Sunday Everyday

Complementarianism and Domestic Violence in Church

I hope and pray that this article will  spark a conversation about domestic violence with leaders in churches.  When I was on staff of a large Pentecostal church and the women’s ministry leader – I held a women’s meeting on the topic of domestic violence. I was shocked when one of our teaching team came to me and said “Lisa why are you holding a meeting on DV?  Won’t this just be a waste of time?  No one in our church will relate to this”.

Let me tell you first hand that domestic violence does not stop at the borders of the church.  “there is a very great need for greater education about gender inequality and DFV in the church. Amongst churchgoers, there is still a prevailing naïveté about the prevalence of violence within the church. Those in Christian leadership – male or female, complementarian or egalitarian – need to be much more informed about the signs and dynamics of abuse, and about practices which reinforce inequality within the church.”


Common Grace’s Domestic & Family Violence Justice Team member and Anglican Minister Erica Hamence reflects on complementarianism and domestic violence.

Originally posted on Common Grace written by Erica Hamence. 

That Question

I am a Sydney Anglican Associate Minister and, for the past year or so, I’ve led Common Grace’s Domestic and Family Violence Justice team.

And, if I’ve learned anything in that time, it’s that a lot of you who just read that sentence now want to ask me about complentarianism.

It’s OK. A lot of people do. And it’s been in the media a bit lately, too. Which is why I’ve agreed to begin a discussion on the topic here, beginning with a few personal reflections. 

But let me begin with a couple of disclaimers. 
Firstly, this is a big topic. It’s massive, actually, and having these kinds of conversations is just one part of a bigger conversation that Australian Christians need to have about domestic and family violence. 
Secondly, it’s a conversation that carries a very big risk of hurting people on all sides of the debate, and we simply must do everything we can to avoid insensitive, dehumanising and scapegoating language.
With all that said, here goes my personal reflection.
Is it the right question?
I find the terms complementarian and egalitarian to be about as helpful as the terms left-wing and right-wing. They convey some of the broader convictions a person might hold, but unless it’s understood that that’s all that they do, we are prone to underestimating the many shades of difference within them.
My experience having worked in both an egalitarian and a complementarian church (as much as you can label any church in such a way), and having had many conversations on the topics with ministers of both ‘camps’ is that there is enormous breadth in what people mean when they talk about authority, and headship, and what implications those terms should have for relationships in churches and families.
I’ve experienced sexism in both contexts. I’ve been encouraged as a woman in ministry in both contexts. Sometimes by the same people. The patriarchy is everywhere – in and outside the church – and it’s worth us working hard to disentangle biblical Christianity from whatever patriarchal (and other) assumptions we may have smuggled in (whether deliberately or accidentally).


An example
For example.
I find it bewildering that there’s such a focus on decision-making whenever we talk about the dynamic between husbands and wives. When you read Ephesians 5:21-33, there’s nothing that even suggests that that is in view. I wonder if our modern preoccupation with choice has influenced how we read this text. 
I find it similarly odd that we appear to have uncritically attached the concept of ‘leadership’ to the word ‘head’ in verse 23. If we are convinced that leadership is in mind (I’m not), are we sure that our conceptions of Christian leadership (not to mention authority, and submission) are thought all the way through biblically? I find that too often we seem to speak of these concepts as if their content, meaning and expression is simple and settled. But the Bible is not a textbook, and our engagement with it needs to be more thorough-going than that, especially in regards to issues of such importance.
Domestic and family violence is complex, but most practitioners and theorists agree that at its heart it is about power and control.


I agree that there are many things in complementarian teaching that are open to misuse by abusers. In particular, complementarianism can act to peripheralise women within churches, and in those contexts it’s easy to see how abuse can flourish undetected. In complementarian contexts, women have as much room to speak as the male leaders allow. 
That’s a profoundly vulnerable position to be in, and one which I suspect some male ministers are not always able to empathise with. If a woman suffering abuse wasn’t completely confident that she would be believed, that the particular nature of the abuse would be understood, and that she would be supported by her church’s leader, she would most likely continue to suffer alone. 

This is true for any church, whether complementarian or egalitarian, but within complementarian churches the capacity for women to shape teaching and policies is almost entirely dependent on the senior minister’s amenity. 
That makes it crucial that the senior minister seek out and really listen to the women of the church. They must also be clear-eyed about how they are received by the women of the church – are they regarded as trustworthy, knowledgeable about the issues which affect women, do they demonstrate a humble willingness to learn? If not, women will not disclose abuse to them.


Focusing on the key issues

But three more things need to be said.
Firstly, anything – any culture, doctrine, community – can be a weapon in the hands of an abuser. 

As I’ve said, complementarianism certainly seems to be especially vulnerable to this.

Ministers and churchgoers on both ‘sides’ of this issue need to recognise that even if they believe their beliefs are well-grounded in scripture, and even when they are taught well, they can (and will) be used by abusers. Even if we were able to prove definitively that one side had the right take on gender, marriage and ministry, that would not be a panacea against this evil. Abuse is more insidious than we imagine.


Secondly, doctrines which are more central to the Christian faith are just as prone to misuse in the hands of abusers. I have heard the stories of many women who have been abused by church-going husbands whose abuse has been legitimated, dismissed or perpetuated because of poor teaching about forgiveness and reconciliation, marriage and divorce (in general), and because our cultures lead us to work hard to promote and protect leaders.
What I’m saying here is that this battle needs to be fought on multiple grounds, and we’ll need to be willing to be both undefensive about our own positions and understanding of others, in order to really make progress.
Thirdly, there is a very great need for greater education about gender inequality and DFV in the church. Amongst churchgoers, there is still a prevailing naïveté about the prevalence of violence within the church. 

Those in Christian leadership – male or female, complementarian or egalitarian – need to be much more informed about the signs and dynamics of abuse, and about practices which reinforce inequality within the church.
After several years in ministry, I have come to expect that the women I meet with have had significant experiences of abuse, whether direct or indirect. The women who have not been abused (or have not yet disclosed abuse to me) are a minority. Most of the time, these women have told few people. They have learned to accommodate quietly. They swallow their pain. They turn up to church despite the fact that they know they will see their abuser there. 


They lose the capacity to pray because they don’t know how to include God in what happened to them, but they come to prayer meetings anyway. They teach Bible studies about God’s concern for the poor and mistreated, ministering the truth to others, with few people to do the same for them. 
They are beaten at home, and then their abuser is lauded by their community on Sunday. They join ministry teams led by people who look like the partner who raped and beat them, and they do their best to sit under their leadership, all the while trying to avoid ever looking squarely at them. 
They are raped by their partner, and then stood down for ‘sexual immorality’ when they disclose it. They are diagnosed with PTSD, and then sit silently in church meetings where ‘victimhood culture’ is mocked, and ‘triggering’ is a punchline. They go to church every week, riding the bus with the man who groped them. They walk along the streets of the neighbourhood, despite the fact that various spots are marked with an x for them – this was where those men tried to abduct my friend as she walked home from university, this was where the man ran after me, telling me what he would do to my vagina, this was where my friend was raped, this was where my friend was drugged and left unconscious. 
I haven’t made any of these examples up; they have all happened to me or women I know.


Male leaders of both complementarian and egalitarian churches – are you confident that you are doing what is necessary to care for the women in your churches who are experiencing such things?
And more importantly, would the women of your church agree with you?
Erica Hamence is a valued part of Common Grace’s team that is working towards justice for people facing domestic and family violence. She’s also the Associate Minister at Barneys Anglican Church in Ultimo, Sydney, where she oversees discipleship and campus ministries. 

Hey, I’m Not a Church Hater

Tuesday Talks with Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Hey, I’m not a Church Hater!

A couple of months ago someone approached me in a cafe and said, “Oh ……you’re the Church hater”!  I was gobsmacked.

I had no idea what prompted this comment in a public forum by someone that I hardly knew.

Let me state for the record, I am not a church hater.  Am I wary of the church?  Yes, and for good reason.  Do I believe that gathering together as Christ followers is a good thing, absolutely.

“The Bible tells us we need to attend church so we can worship God with other believers and be taught His Word for our spiritual growth. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). We should follow that example of devotion—and to the same things. Back then, they had no designated church building, but “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). Wherever the meeting takes place, believers thrive on fellowship with other believers and the teaching of God’s Word”.  Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/church-attendance.html#ixzz3gOmyviIA

Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honour one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).

Heres the thing:   no church is perfect because it is run by people.  Where there are people there are problems.  Churches in some ways are like families,  they are diverse and they hit rocky patches.  Each has its own rituals its own traditions its own ‘normal’.  I would do Christmas lunch differently to how you would do it, I would  celebrate holidays and birthdays differently to you.  Yet we both have a family, unique and diverse but with similar aims and goals.

Art design Lisa Hunt-Wotton artwork by Natalia

Art design Lisa Hunt-Wotton artwork by Natalia

The Local Church is the Hope of the World

This statement was made by Bill Hybels at the Global Leadership Summit 2012 August 9-10.

Bill then went on to say that for the church to reach its redemptive potential it must be well led.  It’s got all of the power of God available to it’s got incredible impact potential, its just got to be led by Godly, servant orientated, fired up, humble, growing leaders.

There’s the catch:  The church is led by people, mostly men and there are times when men/people stuff up and get it horribly wrong.  So for those who experience this, the Church is certainly not the hope of the world it can often be a place of hurt and pain and rejection. The Church likes to tell happy stories and have happy endings.  For some people there are no happy endings.   For some people life is just bloody hard.   Where and how do they fit in to this happy clappy environment?

This is my point I guess.  As good as the church is, it is actually Jesus who is the hope of the world.

Jesus is the hope of the world and the church is an imperfect vehicle that He uses to bring His hope.

People are flawed, Jesus is not. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 38

Hebrews 13:5 says:   Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,“The Lord is my helper therefore I will not fear”.

Today I saw on FaceBook that famous pastor Joel Olsteen of the Houston megachurch Lakewood has moved into a $10.5 million mansion.  Here is the contradiction:  this is an example where the life of a church leader does not add up to the biblical model of how a church leader should be.  The gospel is a message of justice and equality, of sharing, of enough for all, of giving to the poor and of living with humility.  I’m not judging the Olsteens, I’m just using this as an example of how the message of the gospel and the message of the church sometimes does not add up.

One thing that really annoys me is that the church in some places has become a club for the churched only.  Or should I say that some Christians only live, relate, converse with, hang out with other ‘Christians’.  The church was never meant to be a church bubble.  Jesus told us to GO.  GO out into all the world.  He didn’t tell us to keep to ourselves and only relate to Christians.  I can’t tell you the amount of pentecostals that I know who barely know an unchurched person let alone have dinner or go on holidays with them.  How will they know about the love, hope, peace and joy of Jesus if we don’t hang out with them.

I don’t mean preach to them, bore the life out of them, or treat them like some deadly disease.  I mean love, genuinely love them because you just honestly do love them.  Because they are amazing and have so much to offer.  Our relationships with people should not be based on the Christian club mentality.  What did Jesus say:  ‘They will know you are Christians because of your love’.  Not because you asked them to attend church with you or because you had standing room only at your last church service.

Look around you…..   what percentage of time are you spending with only church people?  What percentage of time are you spending in your community just being yourself, carrying the presence of God.  Being a presence.  Francis of Assisi said, go into the towns and cities and preach the Gospel, and if you MUST, speak.  In other words just BE.

Now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7

People don’t want to know that we are perfect and complete, we are not.  They will know that we have Christ when, we love, when we go through trouble in this world but don’t give up, but continue to have hope.  Where did we ever get the thinking that we are somehow different, better?  The verse in Corinthians goes onto say that we are are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. That is the message of the Gospel.

You are no different, its not what happens to you but how you handle it.  People need to see and know this.  Stuff happens to all of us.  Some may never attend a church service and they don’t have to, but they will never see Christ in you if they don’t know you.  ‘There is only one world and its the supernatural one.  There is not the good world where the Christian lives and the bad world where everyone else is.  This is why Christ rent the veil in the temple.  The Holy world inside and the unholy world outside became one.  That’s why Jesus said the temple had to fall, there are no longer two worlds’ (Rohr).  I am wary of churches that create holy huddles of exclusiveness but I am not a church hater.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people.Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

https://www.patreon.com/SundayEveryday

Weeds, Wheat, Specks, Planks and Cult Thinking.

The first 36 years of my life were devoted to a Christian fundamentalist cult.  They practised a doctrine of perfection that was presented as a carrot tied by string to the end of a stick.  You could never quite reach that carrot. The rules kept changing and if you failed they hit you with the stick.  Quite literally in my case.   As in every good dualistic religion everything is black and white, good and bad.  You are either in or out.  We were kept very busy with the process of ‘sin management’ and indiscretions were used against us to whip us into line.    Richard Rohr puts it well when he describes it this way:  ‘No one is ever quite pure enough, moral enough or holy enough or enough of an insider of the proper group’ (Rohr, Immortal Diamond).

The high water line was obedience and woe betide any one who was found to be disobedient to the word of ‘the elders’, which was equal to the word of God.  They were tough on us because they were contantly trying to save us.  It must have been so exhausting.  They had to watch over us so we would not fall and trip into sin and go to hell, or worse, leave the group.  We were the ‘in’ group.  We had the truth.  We were Gods chosen people.  Everyone outside was evil and impure and quite simply ‘outside’.

“In a moralisticly oriented religious group there are always clear outsiders to be kept clearly out-side.  Hiding inside this false moral purity are things like slavery, sexism, the greed of Christian emperors…pedophilia…conquest and oppression’ (Rohr).

This did quiet a number on my little head.  Brainwashed from the age of 2, this tight knit controlling group was my only social construction.   I was not good at contradictions or complexities.  I had no idea what it meant to think criticallly or to have opinions of my own.  It was an easy way to live as you just did as you were told.   The word from the ‘fathers’ was final.  Yes it was a patriarchal system, and women were lectured publically and privately  to submit and to obey.

This is a group that still operates today.  They hold the high moral ground and are the purveyors of truth but keep themselves separated from everyone else.  Even from people they love who have left the group.  Leaving is the unforgiveable sin.  People who leave are excommuicated, for their own good of course.   You are told that ‘they’ are giving you into the hand of satan, hoping you might come  to your senses.  In other words, when it gets so bad that you can’t possibly manage,  you will return to the group.    These groups do not follow the gospel of Jesus Christ or His teachings.  I tell you this because there are many religious institutions around today who are watered down versions of the above mentioned Christian fanatics.  They spend every single moment of their day sacrificing their lives for God but they do not understand the teachings of Christ.  They twist every scripture to fit their doctrine but do not understand about context or things like grace and mercy and equality.

The good news of the gospel is not about dangling carrots in front of peoples noses.  Nor  is spirituality a series of hoops you must jump through to be approved by an almighty disaproving God.    The good thing about following Jesus, spirit-based morality, is that you are not motivated by reward and punishment.  You need not follow the rules, you do things because they are true and good and right and not because you are afraid of punishment.  You follow Jesus because you are in love with him and because He helps you.   He gives you the desire and the power to please Him.  Its because you want to not because you will be punished by your community if you don’t. The good news of the gospel is this:  freedom, vision, relief, hope and love Including all people, race and gender.  Everything and everyone belongs.  Even the broken and poor and outcast and those who are told that they don’t belong.

5019624803_e6c3f162d2_b

Photo by Atila Shia

I am concerned about the way some people still operate out of the ‘you are bad and we are good mentality’.  This mind sets reveals alienating behaviour  because it  cuts off anyone who does not line up to a moralistic view of Christianity.  As Richard says in the above quote ‘there are clear outsiders to be kept clearly out-side’.   We are continually drawing lines in the sand when Jesus asks us not to judge.

Going with the Bokeh theme.

I think about the parable of the wheat and the weeds and this is the thought that I will leave you with to think about for yourself.  Richard Rohr observed that to see with new eyes “requires that we be willing to respond and change because we are aware of our own mixture of good and evil. Jesus uses several mixture images that illustrate the tension. They seem to say, this world is a mixture of different things, and unless you learn how to see, you don’t know to separate; you get lost in the weeds and can’t see the wheat.”  The trick is to learn HOW to see with new eyes.  This is why Jesus says, I came to give sight to the blind.  He knew that clear vision was something we would struggle with.    We usually see things how we want to see them and not as they are or as He sees them.

Jesus speaks in parables to help us to see.  He does this to engage the right side of our brains.  Religion today is  a dualistic left brain religion.  It deals with linear thinking,  right and wrong, black and white, logic and order.  Jesus engages the right side of our brains so we can run Steven Speilberg images and mini movies in our minds.  To help us to see in a new way.  To see the whole picture not just a slice of it.  To see in color not in black and white.   He uses images that ancient jewish people would have been familiar with.  Seed, wheat, weeds, yeast, pine seeds, fish, wine, bread etc..  He engages their minds to get to their hearts.  The result is always to bring life, peace and hope.  Not exasperation and fear.

Remember that the law does not give life, only the Spirit gives life.  Are we aware that each of us have a  mixture of good and evil in our own lives?  He is saying to us in the parable of the wheat and the weeds that good and evil grow up together beside each other.  It is not our job to run around pointing out the evil like some deranged person standing on a chair,  screaming and pointing at a spider.   It is His job and the job of his angels at the end of days to patiently take out the weeds, burn them and safely put the wheat in the barn.  We just need get on with  job of living our lives in peace with each other.

Cult teaching would have you believe that ‘we’ are the wheat and ‘they’ (the outsider, the sinners) are the weeds.  What will happen to the weeds,  ‘well they gonna BURN’, they gonna burn in HELL and Damnation”.  Jesus teaching would say that everyone carries seeds of good and seeds of bad within them.  As these grow to maturity, let me deal with it.  We are not good at carrying or living with both the good and the bad.  We like to think that we comprise only GOOD.    It is Jesus job to decide what is weed and what is wheat, not ours.   Both we and the world are a mixture of wheat and weed.  That is the mystery.

“It takes a lot more patience, compassion, forgiveness, and love than aiming for some illusory perfection that is usually blind to its own faults.  …it takes uncommon humility to carry the dark side of things and it takes courage to carry the good side too.  The crucified one always hangs between these two theives – paying the price within himself just as we must do’( Rohr, p40 Everything Belongs).

I love this picture of Jesus on the cross, even in his final moments he is painting a picture of the beloved hanging bewteen wheat and weeds.  The best bit is about to come.  Are you ready.  Jesus forgives both theives.  Do we?   Do we forgive ourselevs for both the good and the bad in us?

wpid-6a015390c5bc27970b016766f6ba8f970b-320wi

Lets not be blind to the weeds in our own lives and lets not judge what we perceive to be the weeds in others lives.  In another parable Jesus talks about planks and splinters.  He says in Matthew 7, ‘why do you point out the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and ignore the plank in your own eye’.    Ha ha… I love that.   Such incredible imagery, ‘speck of sawdust” and ‘PLANK”.   He is shouting to us:  “compared to the huge amount crap in your life, your brothers stuff is a teeny tiny speck.    Stop pointing the finger people.   Let’s trust Jesus to deal with specks and weeds and get on with what He asked us to do which was to love one another the same way He has loved us;  unconditionally, graciously and with mercy.  He looks at our shit and sees a teeny speck.  Meh…. That is grace, that is love.

We must ask ourselves, is our life an example of an encounter with a loving and caring God.   Are we growing the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy peace, long-suffering, goodness, meekness temperance, faith and distributing this fruit to everyone that we encounter?  Or are our lives  spent deciding who is and who is not worthy, who can and who can’t take part in our IN groups.   The Franciscans have a saying;

“Don’t expect a lot of freedom or permission from most religious people, but thank God, the gospel requires them to give you forgiveness.”

Ahhhh love it..   Shalom

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

Are you a Persecutor a Rescuer or a Victim?

There have been a few incidents this week in my world which have bought to mind the counselling strategy of the Karpman triangle.  Have you heard of it?  This diagram was developed by well-respected psychiatrist, and teacher of Transactional Analysis, named Dr Stephen Karpman.  It is called the drama triangle because nearly every dysfunctional relationship can be placed on this triangle.  It is a powerful tool for us to asses our behaviour and the behaviour of others.

Until we become conscious of these dynamics, we cannot transform them. And unless we transform them, we cannot move forward on our journey towards re-claiming emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. (Ref)

Karpman used triangles to map conflicted or drama-intense relationship transactions. The Karpman Drama Triangle models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts, and the destructive and shifting roles people play.[4] He defined three roles in the conflict; Persecutor, Rescuer (the one up positions) and Victim (one down position). Karpman placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and referred to them as being the three aspects, or faces of drama.

All dysfunctional relationships happen on the victim or drama triangle. Each of us has a primary starting point which is usually learned in our family of origin.  We are set up in our families to carry on these roles.  We have a story that our family give us.  It can be as simple as the birth order.  Mine is the Rescuer.  The fixer. The classic enabler.  Lets just make everything okay.  The rescuer has all the answers.  There’s no better way to feel important than to be a saviour! Taking care of others may be the Rescuers best game plan for getting to feel worthwhile.

Even though participants each have a role with which they most identify, once on the triangle, participants rotate through all the positions, going completely around the triangle at any stage.

drama-triangle-transactional-analysis-13-638

1:  The Rescuer

The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if he/she doesn’t go to the rescue. Yet his/her rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When he/she focuses their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also very pivotal because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs (Wiki).

‘Rescuers usually grow up in families where their dependency needs are not acknowledged. It’s a psychological fact that we treat ourselves the way we were treated as children. The budding Rescuer grows up in an environment where their needs are negated and so tend to treat themselves with the same degree of negligence that they experienced as children. Without permission to take care of themselves, their needs go underground and they turn instead to taking care of others‘ (Ref).

2:  The Persecutor

The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.

‘This role is most often taken on by someone who received overt mental and/or physical abuse during their childhood. As a result they are often secretly seething inside from a shame based wrath that ends up running their lives. Persecutors for survival sake, repress deep-seated feelings of worthlessness; they hide their pain behind a facade of indignant wrath and uncaring detachment. They may choose to emulate their primary childhood abuser(s), preferring to identify with those they see as having power and strength – rather than become the “picked on loser” at the bottom of life’s pile. They tend to adopt an attitude that says; “The world is hard and mean … only the ruthless survive. I’ll be one of those.” In other words, they become perpetrators. They “protect” themselves using authoritarian, controlling and downright punishing methods’ (Ref).

3:  The Victim

The victim has accepted a definition of themselves that says they are intrinsically damaged and incapable.  Their stance is ‘poor me’.  They feel helpless and powerless. They project an attitude of being weak, fragile or not smart enough; basically, “I can’t do it by myself.” Their greatest fear is that they won’t make it. That anxiety forces them to be always on the lookout for someone stronger or more capable to take care of them.  In relationships they look for the rescuer, someone who can save you.

images-2

No Winners

Whenever we fail to take responsibility for ourselves, we end up on the triangle.  Living and relating on the triangle is painful and has no positive outcomes.  It is not until we recognise that we operate in this way can we get help to learn how to relate in a healthy manner.   The characteristic traits of Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim are twisted and toxic.  Its roots lie in shame and blame rather than accountability.  It’s important that we see these toxic behaviours for what they are and instead lean into the positive aspects of their posture.

The Power of TED, a self-help book published in 2009, focuses on the victim. It recommends that the “victim” adopt the alternative role of creator, view the persecutor as a challenger, and enlist a coach instead of a rescuer.[14]

So instead of a victim you become a creator, someone who is outcome oriented as opposed to problem oriented.

The persecutor learns how to focus on challenging and resolving dynamic tensions.

The rescuer should be encouraged to show concern and care but not by over-reaching or stepping over boundaries.  Nor problem solve for others.  They become a coach and see that others are able to problem solve for themselves.

Lynne Forest has written a brilliant article on this topic which I recommend you read if you would like to know more and would like to find out how to get off the drama triangle.  The Three Faces of Victim – An Overview of the Drama Triangle

Lynne gives a brief introduction to the drama triangle here.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Kingdom of Heaven

A paper on The Kingdom of Heaven by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Introduction

The message of the Kingdom of God was fundamental to the teaching of Jesus and is undeniably central to the whole of the New Testament.  The Kingdom of God and it’s meaning has both captivated and divided scholars for centuries.

Matthew preferred to use the term ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, a term which is interchangeable with the Kingdom of God.  This paper will look closely at the meaning of the Kingdom of God and  will show that the Kingdom of God is extremely relevant to us today.  Kingdom reign is not only a future reality which will be consummated with the second coming of Christ, but it is indeed a reality for us today.

Why does Matthew used the term Kingdom of Heaven?

This question has undoubtedly intrigued scholars for the last few hundred years and has been a dominant topic of New Testament study.  (Lamerson, 2000: 343).  The term Kingdom of Heaven is a term found only in Matthew.  In all probability because Matthew  was a Jew writing for a Jewish audience,  he wished to defer to the Jewish practice of avoiding the divine name and substituted the name of God for Heaven (Gundry, 1994: 43) .  Ladd puts it this way  ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is the Semitic form and Kingdom of God is the Greek form of the same phrase’ (Ladd, 1959: 32).

Some scholars believe that kingdom language is not found  much outside of the synoptic gospels because of the authors’ hesitation to use kingdom language to Romans (Bock, 1992: 19). Others have suggested that Jesus frequently used the term Kingdom of Heaven, then the disciples changed it to Kingdom of God because  Gentiles may have not understood the term ‘heaven’ (Gundry, 2003: 119).  Nevertheless, most scholars would agree that the two terms are interchangeable (Allen, 1999: 5), and are therefore synonymous.

The term Kingdom of Heaven does not appear in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament the Kingdom of God was known  as the reign of God over creation, with the coming of God introducing complete restoration of Israel as nation (Ridderbos, 1962: 5).   Matthew  writes to convince  Jews that all the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus and therefore he is indeed their Messiah (Barclay, 1958: xxii) . Whilst  the Kingdom of God is understood as Gods rule over the earth, the term Kingdom of Heaven then seems to  point toward not only a sphere of rule, but its source.

Therefore the names Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God mean the rule or reign of God and the rule or reign of Heaven (Keathley: 38).

What is the Kingdom of God?

It could be said that there is no theme in the New Testament equal in importance than the message of the Kingdom of God. (Ridderbos, 1962: ix).  But what is the Kingdom of God?  To gain a greater understanding of this we will look at four areas which will help to answer that question.

What the does the term ‘Kingdom’ mean?

What is the message of the Kingdom?

What is its proximity?

What is the mystery of the kingdom?

The phrase the Kingdom of God is ‘characteristic of the whole New Testament’ (Barclay, 1958: 210).  It is of primary importance and  there is no phrase used more often.  It is therefore significant that we understand it’s meaning.

The term Kingdom of God basically means the rule or reign of God (Ladd, 1959: 11).  It is not just His realm, it is His reign.  ‘The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all’ (Ps 103:19 AMP).   His rule is over the heavens and the earth but He reigns over us, He reigns in our hearts.  He is the King, when we enter His Kingdom it His reign that we seek in our lives   (Ladd, 1959: 20,21).  Daniel equates the word kingdom with power, might, and glory.   All of which are  synonymous with authority (Dan 2:37). Therefore the Kingdom of God is God’s rule, His Kingship, His authority (Ladd, 1959: 21). The triumph of Gods Kingdom is the defeat of all the enemies of God.  ‘Christ must be King and reign until He has put all enemies under His feet’ (1Cor 15:25).

‘It is quite clear that the Kingdom of God was central to the message of Jesus’ (Barclay, 1958: 210) , to the point that he sees it as his mission on earth.  Jesus was compelled to preach the message of the Kingdom, it was the reason he was sent,  ‘I must preach the… Kingdom of God’ (Lk 4:43 NIV).   It was so vital to the message of Jesus that even the word he  spoke was called the word or message of the kingdom (Mat 13:19 NIV).

The Message of the Kingdom

The message of the kingdom was introduced in Matthew by John the Baptist. Both the messages of  ‘John the Baptist and Jesus focused above all on the Kingdom’ of God  and its coming (Gundry, 2003:118).  John, Jesus and the disciples all preached about the same kingdom (Deffinbaugh:3).  Jesus instructed the disciples to preach the message of the Kingdom wherever they went (Mat 10:7), the need for repentance and ‘the announcement of the imminence of the Kingdom’ (Bailey, 1999: 443).  Jesus teaching was accompanied by power encounters.  The kingdom and the authority of the kingdom over sin, sickness and death was present in the outworking of Jesus miracles.  The power of the kingdom continued to be displayed through the teaching and miracles of the disciples.  ‘The kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus coming to the earth.  It had not only arrived in the person of Jesus, it had come upon us (Mat 12:28).  Both Jesus and John preached that the kingdom was near (Mat 3:2, 4:17).  Jesus preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  He was implying that the kingdom was within their reach, it was right in front of them.

‘Never did such individuals (other disciples and prophets) apply symbols for God to themselves so consistently as did Jesus, and none ever claimed that he was doing precisely what the scriptures said God himself would do.

Yet in the parables Jesus claims to forgive sin, sow his word into human hearts, welcome…sinners,…seek out and rescue his lost sheep, oversee the final judgement and distinguish those who will and those who will not enter the kingdom’ (Bloomberg, 1990: 320).

He was able to say this  because He is the King. It is his Kingdom and where He is there his Kingdom will be (Deffinbaugh: 2). Therefore it could be said that ‘Jesus presence means kingdom presence’ (Bock, 2001: 13).

The Proximity of the Kingdom.

One of the most contentious issues regarding the kingdom concerns its proximity.  Has the kingdom come, is it yet to come, has it already come but is also still yet to be consummated?   Our  understanding of the kingdom of God will be determined upon  where we believe the kingdom to be.  What does Jesus mean when he says the kingdom is near, is at hand?  There is a plethora of debate on this question.  Some like Ritschl and Von Harnack believe that the Kingdom has come in the form of the ‘brotherhood of man’ and there will  not be a  future consummation of the kingdom (Allen, 1999: 2).  Weiss and Schweitzer share similar views and teach that the kingdom is entirely futuristic, even apocalyptic.  That Jesus, under the impact of disappointing circumstances,  postponed his coming (Ridderbos, 1962: xiii).  Dodd believes that kingdom hope was totally realised in Jesus (Bock, 1992: 3).  ‘Not yet’: Fuller and Joachim believe that ‘The kingdom of God is not yet present, it is imminent; it is dawning but it has not yet arrived’ (Fuller, 1954: 48). ‘God is coming he is standing at the door, indeed he is already there’ (Joachim, 1963: 102).  Both believed that the kingdom was very close but had not yet come.

Theologians who preach inaugurated eschatology like Ladd, Bock, Carson and Ridderbos  have an ‘already/not yet approach’ (Allen, 1999: 4).  They postulate that the Kingdom of God has already come in an introductory form, but will not be fully consummated until the second coming of Christ (Allen, 1999).  Carson states that, ‘the constant theme of Matthew is that the kingdom came with Jesus and his preaching and miracles, it came with his death and resurrection and it will come at the end of the age’ (Carson, 1995: 101). Jones puts it this way,  ‘The kingdom of God is among you and within you; the kingdom of God is in every true christian…The kingdom has come, the kingdom is coming, the kingdom is yet to come’ (Lloyd-Jones, 1997: 16). This view is common among scholars and is well supported by  many commentators.

The kingdom was near because Christ was in the world.

One of the more extreme views is that of Toussaint and Quine  who hold a ‘No, Not Yet’ approach (Toussaint, 2007: 131). They believe that because Jesus was rejected by the Jews,  the coming of the kingdom had to be postponed.  They believe that the  inauguration and consumption of the kingdom is still in the future.  The kingdom will not come until Israel repents (Toussaint, 2004: 473).  It is difficult to subscribe to this belief.  The thought that Jesus had to postpone his plans seems to demean the omnipotence of God.  Ernest Reisinger puts it best when he says, “My bible knows nothing about a God who does not have power to perform his plan…He is all-wise in planning and all powerful in performing” (Allen, 1999: 12).

The Mystery of the Kingdom

The mystery of the kingdom provides a key to understanding the kingdom of God and how it works.  Jesus spoke in parables and in mysteries concerning the kingdom of God.  Many times he would preface a parable by stating ‘the kingdom of God is like…’(Mat 20:1, 22:1).  Some scholars like Brown believe that Jesus was giving a set of secret instructions  or mysteries to an elect  group of disciples (Brown, 1973: 74).  A stronger view by Carson and other scholars is that the kingdoms arrival was no secret or mystery at all.  The kingdom had come in power and the mystery was that it had come in advance of its consummation.  The mystery of the kingdom is that it works in hidden or secret form within the lives of men (Allen, 1999: 14).  That the kingdom will come is clear in Jesus teaching, but can it be said that it has begun?  Jesus used many different parables to explain this.  The parables of the  ‘leaven’ and the ‘mustard seed’ are excellent examples of  the way the kingdom works within the lives of men.

 The Parable of the Mustard Seed

IMG_2068

In Matthews’s parable of the mustard seed, the mustard seed is the smallest seed (Mat 13:31-32).

At the start it is a tiny seed but when planted it grows into a large tree.

What this means is that Jesus was actually planting small  kingdom seeds into the lives of men.

The mystery of the kingdom is it’s seemingly insignificant start.  Jesus has planted the kingdom in seed form and it will have ‘phenomenal growth and a culminating judgment’ at the return of Christ (Bailey, 1999: 2).  ‘Out of the most insignificant beginnings, invisible to the human eye, God creates a mighty kingdom, which embraces all the people of the world (Joachim, 1963: 12).

  The Parable of the Leaven (Mt 13:33)

rising-dough1

The major focus of the parable of the leaven is the ‘transforming power of the leaven’ (Barclay, 1959: 88).

It is the introduction of the leaven that transforms the whole loaf.  The leaven slowly and gradually permeates the dough until the whole loaf is transformed.

‘So the Kingdom of God transforms the world by slow and gradual permeation’ (Ladd, 1959: 16).   Similarly the Kingdom of God causes transformation in the life of the believer.  In fact it is a significant indicator of the life of Christ in a believer. Just as the dough fills the whole bowl. The day will come when the Kingdom of God will fill the whole earth.

These parables and others like them are keys which unlock the mystery of the Kingdom of God.  ‘The presence of the Kingdom of God was seen as God’s dynamic reign invading the present age without transforming it into the age to come’ (Ladd, 1974: 149).  It was this in-breaking of the kingdom in power.  This victory over Satan without the consumption of the kingdom, that was the mystery of the kingdom.

It is also the  mystery of the transforming power of the kingdom outworking in the lives of kingdom citizens (Allen, 1999: 12).  George Ladd puts it this way, ‘the mystery of the kingdom is this:  The Kingdom of God is here but not with irresistible power’.  It does not force itself on people’.  The other mystery is that even though it is here, men are able to reject it  (Ladd, 1959: 56).  This was a confounding thought to Old Testament believers.  Who can withstand God?  They perceived the coming of the kingdom to be with universal power and domination.  Not this mysterious inner transformation of lives.  The kingdom must be received willingly by those who will allow God to reign in their hearts and to transform their lives.

Kingdom Living Today

What is the Kingdom about and how is it relevant today?  ‘The kingdom is about the powerful, transforming presence of God’s rule through Christ…expressed today in the community of those whom he planted, what became the church’ (Bock, 2001:15).

The church is a kingdom of people who are in the process of being transformed and who are eagerly looking forward to his return.   God’s investment in his church, in his people, is His Holy Spirit.  Our primary task as the church, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, is to advance the Kingdom of God.  This Kingdom of God refers to a society on earth where the primary desire is to obey and live according to the will of God.  Any person who does the will of God is within the kingdom (Barclay, 1958: 212).  Put simply, to be in the kingdom of God is to obey the will of the father.

The kingdom is at the heart of everything Jesus taught, the sermon on the mount, His parables, the Lords prayer.  Jesus alone decides who will enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus explains that citizens of the kingdom consist of those who ‘do the will of my father in heaven’ (Legg, 2004: 240). At the sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a description of what it means to be a kingdom citizen.  He gives ‘great ethical principles’(Deffinbaugh: 6) that we are  to follow.  To be a kingdom citizen means that we submit to the rule and reign of Christ in our lives.  ‘We caNnot live in his kingdom without him being king’ (Deffinbaugh: 6).

The desire of our hearts today as believers should be to allow the complete reign of Christ the King in our lives.  Our desire today as Jesus instructed by Jesus should be to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ (Mat 6:33).  Like the parable of the pearl and the hidden treasure, we should be prepared to give up everything for the kingdom.  It is of the highest value and it should be our highest priority.   The kingdoms ultimate goal is the work of God to redeem humanity ‘according to his promise’ (Bock, 2001: 12).

Our mission today is to reach people of every kind (Mat 13:47).  To be a community of believers who encourage one another to  live in righteousness and to participate in spreading the news of the kingdom to all people (Mat 13:47). We are to extend an invitation to everyone.  ‘Jesus established a kingdom which , when fully consummated, would embrace everything in heaven and earth’ (Carson & Moo 2005: 38,39).  We are called to live as citizens here on earth but the highest authority in our life is Christ our King.

Conclusion

The Kingdom of God broke into the earth with the miraculous manifestation of Christ on the earth.  It continues today in those who are His believers.  It is the power, authority, glory  and might of Jesus Christ reigning in the hearts and lives of believers.  It  began with the word of the Kingdom planted by Jesus and then permeated the whole of the known world by the first century disciples.  It continues to grow and transform the lives of every believer.  It will be consummated and the fullness of the kingdom will be seen upon the earth at the second coming of Christ.  The Kingdom came in the person of Jesus.  It is advancing through the lives of transformed citizens of the kingdom and it will be finally  realised and complete in the power and authority of God at the second coming of Jesus Christ.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, D. (1999). The Kingdom in Matthew. Bible Studies Press:

http://www.bible.org  (3rd Nov. 2007)

Bailey, M. (1999). The doctrine of the kingdom in Matthew 13. Bibliotheca Sacra , 156, 443-51.

Barclay, W. (1958). Gospel of Matthew. The daily study Bible. (2nd ed., Vol.1). Glasgow,

Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press.

Barclay, W. (1959). Gospel of Matthew. The daily study Bible (Vol. 2). Glasgow, Scotland: The

Saint Andrew Press.

Bloomberg. (1990). Interpreting the parables. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity.

Bock, D. (2001). The Kingdom of God in New Testament Theology: The battle, The Christ, The

spirit bearer, and returning son of man. The Biblical studies foundation: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=2211 (1st Oct. 2007)

Bock, D. (1992). The reign of the Lord Christ. (B. a. Bock, Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Brown, S. (1973). The secret of the Kingdom of God.  L. Keck, (Ed.), Journal of Biblical

 Literature , 92, 60-74.

Carson, D. (1995). Matthew, exspositor’s Bible commentary (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan.

Carson, D.A. and Moo, D. (2005). An introduction to the New Testament. Leicester,

England: Appollos.

Deffinbaugh, B. (n.d.). The sermon on the mount.  Bible.org:

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=4852 ( 3rd Nov. 2007)

Fuller, R. (1954). The mission and achievement of Jesus; An examination of the presuppostitions

 of New Testament theology. Studies in Biblical Theology. London: SCM Press.

Gundry, R. H. (2003). A Survey of the New Testament (4th. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan.

Gundry, R. (1994). Matthew. Commentary on his handbook for a mixed church under

 persecution. (2nd. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Joachim, J. (1963). The parables of Jesus (3rd. rev. ed.). New York: Scribner.

Keathley, J. (n.d.). Studies in Revelation. Bible.org

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1783 (1st Oct. 2007)

Ladd, G. (1959). The Gospel of the Kingdom. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdmans.

Ladd, G. (1974). The presence of the future. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.

Lamerson, S. (2000, September). Entering the kingdom of Heaven: A study on the structure of

Matthew’s view of salvation. Journal of Evangelical Theological Society , 30-43.

Legg, J. (2004). The King and his Kingdom. Webster, New York: Evangelical Press.

Lloyd-Jones, D. (1997). Studies in the Sermon on the mount. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Ridderbos, H. (1962). The coming of the Kingdom. Philedelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and

Reformed Publishing Co.

Toussaint, S. (2004). A critique of the preterits view of the Olivet discourse. Bibliotheca Sacra,

161, 469-90.

Toussaint, S. and Quine. (2007). No, not yet: The contingency of God’s promised kingdom.

Bibliotheca Sacra , 164, 131-47.

Left Brained Religion

If we truly see the church as a relevant vehicle to bring life to society we must ask this important question.

‘Has the teaching and practice of religion served as a vehicle of unifying or separation?’.

The next question we must ask is this.  “Does our practice of religion line up with the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

If we align ourselves with the teaching of Jesus then we must have a religion that re-unites and re-ties us to each other and to creation.  The emphasis of the New Testament is love of God and love of neighbour.   Christ came to bring unity between God and humanity.  My fear is that religion today in its many forms is known more for what it is ‘against’ and what it ‘cuts off’ than as a unifying force in the world.  I believe this is because the Church, or religion as we know it today, has been influenced and formed by three things.

1:  Dualism

2:  Left Brain Thinking

3:  Patriarchy

Dualism

Since mid fifth century BC  dualism has been an overarching philosophy of humanity.  Basically this is the belief that there are two opposing forces,  good and evil.  This is first recorded in Egyptian Religious beliefs by the contrast of the gods Set (disorder, death) and Osiris (order, life).   There is a force at work in the world both secular and religious and it is called dualism.   Early Christian dualism is based on Platonic Dualism where God is good and Satan is evil.  Personal Dualism separates body and soul.  The Puritanism era  in the 17th century sought to purify the church and  told us that sex and sexuality and the body was evil and that is where we get most of our theology from today in many conservative churches.  Sex or the flesh is evil and only spirituality and God is good.

This is in stark contrast to New Testament Christianity which believes that all things are created by God and that his creation is good.  We are loved, we are accepted and there is no shame.  A gospel that promotes community and acceptance.  We don’t have to look far to see that even in the godhead, there are three in one. JCGmO4h The entire gospel is one of unity and peace.  Not separation and disconnection.

Of course it is dualism that dictates most religious responses today.  If it is deemed not ‘of’ God then it must be evil.  There is only black and white, in and out, you are either going up or down.  You can see then the trouble with our deeply engrained and inherited philosophies and how christians interpret the bible through this lens.

To complicate things even further, since the death of Christ,  religious systems have been  built according to the left hemispheres of our brain.   Let me explain.

Left Brain Thinking

The human mind is a very complex thing. It can however be divided into two main parts, which correspond to the two sides of the brain. The two sides or hemispheres are imaginatively called the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. These two sides of the brain think in two different ways.

The left side of the brain thinks in logical, rational ways. This is what some people call our intellect. It breaks problems down into parts (called reductionism) and seeks to solve problems by examining the parts. It thinks in black and white terms, right and wrong, good and bad (called dualism). Left-brain thinking is called rational thinking (this is also known as linear thinking).

The right side of the brain thinks intuitively, in wholes, in systems (called holism). It thinks creatively, laterally, imaginatively. Right-brain thinking is called intuitive thinking (also known as non-linear thinking) and it is not logical (Ref)

The right brain sees how things connect and unify. The left brain separates realities into air-tight compartments/categories/pigeon-holes (Ref)

_959966

It is important to realise that the ancient Hebrew language and community operated out of right brain thinking.  The Hebrew Bible, with its emphasis on personal relationships — the love of God, neighbour and stranger — is a right-brain work.  Yet today it is interpreted by left brain thinkers therefore the context and meaning of the original texts are often warped and misinterpreted (Ref).

Enter the Greek and Roman Empires and their influence on Christianity and the Hebrew texts.  Ancient Greece gave the world its first science and philosophy, two supremely left-brain activities. Equally, we can see why the thought-world of Ancient Israel, with its integrative vision of monotheism, was so different.

Most of the Old Testament was written in Ancient Hebrew. Like most early scripts, Ancient Hebrew was written like Hebrew and Arabic are today—without vowels and written from right to left. It is a right brain language, says Sacks, because to understand the meaning of any word, “you have to understand the total context in which it occurs.”

It was then translated into Greek which was the worlds first left brain language.

Rabbi Sacks explains further:

‘We can go farther still and speculate how Christianity became a synthesis of the two. Its founder was Jewish and steeped in the religious values of Judaism. But the first Christian texts were written and read in Greek. The result was a set of right-brain ideas transcribed into a left-brain alphabet and culture. Out of that creative tension, Western civilisation was born.

Western society over the last thousand years has further added to this by preferring left brain thinking.  It has elevated left brain activities to the neglect of right brain thinking.

Rationality and verbally centered mental processes often asscoiated with masculinity are left brain activities.  These have been elevated whilst at the same time, right brain thinking which is intuitive, imaginative and holistic thinking is associated with feminine modes and processes and has been devalued and looked at condecendingly.  This is patriarchy.

Patriarchy

Patriarchy is a system where men hold the power and domination.  This has been the system of the Church since its earliest days.  Women and right brain thinking is seen as a negative, weak and emotional beings.  Thus we get women as the weaker vessel.  Women are too emotional, women need to submit etc, etc,.  Dualist thinking has added to this by subscribing to the belief that women are primarily vessels of sexuality.  They are then ‘sexualised’, they are more evil, like Eve they are not to be trusted.

Our society has consistently favoured masculine values and attitudes and has neglected it’s feminine counterparts.

“We have favoured self assertion over integration, analysis over synthesis, rational knowledge over intuitive wisdom science over religion, competiion over cooperation, expansion over conservation (F.Capra).

Strangely left and brain functions are not gender oriented.  In fact the most healthy people have a good balance of both.  The two sides working together harmoniously would be the unification of science and religion, ‘sacred and secular’, and dare I say it to the atheists amongst us, the unity between God and humanity, both of which are so rigidly (and artificially) separated in our world (Ref).

The human mind is the product of both hemispheres. If the connections between them are broken, the result is dysfunction of the personality. We need both: the analytical left brain that allows us to take things apart to see how they work, and the integrative right brain that puts things together to see what they mean. Rabbi Stacks

The same is true for religious systems or churches.  If the connections between right and left brain activities are broken the result is a dysfunction of the system.

The teaching of Jesus tells us that we are all created equal.  There is no male, no female.  He says that our Christianity will be known by our love, not by our left brain thinking or male superiority nor by our rule book or how many hoops we jump through.  Jesus came to free us from oppressive and authoritarian processes, to bring freedom to those who are captive and to bring good news.

The ancient Hebrews were big picture thinkers.  They operated out of holistic thinking whereas left brain thinking compartmentalises and  works with small components.  This has a huge bearing on how the bible is to be understood (Ref).  On how the gospel is to be interpreted.  We must not use the bible to fit our own narrow version of God.

So I finish with the question that I asked at the beginning:

‘Has the teaching and practice of religion served as a vehicle of unifying or separation?’.

A little more on left and right brain thinking that Mercedes Benz used in their advertising campaign:

Left brain: I am the left brain. I am a scientist. A mathematician. I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear. Analytical. Strategic. I am practical. Always in control. A master of words and language. Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers. I am order. I am logic. I know exactly who I am.

Right brain: I am the right brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feat. I am movement. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel. I am everything I wanted to be.

References:

F capra, the Tao of Physics, 1991, edition, 15.

https://patrickcox.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/a-right-brain-religion-translated-into-a-left-brain-language/

Rabbi Sacks:  http://www.rabbisacks.org/right-hemisphere-brain-knits-tgthr/

Dr Carol Head:  https://drcarolhead.com.au/tag/left-hemisphere/

 

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Power of Laughter

The Power of Laughter by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Life may be grave but it doesn’t have to be serious.

The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
Mark Twain

There is a definite link between laughing and our physical and mental health.  Laughter is a potent medicine.  As someone who has lived with chronic trauma I can honestly say that a well-developed sense of humour has been a major key to my survival.  This is a legacy that I developed from my birth family and that I have nourished in my adult friendships and relationships.  I love to laugh.   In fact my children’s nickname for me is ‘boomer’.  Yes my laugh can be pretty loud at times as all of my friends will confirm.

About the only thing I don’t find funny is poo and fart jokes, in fact anything to do with bodily functions I just can’t deal.  Contrary to my 5 boys and just about every man who I know who find the emissions from their bodies endlessly funny.

Laughing is the best way that I know to release tension, it reduces stress and brings a sense of perspective.  I have found that a sense of humor is an important strength for coping with life. Freud, of course, had an eloquent speculation on this paradox. In his 1928 investigation into humor, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, Freud argued that laughter was a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with the unspeakable pain of everyday life.

My mother’s family all survived the great depression after WW2 on very large doses of funny.  They lived in ‘struggle town’ but were rich with humour.  A legacy that has been passed down to all of us.   Our get togethers are a constant stream of one liners, pranks, hilarious stories and outrageous giggling.   We have all used laughter as a coping strategy for the traumas of life.

This is a photo of my mother, in pink, my sister and my aunt.  We are celebrating my mothers 82nd birthday for High Tea at the Windsor.  They thought that they were hilarious.  I can’t even remember what was so funny – it wouldn’t take much.  Can I just add that none of them drink alcohol.  This is just a typical day out. (eye roll)

A cheerful heart really is as  good as medicine (Proverbs 17:22).  There are so many benefits to having a good laugh.  I can look back on my darkest days and confidently say that finding the humour in the situation was the only thing that got me through.  In fact there is a very fine line between madness and hilarity at times.  I choose hilarity.

Very funny, extremely amusing, hysterically funny, hysterical, uproarious, riotous: would all be amongst my favourite pastimes.  The funnier the better.

When I read this article in psych central I realised that I have an addiction to funny as do most of my family and friends.  We are all hanging out for the next hit of dopamine.

“A study published in the December 4, 2003 issue of Neuron reported that humor has similar effects on the brain as drug-induced euphoria. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, the researchers measured brain activity in 16 adults viewing funny versus non-funny cartoons. The brain scans indicated that humor not only stimulated the language processing centers of the brain, but also stimulated the reward centers, leading to the release of dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of the pleasure-reward system”.

Here are some of the benefits of laughter:

Laughter is good for relationships: Laughter establishes — or restores — a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people, In fact, some researchers believe that the major function of laughter is to bring people together.

Some more tips below taken from an article in the Help Guide:  Laughter is the Best Medicine.

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Cardiologist Dr. Miller offers a simple prescription that won’t bankrupt you and could save your life. “Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system,” he says.

Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Theorist Martin Armstrong, who wrote about the function of laughter in society, may have said it best when he wrote:

“For a few moments, under the spell of laughter, the whole man is completely and gloriously alive: body, mind and soul vibrate in unison… the mind flings open its doors and windows… its foul and secret places are ventilated and sweetened.”

Top-50-Funniest-Memes-Collection

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on-line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

Easter Saturday

Easter Saturday.    I know I’m late with this post.  The eggs have been gathered, the camp site packed up, the hot cross buns toasted and tasted.  We’ve sung our Easter Hymns and all the really good Easter blogs were published last week.  Easter is finished until next year.  But, I’ve been struggling with Easter all weekend.  I always do.  I find it difficult to relate to the rituals and the reciting.  All the words that I know by heart.  I feel more at home thinking about  Easter Saturday than ‘Crucifixion Friday’ or ‘Resurrection Sunday’.  I live in Easter Saturday most of the time to be honest, which is why I find it difficult to celebrate Easter once a year.

My husband thinks I unnecessarily complicate things.

Maybe I do.  Yeah I do..

I get a little nervous with all the religious rhetoric.   My surrogate mother used to always say to me “Lisa, Y is a crooked letter that cannot be straightened”.  (I used to ask why a lot).      

When I think of Easter I think of the disciples, the ones that have been left behind.  Imagine their distress.  They didn’t know the end of the story.  They had no idea that Christ would return from the dead.  All they knew was the man that they had lived with, done life with, hoped in and trusted in was gone.  They were traumatised.  They had watched him brutalised, tortured and killed.  Then he died.

He was their great hope.  He was the one who would save them all from the oppression of the religious leaders and the roman empire.  How could this possibly happen now that he was dead?  Imagine their disillusion, the dissapointment and pain.   Friday night, Saturday and Saturday night would have felt like forever.    This is what I identify with the most.  This is where we live now.  In the ‘in-between’ space.  The now and not yet.  We live with the paradox of life and death.  The promise of a new way to live and a new life within the parameters of a broken, frightened and hurting world.

 

This is a Drama Script that I wrote a decade ago on this very subject.  It depicts the thoughts of three characters, all struggling with this in-between space.  I hope that it resonates with you.

Easter Saturday

by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

 

Three actors: three monologues weaving in and out of each other.  

Grace is reflecting on Holy Saturday and what it means for today. 

Hayley has cut off all communication with her brother due to his drug and alcohol addiction and the effects that it’s had on the family.  She is wrestling with forgiveness. 

Lee is an exhausted single mum struggling with the fact that she never feels like she is good enough.  

Grace: It’s Easter, well to be exact its Holy Saturday.

Lee: A family time.

Hayley: Easter reminds me of Christmas.  It’s when you are obligated to be with family even if you don’t like them.

Grace: It’s Easter Saturday.  The in-between day. We don’t really talk much about Easter Saturday.  I know he died for me yesterday and that he’s coming back tomorrow but what about today.  Holy Saturday, is where we are suspended between loss and hope, death and resurrection, mourning and new life.

Lee: I should want to be with my family, and I do, but I’m so tired.  I never get time for myself, I never get to rest; I’m always doing everything for my family.

Grace: Easter Saturday.  A day of silence.  A day of mourning.  A day of confusion.

Hayley: Blahh to family.    I’m angry.  I don’t want to be with them or talk to them, I’m sick of talking, it doesn’t change anything.  Sick of pretending that nothing is wrong.

Lee: I’m exhausted; I can’t stand the thought of another family function. The week has been long, its burden and stresses never ending.

Here I am again, another week, without strength.  Without any answers.  (Pause)  I’m scared, I feel alone.  I pray to God, I wait, but He is silent.  I live in a no mans land between questions and answers.  Without strength, without rest.

Where is God?

Grace: Where is God?

He may be silent but he is not absent.  He is present in his silence.  He is present in my pain; he is here. (Kneeling down).

Hayley: Where is God?

He’s not interested.  My mum believes in God and where does it get her.  My brother, (emphasis on brother), huh… can you believe it?  She prays for him.  My brother, who robs her for drug money, who stole our savings, and sold our furniture.  She still prays for him… she still believes… she still believes for him.

Lee: I’m a good person, I pay my bills. I work two jobs to provide for my kids. I don’t speed, I don’t swear, I don’t raise my voice.  I go to church, I do everything that’s expected of me and more, but it’s never enough.

How good is good enough?

Who draws the line in the sand and says, “Okay, you know what, you have reached the line.   Whoop….. Congratulations, you are now good enough.”

Where is God when you feel like you’re just not good enough?

Grace: Where is God?

He is here, He is right here in the muck, in the mess, in the pain, in the anger.  Quietly sitting beside me, comforting me, holding me.  God may be silent but I know that he will speak soon.  I continue to believe, to pray.  Many of my prayers will go unanswered, but not for long.

Hayley: Why does she waste her time praying for him? From this day on, he is no brother of mine.  I told her “You can’t trust him mum, he will always let you down and he is a lost cause”

You know what she said to me?  She said,

“What gives you the privilege to think that you are better than him. I taught you better than that.  I taught you to love”.

You know what I said? “Mum, there’s nothing left to love”.

She’s never on my side, never.   This is what she says to me.  “Have you cried for your brother today?   Not for yourself, not for the money we’ve lost and not for me?  Have you cried for him, for what he’s going through?

Honey, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most?  When they are good and perfect and measure up to all of your standards?   That’s not the time at all. It’s when they are at their lowest…and they can’t believe in themselves anymore.

Lee: The truth is I feel scared, helpless, anxious.  What if something goes wrong, what if I never reach that line, what if I never measure up?  Oh God.

Hayley: She said “honey, measuring is a dangerous game.  But if you’re going to measure someone, measure them right.  Make sure you take into account all the hills and valleys they’ve been through to get where they are now.  Measure them the same way you’d want someone to measure you.

Measure them with the mercy and measure them with the grace of God”.

She’s talking about forgiveness.  I know that she’s right. I hate it when she’s right. (Pause).

It’s just so hard to forgive, to be gracious, when you are totally overwhelmed by disappointment and pain.  All I want is revenge.  I’m not sure I can reach out beyond justice to mercy.  I’m not sure if I even want to.

Lee: Lord, I don’t know why the darkness prevails; I don’t know where you have gone.

I don’t understand your way in my life but I know that you can be trusted.  I will wait for you to speak.  I will wait for your spirit to comfort my fears.  I will let your grace be enough for me because deep down when I stop all the screaming and worrying and just stop.  I know that your grace is enough.

Grace: I have heard about all of your promises Lord but now I must wait.  As I wait for a breakthrough, (standing up) I hope in you.

We wait for you oh God of silence.  We wait for your grace.  We stop and mourn your loss, your absence on Holy Saturday but we were never meant to stay here.  We wrestle between the now and not yet, but up ahead, new life awaits.  A new start.

That is what I hope for.

The End.

This Drama works well when followed by Grace Like Rain…

Worship House Media’s DVD Grace like Rain begins to play 2.37 min.

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/17329/Grace-Like-Rain

REFERENCES

Idea for Hayley’s character taken from  ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, a play by Lorraine Hansberry.

Material for Grace’s character taken from – ‘God on Mute’ by Pete Grieg.

Material for Lee’s character written around – ‘How Good is Good Enough’ by Andy Stanley.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: