Month: March 2013

Are You Sure The Holy Ghost Is Leading You?: How About Some Modesty?

This is my first installment of a series of foolishness so far out of left field that I can’t believe these people are calling themselves Christian.  I started to call it “Stupid Sola Scriptura Tricks.”  I guess I can call it a number of things.  But, what I will present with each article is a shameful representation of what happens when Christian ministers invent doctrines and practices that aren’t even in line with acceptable African-American Protestantism (yes, I am still Baptist), much less Eastern Orthodoxy.  These things may not be happening in everyone’s town or in churches you may personally know of.  But, unless we put the brakes on “do-it-yourself” doctrines, these things will eventually come to a church near you.

Let me first give credit to the video blogger Tommy Sotomayor (before he curses me out for not revealing my sources) for posting and offering commentary on this topic.  In the video of her ministry, LaTascha Emanuel is preaching wearing a dress that not only reveals far too much cleavage, it is cut low enough to expose a portion of both of her nipples. (No, I am not posting a link to the video.  This is way to unbelieveable).  Now, my Orthodox friends will immediately question the role of women as ministers.  I am not ready to get into that discussion.  But, no matter what religious tradition one comes from (Christian or not), we can all agree that a woman should dress modestly.  Mrs. Emanuel (and there is a video of her wearing this “dress” and her husband with her) is clearly NOT being modest about her body.  No, a woman need not be covered head to foot as in extremist Islamic communities.  Nor does she necessarily have to wear a robe or clergy shirt when doing the Lord’s work.  But, I think we can all agree that we all should be aware that our clothing can send the wrong signals.  Mrs. Emanuel’s message was sincere and based on the scriptures.  Had she wore something that covered her breast and I let my mind wander and fantasize about her physique that she covered up, I would have been the lustful pervert.  She is not covering up much of anything .  It’s as if she wants viewers to see her breast.  So even if her words are on the up-and-up, a man’s attention will be drawn to her body.  We aren’t supposed to lust.  And here she is presenting herself as an object to be lusted over. 

Visiting her website, “The Gospel From The Stripper’s Pole,” I guess she took a hint and took her videos down.  Yet, she has two problems.  First, whatever you post online, stays online.  Tommy Sotomayor (and you should only watch his vids if you have a high tolerance for profanity), the blogger (who doesn’t see anything wrong with it), and at least one other person on You Tube still has them up.  Her second problem is further on her website where she has a couple of photos of her that still show enough cleavage to invite a man to think wrong.  Now, we Protestants tend to interpret differently the passages of scripture that denounces women preaching.  But, since Mrs. Emanuel wants to teach the Bible, perhaps she should begin with herself from I Timothy 2:9:

in like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation

To Mrs. Emanuel and other ladies who think it is fine to serve God dressed like that, no it is not.  How a woman dresses in her home with her husband is her business.  I don’t expect a woman to wear a winter weight sweat suit on a hot summer day at the beach or pool.  But, cover your body when you come to serve the body of Christ.  If you are posting yourself as a woman of God, dress like it.  You don’t have to dress like a nun.  Women have a plethora of styles and colors to choose from to look feminine and still cover up.  Please Christian ladies, dress accordingly.

This Journey of Great Lent: My Pre-fast Intimidations

I knew that fasting was a part of my learning process in Orthodoxy when I first became an inquirer.  Going vegan twice a week didn’t frighten me one bit.  I did the Apostle’s and Dormition Fast with some difficulty in the first few days.  But, by the sixth day, it was a bit of a cakewalk.  As for the Nativity, it was kinda rough avoiding Christmas parties and the day after Thanksgiving turkey and ham sandwiches.  I have had my occasional slips and made a couple of loopholes for myself at times.  But, for a rookie, this Orthodox fasting thing really hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be.

Fr. James Purdie, Priest of St. Basil the Great Antiochian Orthodox Church.  My guide int this journey.  (C) John Gresham

Fr. James Purdie, Priest of St. Basil the Great Antiochian Orthodox Church. My guide in this journey. (C) John Gresham

Great Lent, however, is more intimidating both in diet and spiritual expectation.  Clean Monday arrives about the same time the shad start running in the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers.  I am not allowed to eat any fish with bones in it and there is no fish with more bones in it than shad.  Ah well, at least I can salt a few down for the winter.  But, my old man will be smoking his from day one.  Kicking red meat for 40 days this time of year will also be more difficult since it is the beginning of backyard barbecuing season.  Granted, oysters will still be in season and crabbers will start pulling pots again.  But, shellfish will not be cheap with this economy.    I had better learn to love tofu.

What really scares me about Great Lent is the significance of it all.  The Forgiveness Vespers where everyone, including the priest, ask each other to be forgiven for what they have done wrong to the other?  First of all, about the worst thing I can think of that I did wrong to anyone at St. Basil is that I forgot their names.  And then they also asking my forgiveness?  Who am I that any of these kind people should want such a blessing from me when they have always welcomed me with open arms.  And Fr. James to ask me for forgiveness?  We aren’t even in the same denomination.  Who am I to participate in such a practice?  It is at this point that I probably could and should go back to my comfortable corner of Christianity.

I can’t help but to see the beauty and power in such a pre-fast preparation.  When we face each other and ask for forgiveness, we will be facing the ultimate icons.  The ones God made in his image and likeness.  Even for those who have not directly said, done, or thought harm to one another; all are admitting their human problem of sin and seek forgiveness from Christ and each other.  I am scared because I know of my own sinfulness.  I am intimidated also because I am unworthy to have someone who I just met ask me to forgive them.

Yet, I believe I need to go forward with preparing for and observing Great Lent.  I can’t help but to think that there is something very special at the end of this journey at Pascha.  Not bragging rights.  No, boasting is not the goal here.  One of the saints said that if you fast only to boast of your own righteousness, you may as well eat meat.  This journey will probably not mean that I will leave my role as Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church.  There is a bit more work I need to do in my community and I have a mortgage to pay.  Besides, I have not yet been on this Orthodox journey for a full year.  Many converts don’t take the plunge until two or three years.  Fr. James has told me that the church will be here when I am ready. 

Yet and still, there is bound to be something special at the end of this journey of Great Lent.  Just like pledging my fraternity and doing my first overnight backpack trip  alone on the Appalachian Trail go through this process, I will only kick myself for not having the nerve to do it.  Any time a spiritual journey brings us to a point of absolute humility with Forgiveness Vespers, the end must be an incredible celebration of the soul. 

I imagine this will not be easy.  Easter Sunday, my father will have baby back ribs coming out of the smoker fully infused with apple wood or hickory.  Tofu will not be able to compare to that.  Knowing that I will have no excuse for not, at least, calling someone who is ill and homebound other than my wife will be a challenge as well.  I admit, my pastoral care could be better.  Although my prayer life has grown by leaps and bounds since joining the St. Philip’s Prayer Discipline, it isn’t as tight as it could be.  I will have to read and study when I want to waste time with mahjong and You Tube.  Nope, this isn’t like my good old, “do it yourself” fast when I could just give up caviar, champagne, filet minion, and lobster. 

But, I remember the way I felt when my Dean of Pledges declared, “You Are Now Brothers” and was presented with the letters “Alpha Phi Alpha.”   I remember the way I felt when I reached the intersection of the Old Hotel Trail and the AT at the Hog Camp Gap parking lot where I resolved to go through with a journey that I could have easily chickened out of (especially seeing the bear on the side of the road).  In both cases, it wasn’t just a feeling.  I had a unique change of perspective.  The change I am about to go through will be more profound.