March 5, 2003
One of the proponents of the so-called "Law of Silence" wrote an article some years back, somewhat "tongue in cheek," entitled Woes of a New Hermeneutics Change Agent. It was subtitled Please Pass The Skippy. It was a parody in which he mocked the "liberals" and their "New Hermeneutic" by speaking of the woes which befell a particular person who decided to spread Skippy peanut butter on the unleavened bread of the Lord's Supper. After all, this author reasoned, God didn't say not to.
This, of course, is the standard "slippery slope" argument of the ultra-conservatives. Since they have no true biblical basis for their opposition of certain practices that vary from their own tradition, they will instead suggest what might happen if the "liberals" in the church "open the door" to anything outside of accepted conservative tradition. "Let a woman speak out in Bible class and the next thing you know you'll have women preaching from the pulpit and serving as elders," a concerned conservative once cautioned me. A few years back another person informed me with all seriousness, "If you put the NIV in your building as a pew Bible, within two years you will be baptizing babies and singing with an organ." Such is little more than fear tactics employed to assure the perpetuation of cherished traditions.
What concerns me far more is the message proclaimed when "silence" is regarded as a law of exclusion and prohibition. To assume that if something is not mentioned in Scripture that it is thereby perceived by God as an abomination portrays our Father in a most unfavorable light. Thus, I wrote the following little story as a response to the parody produced by one of the proponents of the so-called "Law of Silence." I sought to illustrate what that theological theory taught with respect to the nature of our God and Father. I hope you will read it with an open heart and mind, realizing what an abhorrent view is presented of our loving Father by such an absurd theory.
Pa had always been somewhat difficult to understand, but we loved him anyway. He was good to Ma, and he always made sure we had food and clothes and a roof over our heads. Once in a while he even took us places, or brought home some candy. He worked hard, and didn't make much, and sometimes was hard in his discipline. But, he had always been fair.
Until his last birthday.
Ma said, "Pa, what would you like for your birthday?" Us kids listened up, because we had been saving our money from doing yard work for the neighbors, and we wanted a clue as to what to get him. He said, "You know, I think I'd like a chocolate cake. And maybe some vanilla ice cream to go with it. And if you could find a necktie, that would be nice. Just put it in a plain box, nothing fancy, and I'll be happy." Well, Pa had spoken, and we kinda smiled at each other and went to work!!
The day of Pa's birthday came and we were all excited. Ma had baked a real great looking chocolate cake, and even added some candy flowers on it, and wrote "I Love You, Honey" on the top. She was so proud!! We just knew Pa was going to love this birthday. Ma had also bought some fancy French Vanilla ice cream, as she wanted this to be Pa's most special birthday ever. She was really going to show him how much she loved him. She spent a little extra, more than she could afford, but Pa was worth it.
Little Sis and I pooled our money and bought Pa the best necktie we could find. It was yellow and had birds on it. Sis thought it was perfect. We even spent a little extra and wrapped it up in pretty paper for him. The paper said "We Love You Daddy." We never called him "Daddy," but we couldn't find any that said "Pa." Little Sis took one of her hair ribbons, her favorite, and tied it around the package. This would be the best present she ever gave Pa. We all felt this would be a special day.
Pa came home and we rushed to greet him. "Happy Birthday, Pa!" we all yelled in unison. He smiled and gave us all a hug. This was going to be great!!
Ma led him into the kitchen and showed him the cake on the table, the ice cream, and the present, and then we all started to sing "Happy Birthday." But Pa didn't seem to hear. His face was turning red. Something was terribly wrong. Pa seemed angry about something.
"What is this writing all over my cake?!," he yelled, smashing his fist on the table. "Did I say anything about any writing on my cake?" "I just wanted to tell you I loved you, Honey," Ma said in a small voice. "If I had wanted writing on my cake I would have SAID so!" We all stood there quietly. Fear was mounting in our hearts.
"And what's wrong with this ice cream? It looks a little yellow." "It's French Vanilla," cowered Ma. "FRENCH Vanilla?," bellowed Pa. "Who said anything about FRENCH Vanilla?" He grabbed the bowl of ice cream and threw it against the wall. Little Sis had begun to cry.
"Who wrapped this present?" Pa demanded. I tried to be brave, and tried to cover some for Sis. "I did," I said, trembling. Pa ripped the ribbon off and tore the wrapping to shreds. "I said 'nothing fancy.' Are you people DEAF?!! I clearly said, 'plain box.' What are you, STUPID?!"
Pa stomped out of the kitchen, yelling that his birthday was ruined. We had shown him no respect. We had disobeyed him. We had defied him.
Ma sat at the table and cried, and Little Sis and I slowly walked back to our room. We sat on the bed for a long time. Stunned. Finally, Little Sis said, "I guess love don't count for nothin' around here!" I tried to think of something to say .... but couldn't!
From a Minister in California:
I not only enjoy reading your Reflections, but resonate with them. I grew up in the deep south and had close family on both sides of the "Anti" fence. I thought I'd share a story with you that, I think, exemplifies the magnificent grace of God. I began preaching full-time in the middle seventies, and at that time thought a good sermon was one that skinned alive the denominations while setting straight our own brethren who were wrong on the issues. I still have in my files a sermon I preached almost 25 years ago where I named a church and a preacher in California by name as an example of the extreme danger of liberalism in the church.
Through a long process, God changed my heart and next month I'll complete my tenth year as the pulpit minister for that same congregation in California! Not only is God gracious, I think He has a sense of humor!
P.S. --- I've come to dearly love some of the most deeply spiritual people I've ever known in this "ultra-liberal" church, and I have grown more spiritually here than all my years in the south. God bless your efforts!
From a Minister in Kentucky:
Thank you so much for your thoughts. For a while I had become highly agitated with our tradition, and I even thought about ministering somewhere else. I eventually came to the same conclusion you have come to. Running away from the problem doesn't solve the problem, it just causes more problems. I can't leave and feel as though I have done my job as a minister. Thanks for your staying power!
From a Reader in Louisiana:
A Church of Christ I attended as a teenager was very conservative. The gentleman who put up most of the money for the meeting place spent much of the last ten years of his life very angry with any minister who came in and preached even a mild lesson on grace. He drove out two ministers who really had the heart to care about the people and their lives. It is sad when our traditions are more important than the souls of the lost. I understand clearly that the people who do this type of thing truly believe they are right, and they are truly worried about the salvation of their friends. However, as the crusades showed us -- more harm has been done in the name of Christ, in some cases, than by those who were not claiming His name.
I applaud your commitment, and do so much appreciate your writings. Thanks again for your Reflections.
If you would like to be removed from or added to this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. I would also welcome
any questions or comments from the readers.
The Archives for past issues of Reflections is: