Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…


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In Memory of Susan Keefe.

This is not the first blog post that I had expected to write after an unexpected five month hiatus, but as I sat in Goodson Chapel yesterday listening to people tell their own stories, I felt that I needed to write my own. I did not know Susan Keefe. I had seen her in the hallways with her measured pace and the frail features of the ascetic she was. However, like many of my fellow students, I was in awe of this mysterious professor. She was respected and loved my the whole school, not because she was a brilliant lecturer (which I am sure she was), or for her gregarious personality (which she certainly was not), but because she exuded such an unworldly holiness that one knew the Divinity School was all the more so because of her place in it.

Like many, I participated in rumors of her ascetic practices, but looking back I see even those as being marks of the sense of awe in which she was seen. When selecting classes for this semester, hers was the one I was most excited about, even though because of my year in England, I knew that I was not going to take it. Just having her class on my fake schedule was an honor. And so, when we received the news that she had died, there was a collective sense of loss.

I wanted to write this post because her service reminded me of what funerals and memorial services in the Church need to be. Absent were trite words of comfort and vague phrases of an afterlife. Instead there was a clear confession of the resurrection and a celebration of the grace filled life she had led. Her specialty was Medieval commentaries by obscure theologians, preparing them for other scholars later to come and analyze to use in their own research. Dean Hays called it a “thankless task,” and I am sure it was not one which sold millions of copies because a simple Google image search fails to bring up any pictures of her.

While I will never be able to take her class, her memorial service will be the only lecture I will be able to have, which seems in a way fitting. It reminded me that a life lived in constant love of Christ and seeking to follow His way is one which does separate us from this world, but still keeps us intimately connected to it through our ministry and our relationships. That is the true mark of an ascetic. Not how much they are separated from the world, but how much they bring the world closer to the Kingdom through their place in it. Dr. Keefe did that.

The final lesson I have from her is one which Dean Hays and her family found propped on her desk when they were cleaning it out. Handwritten on a simple sheet of notebook paper it said:  “What if you were to say to your congregation: Your baptism was the beginning of your preparation for death.”  At our baptism we die to Sin and are reborn to new life through Jesus Christ. It marks us and makes us children of God and when lived out fully prepares us both for our eventual death, but also for the everlasting life which comes afterwards. I do not know the answer to Dr. Keefe’s question, but I intend to find out by sharing those words and with each congregation I have.

Thank you Dr. Keefe, for a life well lived. Amen.


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On Mark Driscoll, Sex, and the Church

I want to say first that I have no read the book Real Marriage, nor do I intend to (there is to much other reading to do in Divinity School), therefore, I do not intend to write a review of the book. What I do want to do is to comment on Mark Driscoll in general.

Ever since I first saw the controversial soundbites on youtube, and the scathing remarks on Facebook about him, I have been intrigued by his ministry. I have been both deeply offended by some of the things he has said, and at other times inspired. His ministry reaches millions of people, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, often to people who would otherwise not give it any thought, and for that, I think he should be respected and given more thought than many of his harshest critics allow. After reading many news stories, blog posts and reviews of Real Marriage, I have come to the working thesis that Mark Driscoll’s true gift to the Church is to force us to talk about social issues we otherwise try to ignore.

Now I am not saying that he gets is right, or that his theological responses are helpful (he comes from a much more Reformed tradition than I do), however, if nothing else, when the church is silent, Driscoll’s voice screams out. Take domestic violence. When was the last time a pastor or church leader talked about the statistic that 1/4 women has experience domestic violence in their lifetime? Or admitted that domestic abuse is a problem in our pews? Driscoll does. Now one can call his biblical interpretation sexist, or criticize him for over-emphasizing masculinity, and that wives should be subordinate to their husbands (and in all of those cases I agree), however, if the true test of theology is how it is worked out in worship and in the lives of the people, then who is really close to the Gospel?

In Real Marriage, the Driscolls (they co-wrote the book) offer their own story of faith and sex, detailing (for some too much), their journey from pre-marital sex, to refraining from sex, to dealing with sex within marriage. Next they go through what does Christian sex look like? That is a good question. So often, the Church is too embarrassed to talk about something so scandalous as sex. As a result, there is a theological-vacuum which gets filled with the theology of prime time TV and movies.

For the past 4 months, on CNN’s belief blog (one of my favorite sources for religion news), there has been a story on “Why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore”. It describes a report which says that 80% of young evangelical Christians have sex before they are married (88% is the national average). It then makes the interesting remark that  because so many people in our generation are waiting until they are older to get married, they have to wait longer than any other generation to have sex. That is more years of temptation and struggle than ever before. This is something which our generation is answering without the help of the Gospel, or the Church. And that is unacceptable.

I admit, that ever since that article was published, I have been doing a lot of thinking about it, but have been too afraid to publish anything. I was embarrassed, afraid, worried that what I might say would be misunderstood, rejected, or deemed heretical. Well, thanks to Mark Driscoll’s bravery, I don’t think I can stay silent. I commit to you and myself that I am going to work out my thoughts this week, and publish them for your review. So, please feel free to comment below, or e-mail me with your thoughts. This is an issue we all need to deal with in prayer, study, and community. Why not now?