What advanced degree should I get?


You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)


You’re a great thinker and a true philosopher.
You’d make a talented professor or writer.

Hah. Dr. Madre…it does have a certain appeal to it…

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What to do??

In August 2001, the LCMS President’s Commission on Women published a excellent booklet entitled "Has God Abandoned Me?".  Following is an exerpt from that on getting help if you are in an abusive relationship:


As an abused woman, you not only face the decision whether or not to separate from your husband, but a variety of other practical issues.  These may include: finding a job, finding a place to live, how to deal with very mixed and troubling emotions, choosing a counselor, finding resources, or handling children.


Deciding whether or not you should go to your pastor for physical and spiritual help may be difficult.  Many abused woman feel that either the pastor will not understand or will think poorly of her if she speaks to him about the abuse.  The majority of pastors have great concern and compassion for their congregation, and therefore would be eager to be helpful and supportive of abused women.  Your pastor will probably see your approaching him about the abuse as an act of courage.  However, you still may not be sure what your pastor’s reaction will be.  Therefore you need to trust your own instincts and judgment.  If you are not comfortable about talking to your pastor at this time, then you are free not to go to him.  If you decide to tell your pastor, it is crucial for you to be honest about the abuse.  You do not want him to think that what you are saying about the abuse is only ordinary marital conflict or the every day tensions that every marriage experiences.  If you do not honestly inform him about the abuse you are experiencing, then his advice will be focused on reconciling the marriage, not on protecting you from further abuse.


After clearly communicating that your husband is abusing you, listen to your pastor’s counsel.  Be prepared to help him understand just how serious the situation is as he asks questions so that he can better understand your circumstances.  Many pastors have not received specific training on  how to handle domestic violence.  While they may not be able to offer you all the specific advice you need regarding domestic violence, they are there to bring you the Gospel comfort that will help you through the situation.


Sometimes pastors or other well-meaning friends, may give you unwise advice.  For example, they may say, "Don’t worry, God will take care of you." or "Go home, pray harder, and be a better wife."  Or, "Submit to your husband, no matter what."  In an abusive relationship, this type of advice is counterproductive.  Regardless of who will support you, there is help available to break the cycle of violence in your life.


Another support person can be a counselor.  A good counselor, secular or Christian who understands domestic violence can be very helpful.  A counselor can help you look at your particular situation and provide guidance.  Be aware that they counselor should not tell you what to do.  He or she should help you carefully evaluate your situation, gain insight about your situation, but then allow and encourage you to make the decisions about what you will do…


It is important to consider your faith when selecting a counselor.  You may decide to use a Christian counselor.  Even though the counselor is Christian, she may not share your religious beliefs, which could increase your level of distress and confusion.  It is OK to ask questions about the counselor’s religious beliefs or about any other concerns you may have about the counselor.  Sometimes, depending on your situation, only secular counseling is available.  Do not despair.  Some secular counselors are as respectful of your spiritual convictions as Christian counselors.  God can use non-Christians to provide for your needs.  To alleviate any fears or concerns, feel free to ask the counselor questions.  No matter what the counselor’s religious beliefs, he or she must have experience working with domestic violence or be knowledgeable about the cycle of violence.  Continue looking for a counselor if he/she does not understand the cycle of violence.  Your pastor may be able to recommend a good counselor, and during your counseling, particularly if you choose to use a secular counselor, stay in close contact with your pastor, so he can extend to you the ministry of the Gospel.

What do you think?  Good advice?  Does domestic violence really need that specific of counseling?  Pastors, have you received specific training on identifying and ministering to families where domestic violence takes place?  Do you feel prepared if someone should approach you today?  Do you agree with the advice presented or do you disagree that some of the advice is counterproductive?

Little Bit of This…Little Bit of That…

There's a strange idea of Gospel going on in some areas of Lutherandom. Some people think that on this side of glory we are neither fully new man nor fully old man. They don't think we're all that bad. We're not that great, but we're not so bad either. No wonder some people think we automatically need the Law's accusation, that we need to see our sin, that we need to be brought to our knees and killed under its weight. We're not quite dead yet. We're maimed, but still relatively neutral before God, kinda new man, kinda old man.

For such a situation, it's too risky to give too much freedom to someone who's so unpredictable, someone who isn't ready for it. The Law must be given first, and the new man trained to accept and even love its killing. But then again, for such a person, who is neither fully new man or fully old man, the Law never quite finishes the job, and so the Gospel can never do so either. So what ensues is torturously painful, but not to the point of death…and maybe a little balm of explanation. Repeat as necessary. Eventually, the sinner is broken and may then receive a bit of the Gospel. But not too much…even that must be hedged in by more Law, lest that sinner think he can just go out and willy-nilly do whatever he wants.

As Lutherans, simil iustus et peccator is a major point of confession. Contrary to the above theology, Lutherans believe that we are indeed fully saint AND fully sinner, at the same time. Christ has died for us, we are forgiven by His atoning work, we have been baptized and raised to new life in Christ, we are heirs of the Kingdom, we are right this second as holy, precious, righteous, and pure as Jesus Himself. At the same time, we just need to pinch ourselves to figure out that we're still alive. That means that we are still sinners living in a sinful world full of other sinners.

It is a paradox. At face value, being both fully sinner and saint cannot be true. How can a person be fully one thing and fully another? The sinner part is easy. Just look around and examine yourself according to the 10 commandments and your vocations. Sin is easy for us to see. No question about it, we are fully sinners. As we confess, we sin in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved God with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We justly deserve God's temporal and eternal punishment.

And as our pastors are called and ordained to tell us, God HAS had mercy on us. He has sent His Son to die for us. Our pastors pronounce God's grace to us and, speaking for God Himself as they have been set apart to do in their vocation, forgive us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In that Name that was given to us in Baptism, we are fully forgiven, fully saints.

We do not swing back and forth between saint and sinner like a pendulum, varying from moment to moment in degrees of sinfulness and
saintedness. We don't have to worry about what might happen if we get run over by a bus when the pendulum is more on the sinner side of things than the saint one. In Christ, we are
forgiven.

A Whole Mess O’Gospel

Pr. Alms writes: "Come on, now,. Pr. Petersen was not advocating for women’s ordination. Lets be careful with the stones we throw and the implications of our words. He was simply using women’s ordination as an example where the “Gospel” is used to justify an evil, an instance where the Gospel is used and perverted to mean permission to do what whatever we want."

Indeed, I would have been VERY surprised had Pr. Petersen been advocating for women’s ordination. And I didn't say he was. What I couldn’t figure out is why he would caricature the Gospel in the way that he did. From the proposition set forth, the
"gospel" results in freewheeling antinomianism.  This
"gospel" responds, “Sure, you can!" to every question set before it, and needs to be hedged in on the other side by more Law, to prevent that
antinomian outcome. This is not the true Gospel. I'm glad we agree.

So why use this poor excuse for a gospel to justify, even in argument, women’s ordination (as though this is what his imagined opponents promote by doing things "in the way of the Gospel") when it is the true Gospel and Gospel answers that explode feminism and all arguments for women’s ordination?

There is all sorts of Law that can be applied to the issue of women's ordination. Sinners, like us, are also very adept in these postmodern days of minimizing the Law, even ignoring it altogether. More Law is not the answer to women's ordination. Law applied more emphatically is not the answer either. On the matter of women's ordination, most proponents have never really heard the Gospel, don't know what it means that Christ is crucified for her, or how that affects her as a woman specifically. Telling her what she may and may not do often encourages either despair or rebellion, and still doesn't deliver the Gospel for her so that she may receive her vocations as the gifts God for which God set her aside and made her holy in Christ. 

Yes there is a simple, unitary Gospel answer to the sin of things like women's ordination. It is the very same simple, unitary answer to theft, murder, disrespect, idolatry, covetousness, adultery, and even (gasp) homosexuality. It is Jesus Christ dead on the Cross to forgive every single sin that every human has ever committed, omitted or imagined.

It is the Law that can never provide a simple unitary answer to sin. As long as things are approached in the way of the Law, there is never a limit to our sinfulness. The answer to sin is not more Law, stated more emphatically, more accusation. God’s answer to sin is the Cross, Christ and Him crucified. It is only for the unrepentant that the Gospel is withheld, sins are retained, and the Law is liberally applied. And even that is for the purpose of bringing the unrepentant to repentance so that they may faithfully receive the forgiveness Christ won for them.

God’s gifts of vocations for us are not Law either, they are not given to accuse us. They themselves do not even accuse us. It is only when, in living them out, we reject our vocations and look at ourselves, seeing how we measure up, examining just how we’re doing that we are accused and condemned. Our vocations are the arena, the relationships through which we live our lives and put our faith to practice. Faith needs no Law to produce good works, it is faith and obeys God's Law without command, without compulsion, without effort – often in spite of our own measly and sinful insistence on being “obedient”. 

God sets us apart, placing us in relationships with one another, gifting us with opportunities for faith to overflow to others in good works (sometimes even without our awareness of it!), called vocations, proclaiming forgiveness in Christ for all in word and deed. What a Gospel gift from our Father because He loves us in Christ!

You can do it!?!?

"So what then would be the Gospel answer be to women's ordination? You can do it. In Christ there is neither male nor female."

Madre peeks her head out of her purple-festooned October blogservance of Domestic Violence Month.

Huh?

What in the world is THIS? Marie? Marva? Julie? Dot? No, Petersen.

To the question of whether women can/should/ought/may/are permitted to be ordained, Petersen adopts a strawman argument of the standard liberal, gospel reductionist position that uses Galatians 3:28 as its primary hermeneutic on this issue and spins that as "Gospel". 

Surely CyberStones knows better.

The Gospel response on the issue of women's ordination is not the antinomian, "You can! Go for it – you're FREE!" It is that women are too important to be ordained. God, in His infinite wisdom has gifted us in Christ with vocations that are specific to our sex. 

Sure, in Christ we are all the same – baptized, forgiven, saved. That's how God sees us – in Christ. That's all that matters, that we are in Christ, that we are baptized and clothed in Christ's pure white garments. Whether we are red and yellow, black and white, XX or XY, employer or employee, Hoosier or Gopher (or even Tiger), what matters to the Father is that we are in His Son.

That covers the relationship between us and God. We still live in this world where we relate to one another. Our generous, thoughtful, loving Father hasn't left us to fend for ourselves here either. He gives us vocations, places us in relationships with one another, where we care for and serve each other, living out the baptismal faith that we have been given. One of the ways He does this is by carefully knitting our mother's and father's DNA together at the moment of conception to create us as male or female. He doesn't just flip the cosmic coin – heads you're a girl and tails you're a boy. He made me female in full view that I would be given certain feminine vocations. He made my brother male, fully cognizant that he would be given different male ones.

Sure, for some vocations the male/female thing doesn't matter: citizen, student, employee, child (as opposed to parent), etc. But for others, it does: daughter, wife, mother; son, husband, father…pastor. These just aren’t given to be done by a person of the opposite sex. 

The feminist sinner in us sees that list and notices that one sex's list is longer than the other. NO FAIR! We see that extra little opportunity for one team and start ticking off reasons it should be shared by both sexes. I can speak in public, I can write a sermon, I can lead a worship service, I can administrate a church, I can teach confirmation, anything a man needs to do as a pastor, I can do just as well.

What we forget is that in our insistence that we are just as good and capable of pastoring as men, we ladies are dissing the vocations that God has given us. We completely miss the very important gifts that God does give us as women.

What is so special, so unique, so Gospelly about being made women is that we are made to be receivers. Like men we are made human to receive love and care from God. Our confessions explain faith as receiving gifts from God. But women were created to also receive love from the men for whom they are given. That's what submission and having a head is about – trusting that the men given to love and care for us are doing so. 

Look at all the gifts God has for us to receive on Team XX from GOd and from our men! Why would anyone want to give that up to be one whose vocation is specifically to give out God's gifts for His people? Contrary to the popular idea, it is indeed more blessed to receive than to give – particularly when the gifts are God's forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ.

And that's the Gospel answer to "women's ordination".

This quotation from Joseph to his brothers—after everything has been revealed at the end of Genesis—has always stuck out in my mind. Is Joseph insane? So God was doing "good" to him when his brothers beat him up and threw him in a pit? Or maybe God meant it for "good" when they sold him into slavery where he landed a nice, cushy job, until God did "good" to him through Mrs. Potifar’s false sexual harassment accusations that landed him in Pharoah’s jail. Gee thanks, God. Where can I get more good stuff like that? These are gifts?

God MEANT this to happen to me?? 

We confess that God is Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, that He gives us all we have and provides for the needs of every living thing. He protects us from all danger and guards us from every evil. And we confess that He does so out of Fatherly and divine goodness and mercy. God doesn’t have accidents, God doesn’t need "do-overs", He doesn’t forget or make mistakes. God never says, "Whoops!" We confess these things…but we don’t believe them very well.

Ok. So somehow, we’re supposed to believe God meant it, since that’s what we confess. That’s just twisted. Why would God mean for me to be in an abusive relationship? How could God possibly mean for me to be raped? There are a couple of ways to look at the situation.

This is the worst thing that could ever happen to me and my life. God is out to get me. He is punishing me for my sins. God doesn’t care about the details of my life. He’s teaching me some lesson. I chose to be in a relationship with this man, and now I’m stuck taking my thumps. Literally. And now I’m at the end of my rope and not sure how much longer I can hang on.

Can a person get much more turned in on themselves than that? That’s a full on pity-party. That’s faithlessness. That’s thinking and believing as though Christ never came for you. It’s selfish and it’s idolatrous. "I should be the one who’s God – I’d never let a mess like THIS happen!"

The alternative is not the opposite, that this suffering is the best thing that could happen in my life. But it’s certainly NOT the worst. The worst would be if those things really were true – if Jesus had not come and already taken God’s punishment for your sins. He has. It’s not. God does care about the details of your life, even more than you do. Do you love your child enough to care and know how many hairs are on his head? Do you even know how many are on your own? The only "lesson" God is interested in teaching us is the Gospel, that we may believe and be saved. Even when He uses the Law – it’s to bring us to faith in the Gospel.  And even that He gives us. We don’t have to depend on ourselves or our ability to hang on in the suffering and continue to believe contrary to all the messages we tell ourselves like the ones above. He sends the Spirit to call, gather, enlighten, sanctify, teach, and keep us in the one true faith unto life everlasting. It’s not up to us at all. This is not the worst that could happen to me.

God does not mean for the worst possible thing to happen to us. That’s the last thing He means for us. In giving Christ all the worst things that could happen to every human being since Creation, we are given all the best things the Only-Begotten Son deserves. He didn’t deserve God’s punishment, but He took it because in Christ God loved us and meant for our salvation and deliverance from sin, death, and the devil.

So being abused is a good thing? 

Abusers* often tell their victims that they do it for her own good, to teach her a lesson. She had it coming. If she would only listen and pay attention in the first place, such strong reactions to get her attention wouldn’t be necessary. 

There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference on the outside between an abusive husband and our "loving, heavenly Father" who sends us "gifts" we really don’t want. We joke about God giving us the proverbial slap upside the head with the Law, but if a husband actually does it, it’s abuse. How is the same type of treatment a gift from one source and abuse from another? In fact, it’d probably be straight-out denial to call such abuse a gift. No one in their right mind would do that.

It’s not hard to imagine wanting to believe that this man, who says he loves you and would do anything for you, just lost his temper. And when you examine your actions and motivations, you have to realize that he’s right, you should’ve known better. You pushed those buttons you knew all too well should be left alone. You are guilty of all his accusations. You were stupid and thoughtless. You might as well be a waste of skin.

Next time, do better. Tomorrow, make sure even more details are covered. Do whatever is necessary to appease him and his wrath. Avoid anything unpredictable, take care of every little thing that might upset him. If everything goes well and nothing sets him off, you’ve succeeded. One day, you will get everything right and hopefully he’ll see, he’ll realize, how important you really are, how much he really loves you. And then you’ll live happily ever after.

Abusers abuse not because they’re particularly sadistic or mean or don’t love (in their own strange way) their wives. They abuse because they have a need to obtain and maintain control over another person and believe that they are justified in using fear and violence to do so. When he is choking you, lifting you, literally, feet off the ground, honestly considering whether or not to kill you, it is NOT for your good. But in his mind, he must make a point, must put the "fear of God", or at least of him, into you.

To an abuser, everything he does is for his own good. He must keep control over the relationship by whatever means possible. That’s not how God is though. We learn from the Lord’s Prayer that we get to consider God not just a sovereign Lord ruling His Kingdom, but like a loving Father. In Christ, He really does love us and always does what is good for us. Rather than let us suffer in our own sinfulness and its eternal effects, He sent us His own Son to take all that upon Himself. Instead of punishing us as we deserve, giving us what we have coming, He punished Christ, and in turn gives us all that is Christ’s too!

On the Cross, Christ earned our forgiveness, eternal life and salvation which He gives to us in Baptism. On the Cross, Jesus, bloodied and suffering, glorified God and bore living, breathing, and dying witness to God’s love for us. In the bearing of the crosses in our lives that shape our vocations, we bear witness of God’s faithfulness to us in Christ. The faith that we have been given, the Jesus we have been given, continues to glorify God even as He suffers for us. 

That’s how faith can receive even a cross as a gift from our Heavenly Father who loves us. Yes, there is immense suffering. No, we would never choose the crosses we have and most of us wouldn’t wish them on our worst enemy. But we don’t need to fear. God will not give us what we have coming. He will not treat us, will not let us suffer as we truly deserve. Even as a victim of rape and abuse, we have been given faith which clings to God’s promises in Christ given to us in Baptism. Even with all the physical and psychological scars that abuse effects in us and our lives we may, by faith, by Christ, alone, rejoice in each day and gift that we are given. Even the ones that only faith sees as gifts until the Last Day when faith is no longer needed, when we get to see. In Baptism all our sins and flaws are washed away. In God’s eyes, we are blameless, flawles

God hasn’t forgotten about us and left women to fend for ourselves in abusive relationships. He doesn’t make mistakes and there are no such things as accidents. Nor are there coincidences. We cannot become unbaptized, we can only reject His gifts and deny Christ, despairing as though He had never come to save us at all. He did send Christ, our sins are forgiven. 

Does it get any better than that?


* While I acknowledge that abuse occurs in all arrangements of intimate relationships, male-female is most common and I will use terms according to a heterosexual marital relationship.

Why don’t you make like a tree…

We’ve looked at myths and facts about domestic violence, and learned what it is and what sorts of things can potentially be abusive.  If it’s really that bad, why do women stay in abusive relationships?  


Love. 
You love your partner, and there are still times when your partner is very loving.


Hope.
You have many memories of happy times, and hope those times will return. Your partner may promise to change, or you may think if you do things differently, the abuse will stop.


Making light of the abuse.
Your partner may deny that his or her behavior is abusive, or act like it’s not such a big deal, and you want to believe this. It’s very painful to admit that someone you love would hurt you, so you might try to convince yourself it’s not really that bad.


Blaming yourself.
Your partner might blame you for his or her abusive behavior – saying you made him or her angry, or that you did something to deserve it. A part of you may believe this.


Link between love and violence.
If you grew up in a home where there was violence, or if you were ever hit by a parent and told they were doing it because they love you, you might have learned to think that love and violence go together.


Hopelessness.
You may feel like you’ll never be able to be happy, you’ll never find a partner who treats you any better, or that all relationships include abuse.


Gender roles.
If you are a woman in a relationship with a man, you may have learned from family, religion or culture that men are supposed to be in charge, can’t help being violent, or have the right to discipline their women. You may believe that women have to put up with this behavior and try to keep their men happy.


Embarrassment and shame.
You may not want to admit what’s going on to others because you’re afraid of what they will think about you.


Financial dependence.
You may depend on your partner for financial support.


Lack of supportive relationships.
You may have become isolated from your friends and family. Or, family and friends may pressure you to stay with your partner.


Fear.
Your partner may have threatened to hurt or kill you or someone you care about if you leave.


Not wanting to be alone.
You may panic at the thought of being without your partner.


Loyalty.
You may feel the right thing to do is to stick with your partner no matter what.


Rescue complex.
You think you can change, fix, or heal your partner if you stay.


Guilt.
Your partner may make you feel guilty about how much it would hurt him or her if you left. S/he may even threaten to commit suicide.


Children.
If you have a child with your partner, you may believe it is best for the child to have two parents who are together.


Dependency on drugs or alcohol.
Many people use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with abuse, which then makes them less clear and strong and makes it more difficult to leave.