Thursday, July 05, 2007

"Discernment" From the Lunatic Fringe

I'm really loathe to give this any more publicity, but as I was checking the sources for the hits on my TheoFantastique blog and came across an article from the Walter ministry of Jill Martin Rische as written by Dwayna Litz of Lighting the Way. Dwayna was one of the driving forces behind the blog controversy over the Imaginarium venue at Cornerstone last year where the presentations on the Mexican Day of the Dead and Halloween were misunderstood and misconstrued.

In her reporting on Cornerstone 2007, Litz devotes most of her writing space to a promotion of the Festival, including its speakers and the Imaginarium, but concludes with the following commentary and critique at the end:

"Thank God I will be doing mission work in NYC this year, where the lost are a breath of fresh air compared to another oppressive experience with the 'Jesus People' and their neo-pagan, emergent celebrations of death and zombies and the Divine Feminine at the 'Christian' camp meeting."

This sentiment is all well and good except that there was no neo-pagan expression at fesival, death was not celebrated but it was analyzed as part of a genre's narrative, zombies were discussed with connection to Christian theology and popular culture, and the Divine Feminine did not come up as something advocated for Christian worship (although the concept needs to be reflected on in light of concerns over Christian patriarchy in its representation of a genderless deity). One could also wonder why if Jesus People is allegedly neo-pagan and referred to as "Christian" only with the qualifiying quotes, why didn't Litz care enough about these unbelievers in order to brave "another oppressive experience?" Apparently not attending an event and casting judgment based upon promotial material is the engagement of choice for Litz in analysis and evangelism. It would seem that some evangelicals are selective in their reflection on the Decalogue, but I would remind Litz and Rische about the one which frowns on bearing false witness about your neighbor.

I bring this to my readers attention to point out that Litz misrepresents the Festival, both this year and last, as does Rische for providing having Litz as a columnist who provides this kind of questionable reporting. These folks present themselves as guardians of orthodoxy and the epitome of discernment, and yet they can't accurately represent a Christian festival. But then again Litz is on record on her blog in denying that the United States ever went to the moon, and has supported Mike Warnke's falsified claims about involvement in Satanism and Wicca, so this latest rant about Cornerstone merely represents her latest example of discernment from the lunatic fringe. It's too bad that other evangelicals and fundamentalists find any value in these sources.

We might ask that since they can't manage to accurately understand and describe a Christian festival, can we really trust their analysis of new religions, alternative spiritualities, or trends within the broader Christian church in the West (like the emergents)? Is this the direction that some in the counter-cult and broader discernment ministries are taking us? I'll have none of this, thanks so much. I prefer my discernment done without the need for straightjackets.


Mark Scheiderer said...

Dwayna and the rest of the LTW staff dialogue with non-believers - whether they be pagan, homosexual, etc. - and have successfully led them to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

How many have been led to the Lord with your approach?

The "proof is in the pudding" John.

Ridicule her all you want. Most in the apologetics/counter-cult field take no stock in your "ministry".

When will you ever answer people's questions about how effective your missional approach is in terms of successful evangelism?

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like you're still upset about the dressing down that Jill Rische gave you a few months ago on Jan Markell's program.

John W. Morehead said...

My post to which your comment is directed was straightforward in pointing out the lack of reasoning and discernment abiltiy on the part of Litz and Rische. It has nothing to do with the Jan Markell program. And I wouldn't call that a "dressing down" so much as another example that supports my thesis about the lunatic fringe in the ocunter-cult movement.

John W. Morehead said...

Mark, thanks for your comments, and having the courage to put your name with your thoughts, unlike the previous anonymous commentator.

As I pointed out in my post, while Litz and perhaps Rische have concerns about Cornerstone and consider it "Christian" with qualification, it appears that they don't love these non-believers or at least compromised bleievers as much as other "pagans," since they are content merely to post mischaracterizations. This is not how reliable ministry is done.

As to how one defines appropriate forms of ministry, I touch on this in my chapter in Encountering New Religious Movements (Kregel Academic & Professional, 2004). If you had read it, or read it carefully, and were more careful in reading my blog posts, you'd see how I have defined such issues before. Unfortunately, many Americans define "success" in church and other forms of ministry solely or largely by numbers and dollars. While this might be part of such a definition it is surely not the only part, and in my view, not the primary elements. Success as I define it is utilizing an appropriate methodology that is holistic and faithful to the interactive reflections of various theologies, historical considerations, and cultural research (the missional helix). The results in ministry are the work of the Spirit.

You might consider that your definition of success is confused with American notions of pragmatism and a business model of success rather than sober theological and missiological reflection.

People have indeed come to a embrace Jesus and his pathway of spirituality through the ministry model that I and others are putting forward. But we are not bean counters since, again, this is not the primary way in which success is defined. Please note that this is an answer to your question that has been answered before. I just hope you and others can "hear" it this time

And you're right. The proof is in the pudding, Mark. It's just that I can't swallow the pudding that Litz, Rische, you, and others put forward through your counter-cult approaches in the name of evangelism and missions.

Mark Scheiderer said...

John -

I understand what you mean, but I would like some clarification by what you mean when you say "people have indeed come to embrace Jesus and His pathway of spirituality".

Mark Scheiderer

John W. Morehead said...

In "evangelical-ese" I mean people have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. My previous language was phrased as such a way to communicate to others beyond the evangelical framework.

I have no desires to drag this conversation out, but I find it interesting that while you take issue with my methodology you have no concerns with that of Litz and Rische. To me that is simply astounding.