Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Et tu Beth Moore?

Beth Moore was a well known Bible instructor back in my Evangelical days. She was very popular among women, especially younger women.  She approached Bible study with a sort of 'Oprah does the Bible' feel.  She was, at least IMHO, better than many.  There were a few popular women Bible instructors back then, and they were often about 3 parts self-help (especially for women), 1 part Bible, while Ms. Moore was more 3 parts Bible, 2 parts self-help.

Nonetheless, I never cared for her whole 'girlfriend!' approach.  I thought it was shallow and made the whole production feel like some girl's talk show session rather than a serious unpacking of the Scriptural nuts and bolts.  In fairness, she should hardly be singled out any more than many men at the time should be singled out.  It was the rise of Talk Radio, Oprah style talk shows, cable news and the like. Everyone was getting in on the act.  Make the Bible into a neat tool for self-me-help, where I am the star and God is the supporting cast for my benefit.

Among serious ministers and scholars there was a sort of 'yeah, whatever' attitude toward the Beth Moore style.  Sort of like how Frasier Crane was looked at by his brother Niles in the sitcom Frasier:  A radio talk show psychiatrist peddling wares, rather than doing the serious work of a medical professional.  Most I knew tolerated it under the old 'better the Bible half baked than no Bible at all' principle.  After all, the world was quickly secularizing itself, and already in the late 90s you were beginning to hear talk of a day when our nation would become anti-, rather than merely post-Christian. So on the whole, taken together, mixed and stirred, most considered Ms. Moore at least a net positive.  Nonetheless, many questioned her success at the helm of that 'Tastes Great/Less Filling' movement that was gaining steam during that time, eventually to culminate in the Rick Warren phenomenon.

With that said, I was rather gobsmacked by a recent letter she published in the wake of the rather ambiguously defined, yet powerful, #MeToo movement.  In a nut shell?  According to her, she had to undergo years of sexism, discrimination and down right sexual harassment.  You'd think every other day was a tale of oppression, unfair treatment, mean spiritedness, and downright misogyny.  Why, at one point, a minister even said she was prettier than another woman Bible instructor!  No tales of rape or sexual assault.  Note that.  Not even gross sexual demands for climbing the ecclesiastical ladder.  Just cases where she was treated badly, presumably because ... she was a woman.

Allow me to take a less than popular appraisal of this.  First, for the record, I always thought Ms. Moore was quite attractive but, like most things, kept that opinion to myself. I didn't keep it to myself because I was afraid I'd be called a sexist if I noticed she was easy on the eyes.  I just didn't say anything because it's my nature to keep those things to myself.  I'm not touchy-feely, and I don't give my opinions about people loosely.  I suppose that's what comes from being raised by parents from the old WWII era.  You don't tell people outside the family what you're thinking (bonus The Godfather reference there).

And I'm glad I didn't.  Apparently I would have been lumped into the big pile of sexism and misogyny that she struggled to overcome during those years.  When reading her letter, which sounds like the latest wave of women accusing men of calling them pretty or treating them like women, I'm reminded of another pastor from back in the day.  He was pastor of a local, fast growing mega-church.  I think it had around 9,000 active attenders on a given Sunday.  In one sermon, he got up and said that, despite being a minister, sometimes he likes to look at pretty girls.  Wow. It caught some old timers off guard, but most saw it as a brave and courageous admission to the truth of reality.  He's a man, women are women, he's being liberated, all is right with the world.  My more progressive colleagues loved it.  That was then.  I wonder if anyone will dig up that sermon and use it against him.

I'm sorry if I sound skeptical, but I'm skeptical.  First, there is nothing out there in the #MeToo era holding women accountable for their role in the whole 'T&A/Grab'em if you want'em' culture.  Not that Ms. Moore was ever in that.  But she isn't saying anything other than 'bad man/victim woman' in this bold and courageous letter.  Second, just what defines sexual harassment, misogyny and old fashioned chauvinism seems to change and morph on a daily basis.  Finally, it seems predicated on the modern feminist mantra of 'equality whenever convenient for women.'  Is there a difference between men and women , is there not, when does it matter?  Is it just when women say so?  Or is it all just a vast patriarchal conspiracy from the beginning? If we're going to lambaste individuals and entire demographics, we need a little According to Hoyle.

I'm certainly not saying it never happened.  I heard all sorts of things back then that made my flesh crawl, sometimes from men, sometimes from women.  Often it was just individuals trying to scrape a little icing off of the post-Christian cake.  Nevertheless, to be brutally honest, if there was a tendency to look down on Beth Moore by the men of that time period, it seemed to have more to do with the content of her product, rather than the fact she was a woman.  But she doesn't have to look at that possibility now.  It's enough to say she's a woman, all negativity was due to her being a woman, men and the entire Christian culture in which she thrived has now been found guilty, let's move straight to sentencing.  Our modern enlightened society in action.  Christians will assume guilt, and reach out in love accordingly.

Oh, for the record, I understand that part of the problem is those supporters of Donald Trump who looked at his more nauseating treatment of women and turned a blind eye.  Like Jonah Goldberg, I get the whole Trump thing.  After decades of trying to fight liberalism's 'here today, gone later today' approach to values, they decided to throw their own principles out the window.  I think it was the wrong move.  Nonetheless, in response, I have no intention of throwing my own principles out the window in the opposite direction.  I still think what we said was true in the 90s is true today, regarding men, women, and God's plan for both and all;  #MeToo, Clinton, Trump, Democrats, the GOP, or the Media's latest fetish be damned.

I hope Ms. Moore follows this letter up with a better one that sounds less like it was penned in the back offices of CNN, and more like it was informed by a biblical world view that rejects our modern divisiveness between the two latest demographics.  We'll see. What I hope for and my chances of winning the Powerball are usually about one and the same.

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