Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

Grape Juice, Holiness, and the Creation of a Christian Culture

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Welch's_logoThere is a constant debate about the impact of Christianity upon the United States.

If the question is whether the United States is a Christian nation, then the answer must be no. There is no established religion in the United States or, at least, there has not been since Congregationalism lost its status in Massachusetts in 1833.

If, however, the question concerns the cultivation of a Christian culture in the United States, then there is little doubt of its existence.

Moreover, as a feature of discipleship, Christians should teach their children how much of what we take for granted stems from the impact of Christianity upon the United States.

As one example, take Welch’s Grape Juice. Read the rest of this entry »

Oedipus, Adoption, and the Complexities of Identity

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

oedipus_sphinxAs a historian, I have a strong appreciation for tradition and the way it determines identity. Every human being is traditioned upon entering the world. This is simply a fact of life. For most persons, however, the shaping of their identities happens imperceptibly and only enters the conscious mind as family traditions begin to be challenged during adolescence. I rather have my doubts that this is the case for the adopted child; at least, it was not the case for me. The tension between nature and nurture, the shaping of human identity through traditioning and the givenness of human identity at birth was always heightened for me and has become even more so in my adulthood. This tension has led to more questions than I can answer about who we are as human persons. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections from the Other Side of Adoption

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Hands make heart shape

There is a growing trend among Christians to adopt either through international adoptions or in the U.S. The reasons for these adoptions are as various and personal as the adoptive couples who venture into such uncharted terrain. I will not venture to guess all those reasons here, but I have been doing some thinking lately about my own identity as an adopted child that I hope will help adoptive parents.

 

Recently, I went over again with my adoptive parents the circumstances surrounding my birth. My initial questions were obvious: what can you tell me about my birth parents? They were questions about identity. Everything my adoptive parents told me they learned from the lawyer who handled the adoption. As my mom put it, “he just read down a list of information about the birth mother and father.” Neither she nor my adoptive father asked any additional questions because they wanted to follow the law, which at the time in Florida maintained a strict separation between birth parents and adoptive parents.

 

I learned that my birth mother was a 22-year old single woman from the northeast of the U.S. who flew down to Florida to have her baby. My adoptive dad told me that his mother went by the hospital room where my birth mother was staying and peaked in just to take a look. Her only comment was that my birth mother was “good lookin’.” In addition, they told me that my birth father was Puerto Rican. Most of this information I already knew, since it was so sparse, but I needed to hear it again and, more importantly, I needed to know its source. To their credit, my adoptive parents have never withheld any information from me about my past. They just know so little that it’s like passing a few crumbs to a starving person.

 

What we need to remember about adoptions is that they are interventions brought on by emergency situations. They may be normal, but they should not be the norm. The norm should always be that children are raised by both biological parents. Even in writing this blog, I wrestle with exactly how to refer to my two sets of parents. While it’s accurate to identify my adoptive parents as “adoptive,” it seems strange to me because I consider them to be my parents. They loved me, raised me, and continue to support me in more ways than I could ever deserve. They are the tangible manifestation of divine grace in my life. And yet, they are NOT my biological parents.

 

So, I live with the tension of having “two mommies” and “two daddies,” even though I know one set and I may never meet the second set. This tension is reflected in having to use adjectives to describe my relationships: adoptive, biological. I should simply be able to say, “my mom” or “my dad,” but that will never be possible. Has this forever warped my life? No. It is always present, however. And, for those adoptive parents who may read this and run to their children to ask them how they feel about these things, I need to say, “Don’t do it!” It has only been since I had my own children that I have even begun to contemplate these issues. If my adoptive parents had asked me what I thought about them or my adoption during adolescence or even in college, I would have said that I didn’t think much about it at all.

 

I can only say that there was a moment when a hunger was unleashed to know more, to figure out what happened. I am still not certain what to do with this hunger, but I know that I cannot deny it. It reminds me that there are severed relationships that should never have been severed.

 

For this reason, I know that my own adoption is not the way it’s supposed to be. This is not to denigrate my adoptive parents or to somehow say that they were not gifts of grace to me. It is to recognize that grace is always about an emergency intervention into a situation that has turned out differently than it should have.

 

Let’s never forget that adoptions are responses to a 911 call that is made and yet not made. It is not made because the child cannot make it and the birth parents are not even sure it should be made. Yet the call goes forth due to the circumstances that dictate its necessity. This brings me to my final thought for this blog: make sure in your desire to adopt that the circumstances dictate its necessity. Don’t create an emergency situation to satisfy your own longing for a child. When you do, you play God and turn the child into a commodity. We have enough people trying to play God these days. I’ll have more in the coming days.

Renewal and Cancer: Together with God

Saturday, July 6th, 2013 by Wolfgang Vondey

healing_of_the_blind_manIn December 2010, Larisa Ard Jenkins, wife of Skip Jenkins and mother of four, was diagnosed with a rare, untreatable cancer (neuroendocrine). Surgery removed her kidney, and the doctors reported it had spread into her spine, liver, shoulder, and leg. For over 2.5 years she has been under treatment by a cancer specialist that has worked one-to-one with her using multiple methods to defeat this cancer. Under his care, she has already out-lived the prognoses of this cancer. He has suggested a new treatment that has been found successful. However, this treatment is not covered by insurance and would require her to travel away from home for at least a month. The cost of the treatments, and the expenses for her to travel and stay away from home is not possible for the family to afford after the 2.5 years of treatments, special diets, and supplements. Larisa’s last scan showed that without a successful method of treatment, the tumors will continue to increase and grow. How can God bring renewal to her life? Not without others. Read the rest of this entry »

Renewal and Disability: Turning the World Upside Down!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 by Amos Yong

DisabilityIt was at Thessalonica when Paul and his friends were first referred to as “These people who have been turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). I have just spent the last week in an intensive and extensive seminar with Northwest University MA in Theology & Culture students discussing an upside-down world, one in which the weak are the strong, the foolish reflect the brilliance of the gospel, and the disabled are the “indispensable” and those with “greater honor” (1 Cor. 12:22-23). This was no easy conversation, especially not given the pentecostal ethos, climate, and presuppositions operative. Pentecostals respond to disability in faith, believing for healing, praying for a miracle, and expecting the supernatural curing power of the Holy Spirit to show up. Sometimes, even oftentimes, such miraculous cures occur, and in the majority world context, entire families, even whole villages, come to Christ as a result. But what happens when those with disabilities do not get up from out of their wheelchairs? When those with mental illness do not – indeed cannot – stop taking their prescription medication? When Down syndrome children grow into adults, like my brother, without a chromosomal fix? All too often, their internalizing the implicit message behind faith healing leads them to consider themselves as second class citizens of the church (at best) or as unwelcome and as not belonging in the body of Christ (at worst)!

Confronting these challenges, we burrowed deep into the scriptural traditions, especially the Lukan corpus long central to the pentecostal imagination. All of a sudden, invited to reconsider the early Christian movement in light of disability perspectives, our apostolic heroes were understood as including those like the bent-over-woman (whose healing put to shame – bent over in turn! – the synagogue leader; Luke 13:10-17); Zacchaeus, the one who became a disciple without being cured of his shortness (see Luke 19:1-10 and my discussion here); and the Ethiopian eunuch (who was accepted despite suffering bodily impairments which would have excluded him from priestly service in the Old Testament; Acts 8:26-40), among others. Gradually, our paradigm for Spirit-empowered life and ministry was being turned upside down: it is not that those who are naturally talented and able-bodied are not used of God; its that those who are most often least expected are or can be channels of the Spirit, if only the people of God were indeed attentive or and receptive of such gifts.

So what if “the blind, the lame, and the deaf” are no longer categories which we (the temporarily able-bodied) reduce so-called others to, but ones who are recipients of and participants in the coming reign of God and its eschatological banquet (see Luke 14:7-24)? I have written much more extensively about these matters elsewhere (e.g., The Bible, Disability & the Church, and Theology & Down Syndrome). But to the person, each of my students pushed to ask about what needed to happen in our lives, our churches, and our culture, if we were to reject the stigmas about disability, dispense with our stereotypes regarding people with disabilities, and repent of our “us” versus “them” mentality. The task involves nothing less than a turning upside down of our established conventions about “normalcy,” health, beauty, and other matters. Such requires, of course, also nothing less than a new and fresh Pentecost, one that will inspire such imaginativeness, enable such innovation, and empower a new “we” constituted by those across the spectrum of abilities to embody the values of the cross and the coming kingdom.

Hierarchy and Patriarchy in the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate

Monday, June 18th, 2012 by Dale M. Coulter

Hierarchies are almost always symbolized by pyramid structures although both egalitarians and complementarians would be uncomfortable with the cultural way of defining such structures. Should the church and home imitate a business model with a CEO at the top? Should they imitate class structures?

In the previous post, I offered three points in response to Joe Carter’s update on the debate between egalitarians and complementarians. My purpose was to clear away some misconceptions and misperceptions by the complementarians to suggest that these missteps occurred on both sides. I want to continue along the same lines by clarifying ideas surrounding patriarchy and hierarchy.

My central claim is that both egalitarians and complementarians embrace hierarchy and both reject patriarchy albeit in different ways. Read the rest of this entry »