billy Graham, but its taking me longer than planned to formulate my thoughts on the tougher aspects of the piece. So I’m side-stepping that one for a moment. It occurred to me that before I go examining all the finer points of faith and doctrine (my current, nerdy fascination, but I’m¬†owning it¬†because I love this stuff), its a good thing to put out there what the non-negotiables are for me.

Christianity has varied streams. So many denominations, movements, and phases have made up, and continue to make up, the church worldwide. Some of them are pure, wonderful and a delight to be part of. Others, there in our imperfect history, are a little darker.

In this mixed bunch, there are a lot of big and small doctrines that are fun to examine, look at and talk over. Some of them are straight forward. There are others that I simply don’t know what I think about. (I.e. Predestination. The case for and the case against both seem strong. Eeek! The book of Revelation and end times theory = scary!) Still fun to examine I guess, but a little trickier for me.

But there are some things that you can’t shake me on and I reckon they’re a great starting point as I go on this journey (along with those reading! A far bigger number than I expected on month one – thanks/wow).

These are the hills I’ll die on, if you like.¬†I’m not even going to attempt to explain them in one blog post, because each topic is huge. But these are the things that make me a Christian, the things upon which I believe most if not all of us can agree.

  1. The Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. 
  2. Jesus as the son of God
  3. The Holy Spirit as our helper and counsellor
  4. Jesus death and resurrection for the atonement of sins and reconciliation with God
  5. Full emersion water baptism
  6. Baptism in the Holy Spirit
  7. Salvation by grace through faith and not of works
  8. Salvation by repentance from sin, and only through Jesus Christ
  9. Eternal life(i.e. life after death, and its two big divisions there. That both start with H. And one is scarier than the other)
  10. God as the ultimate judge

These are my big ticket items – the non-negotiables. There are some where I think it’s ok to agree-to-disagree. For example, praying in tongues. Some people believe every Christian should do it and do it a lot. Others believe it should only happen by inspiration and with interpretation. Both theories have strong biblical roots.

Why examine the rest? Because of 1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”¬†

That sounds kinda heavy to me. So I’d rather not “give heed to the doctrines of demons.” I ¬†don’t, for one second, think God demands perfection of us. If He did, Jesus wouldn’t have stood in our place as the ultimate sacrifice. I believe there are things in the Bible that could be argued biblically from two different vantage points and both could sound true. For those things, I don’t think anyone risks eternal damnation if their interpretation differs from that of another Christian.

But I do believe that a responsible faith is one that is deeply personal, well-examined, and well-informed. I do believe that there is a way to live out faith in the modern era in a way that is compassionate to the broken world around us while still being right in the eyes of God. I’ll screw up. So will you. We all will. But if we dedicate ourselves to a life of getting to know God better, then our world will be a better place.

I’ll be back next week with the Billy Graham post – what he’d do differently and why we should listen.

Thanks for reading! Have a fab weekend.

Kit K

New Short Story up on Wattpad

Hola!

Just a quick note to let you all know that I’ve published a short story across at Wattpad. Its definitely different to my usual style of writing, but I had to do it for University and its just been sitting there gathering proverbial dust.

It plays around with the idea of eternity…actually it came out of a conversation hubby and I had about¬†where¬†Heaven/eternity actually is, and what this “no more sorrow, no more pain” thing might look like.

I wouldn’t class this as Christian fiction by a long shot. But it’s an interesting concept if I can say that myself. You can find it here.

So check out “Isyss and Ariadne”, the story of twins born on opposite sides of the eternal divide.

Cheers
Kit K

The Prosperity Gospel – Truth or Convenience?

When I started this blog, I started with a list of must-write topics as long as my arm. But when it came to actually writing any of them, the big question became “Which one first?” I had two options: procrastinate forever or rip the bandaid off. I’m choosing the latter, and I’m starting with something that popped up in my Facebook feed: Benny Hinn saying he was guilty of taking the prosperity message outside the realms of what was actually Biblical.

Before we get too far in, check out the video. You can see it here, and the comments start around the 9 minute mark.

For those new here, what is the prosperity gospel? Wikipedia, the font of all well-researched knowledge (heh, heh), says it’s this:

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success)[A] is a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.

The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be happy. It is based on interpretations of the Bible that are mainstream in Judaism (with respect to the Hebrew Bible),[1] though less so in Christianity. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through donations of money, visualization, and positive confession.”

Okay, so where do we start here? First of all, I’d like to say I don’t think prosperity is wrong. Joshua 1:8 talks about having good success. Some translations of Jeremiah 29:11 say “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you…”¬†Enter “prosper” or “prosperity” into your search function on your Bible app and you’ll come up with all sorts of fun.

But does faith in God mean oodles of money? Does His will for us mean ease in every area as the prosperity gospel indicates? Heck no. Exhibit A: Job. Almost the entire book of Job! The examples cited by Benny Hinn were Jesus and Elijah. Did they walk in abundance, flashing around the best chariots of their day? Nope. Were they outside the will of God? Well, Jesus was God. And Elijah, though he had his moments, was pretty ok! They had no lack. This is what Hinn now believes the truth of prosperity in accordance with the Bible to be.

If prosperity theology was it and a bit, then I reckon Jesus would have chosen something a little more palatial than the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere for the loaves and fishes thing. And he probably could have catered the event properly rather than having to scrounge at the last minute. I’m being overly flippant here, but you get my drift. His was a modest lifestyle.

I read a quote on the Internet the other day. It was someone quoting the message they’d listened to that Sunday. It said “Scarcity is a myth.”

I face-palmed pretty hard. Partially because I studied economics and anyone who has knows that scarcity is the cornerstone economic theory is built on – Human wants will always exceed the resources available to fulfill those wants. Partially because the Bible is full of scarcity – famines and such. Yes,God looked after His people but some went without for a time. Their faith didn’t erase scarcity.

The other thing that saddened me was this: even in an age of good literacy, we still don’t read our Bible enough to know when something is a little bit off. Does it matter if something is only a little bit off? Well yes. If we build our lives on things that are only a little bit off, and those things lead to other things, we can end up facing the wrong direction entirely.

But thats a diversion. I did want to point out that, originally, reading the Bible was reserved for those scribes and teachers who had the ability to do so. We do these days! The majority of us (in the Western world at least) can read! We can access free apps so we don’t even need to buy a Bible! It is so readily available. So why aren’t we educating ourselves on what it actually says.

It doesn’t say scarcity is a myth. It doesn’t say we will all be rolling in cash because we love Jesus. It says we will have no lack, that we ought not worry about our needs. He has that all in hand (Matthew 6).

It also warns against greed (1 Timothy 6:10-11, Hebrews 13:5 and Luke 12:15), and it is this that the prosperity gospel is in danger of glossing over. Is success ungodly? Heck no. Are riches? Absolutely not. But are we failing as Christians if the budget is a bit thin? No, no, no.

Are we failing in our faith if we don’t get the healing we are praying for? Also, nope. One of the greatest Christian women I’ve ever known died of cancer. It was a shock to all who were steadfastly believing for her healing. But was she failing in her faith? Absolutely not. I’m my eyes, she was a Hebrews 11:13 person who received her promise after having passed on.

I would hate to be one of those preachers who misleads people by touting this money gospel. Because right there in my Bible is a line about the love of money being the root of all evil (Matthew 6:24).

There was a comment in the video that Benny Hinn made me cringe and then think – “Wow! True.” He said that there are many Christians out there who aren’t actually Christians, whose Christianity has become deluded.

Wow. Ouch. Wow again. But goodness he is right.¬†This is the danger when we don’t become students of our faith. Even Hinn said he had listened to those around him, but as he grew and read the Bible more and more, his Christianity became more balanced.

I’ve often wondered when I see an ocean of people worshipping at mega-churches, how many of them read their Bible enough to know if a doctrine preached from that stage is on the mark or not? How many of them get swept up in the emotion of the moment, the swell of the crowd, the electricity in the air and let¬†that¬†become the guidepost of their faith instead of the red letters that¬†should¬†be our guidepost.¬†Every preacher is human. Every preacher can have an off day, or even an off doctrine if they aren’t surrounded by good counsel that picks up on every little thing. To err is human. But the safeguard is the word of God, and knowing it.

I’m not saying I haven’t ever been guilty of following blindly, or of getting swept up in the moment. Eh. Who hasn’t? All I’m saying is we need to be students of our faith so we know when something isn’t quite right. The prosperity gospel, in my opinion is one of those not quite right things. The Bible shows us that our Heavenly father will look after our needs (Matthew 6:31-33). It says His plans are for our good.

It doesn’t say it will all be easy. It doesn’t say we will never face hardship. It doesn’t guarantee private jets and palatial homes (The book of Job, Hebrews 11:13).

If riches is what God has in store for you. Awesome! I’m thrilled for you. But as Hinn challenges in the video, don’t let those riches become the centre point. Jesus needs to hold that territory all for Himself.

I leave you with an old song by the Newsboys. There are lots of fun lyrics in this vid, but the gist is this: we don’t get to invent who our God is. That’s what makes Him God and not us.

Just some thoughts hey! I’ve never been a big Hinn follower. But I’ve got to stop and applaud the guy for saying “Hey I got it wrong here.” That’s big.

Over and out

Kit K

Preface: This blog is not about you

You could call this the “rules of engagement” for following this blog, I suppose. Really, it’s just an introduction to me, to how I think, and to the blog I’ve always wanted to write but have been a bit too scared to start.

I’m sure you’ve all recognised or at least witnessed a problem with modern communication. Perhaps it’s fruit of the social media age, or perhaps a result of the lost art of debate, but everyone just takes things so personally. Gone are the days where we could kick ideas around, debate them, be wrong, be right, be convinced, be open-minded or leave with the same idea we arrived with.

Instead, we wade into debates, morph into keyboard warriors and unwittingly hurt the humans on the receiving end of our short-answer “wisdom.” (Not you of course. Because this blog isn’t about you, remember). Often, this opinion flinging lacks context. Many times it lacks research. Far too many times, it lacks compassion.

This blog isn’t a place for that. It’s a place to kick ideas around. It is so because of the next point I feel strongly about.

Christianity is diverse. There are many doctrines and streams. We must know what we believe and why. If we don’t, we can be taken for a ride. We can be fooled. We can be dangerous.

I once heard someone say “Everyone has a philosophy. Even if you say ‘I don’t have a philosophy’ that is your philosophy.” We don’t have a choice about whether or not we have one. We only have a choice regarding how we develop it: consciously or haphazardly.

I’d almost always known what faith meant to me. But it was only very recently I started to examine what my particular brand of Christianity was, and what doctrines it was made up of. I’ll be honest; some of the doctrines that had slipped into my belief system didn’t actually line up with my read of the Bible, or my deep-seated belief about who God is.

Those things weren’t serving me well, and I wonder if I could contribute to the world in a completely positive way if my service came out of some of those ideas.

I look around at the church in general, and I see a lot of haphazard philosophies of faith. It’s not healthy. It’s not serving the world well. At best, this can be innocuous — just a weird idea or two. At worst, it can lead people up the garden path, plant potentially harmful ideas, or even justify covering up that which should be exposed and stopped (Exhibit A: the unfolding of the Australian Royal Commission into institutional abuse. Heartbreaking).

I’m not saying everything I talk about on this blog will be revelatory or even on the money. Sometimes it will be just things worth thinking about. Sometimes it will be just thoughts I’m examining – fully formed or not so much.

Here’s the thing: Truth is truth from all angles. We shouldn’t fear turning it over and over and examining it. Because if we turn it over and examine it and find, to our horror, that it wasn’t true — why keep it in our backpack of beliefs? Why continue devoted to the falsehood?

If it is truth, then how exciting it is to look further and further into why it is, and how it can make the world a better place!

But like I said, this blog isn’t about you. If you read something here that you disagree with — cool. Feel free to kick it around with me. Just don’t come at it from a keyboard warrior angle. This is about ideas, about finding the best way to live out a relevant faith, and about exploring the complexity of Christianity.

Of course, I’ll also be publishing some fiction here on the blog. Some of it is thoroughly Christian fiction. Some of it won’t have any elements of faith in it. (I am not a big fan of preachy fiction). I’ve got a couple of short stories that simply explore an idea…or that had to be written for uni! So I thought “Heck why not put them up here?”

I’m quite excited about some of the topics I’ll be exploring here, including “things you aren’t supposed to ask as Christians.”

I’ve never been keen on causing controversy. But some of these topics have been burning in my brain for upwards of 5 years. Perhaps it’s less something I want to write, and more something I need to write.

Thanks for joining me on the journey. I hope you find something that gets your brain going. If not, I hope you find some free fiction you enjoy.

Coming in the following weeks:

– Billy Graham: Why we need to listen to what he’d have done differently.

– Benny Hinn: Thoughts on the prosperity gospel

– Issys and Ariadne: a little piece of short fiction exploring the idea of eternity. Zero basis in fact!

Over and out,

Kit K.