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Rip Van Winkle Awoke, Looked in a Mirror, and Saw Paul Kivel's Face

Apr 20 2016

Paul Kivel is a 67 year old writer, educator and activist from Oakland, California.  I happened upon his name when reading an article about a "white privileges" conference where he was a presenter.  This led me to his web site, "Challenging Christian Hegemony".  I'll be the first to speak up when the church or Christian culture gets it wrong, but critics of Christianity, like this guy, need to be called out, too.  It's not so much that he gets it wrong, it's more like he's speaking into a 1950's church culture that Has matured drastically while Mr. Kivel apparently took a 60 year nap.

The art work on the home page of his web site was the first thing I noticed.  Basically, it was one of those "coexist" bumper stickers rehashed so it made a human face.  While I'm all about coexisting, let's get a little more creative Paul.  surely a writer / educator / activist could have designed something a little more thought provoking than lumping a bunch of symbols of the various world religions into a collage.  this is, admittedly, not something deserving of a rebuke.  A simple eye roll would have sufficed.  Then I dug deeper into the site and saw that his ideas were no more original than his graphics.

The first archaic idea he continues to propagate is that Christianity is all about affluent white males.  This is just plain false, although may have had an element of truth when Rip Van Kivel was put down for his 60 year nap back on his seventh birthday.  Today, in 2016, though,things are different.  read this data from Barna research:

The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories. [1]
On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches. [2]
This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands. [3]
Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants. [4]
The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male). [5]
Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return. [6]
More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church. [7]
Churches overseas report gender gaps of up to 9 women for every adult man in attendance. [8]
Christian universities are becoming convents. The typical Christian college in the U.S. enrolls almost 2 women for every 1 man. [9]
Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry. [10]

Men do not dominate Christianity, which would be obvious if Mr. Kivel were to set foot in virtually any  congregation in the country on a Sunday morning in 2016. In fact, most churches and denominations see this as a major problem as more and more, modern society thinks a woman's place is in the pews.

Furthermore, someone needs to point out to snoozing Paul, that Christianity is not predominantly Caucasian.  North America is no longer the epicenter of the church, Africa and Latin America are. According to "Christianity Today" the leading missionary sending countries in the world are now South Korea and Brazil.  China sends more home missionaries than any other country (home missions defined as reaching out to unchurched people groups within the same national border).  Most interesting, when missionary involvement is measured in missionaries sent per million Christians within a country, the nation doing the best job sending out missionaries is Palestine.  so much for "white mans burden".  When we were on the Crow Reservation, there was a huge billboard on route 90 declaring, "Jesus is Lord on the Crow Reservation".  We learned later that the Crow tribal counsel voted to put this up, and there's nothing that secularists like Rip Van Kivel can do about it due to self governance laws on the Rez.  The truth is,  Revival is huge on many of our reservations today.  sorry, Mr. Kivel, but this isn't 1804, Lewis and Clark are on longer advancing Jeffersons agenda on the frontier, and this revival isn't a result of Amero-European dominance.  in spite of what you may think, Paul, today's tribal people are educated, independent thinkers who can and do chose for themselves the worldview by which they live their lives. And they are increasingly  choosing to be Christians.  Ironically, the "religious" worldview that is dominated by rich white guys is atheism, not Christianity; a demographic change that occurred no doubt while Mr. Kivel overslept.

Kivel rehashes a lot of other tired old  antichristian rhetoric, as well. The classic, "The Bible teaches slavery" argument , of course, is very present on his site.  What he, and so many others, misunderstand is this: acknowledging slavery is not the same as endorsing it.  the Old Testament also addresses what to do if your ox gores your neighbor to death, but that is not the same as endorsing it!  Our home state of Maine has programs in place for people addicted to opioids, but this is not the same as encouraging addiction.  Yes, scripture taught how people were to,treat their slaves, because slabery was deeply engrained in the ancient world's political and economic structure.  Slavery existed centuries before Christ, and the Bible was so far ahead of its time simply by advocating decent treatment of slaves, even letting them go  free after a period of time.  And Paul Kivel ignores the fact that it was the church who fought to bring slavery to an end both in the United States and Britain.  Harriet Tubman, William Wilburforce, John Newton, Harriet Beecher Stowe are some famous examples of bible believing Christians who fought the slave trade, and for every household name there were thousands of others who fought against slavery in the name of Christ.  Similarly, it was Christians who led the fights for prison reform, asylum reform, civil rights, and, yes, women's suffrage.. 

An interesting part of the Challenging Christian Hegemony website was a page entitled " Stories of Resistance".  While the blogs were sparse in number, I was drawn to one entitled "Anti Nazi Organizing by Non Jews".  it was a brief article that featured accounts of  King Mohammad V of Morocco and Abdul Hussein Sadabi of Iran.  While inspiring, I wondered, where was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Luthern pastor,killed in the Flossenburg death camp for his resistance to Hitler? Where  was the ten Boom family, Dutch Christians who, except for daughter Corrie, all died at the hands of the Nazis for harboring Jews in their home?  While the contributions of Mohammad V and Sadabi are admirable, Bonhoffer and the ten Booms gave the ultimate sacrifice in their resistance.  I can't even give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he missed these testimonies during his six decade nap, Rip Van Kival left out these obvious examples of Christian resistors because he chose to.  

Admittedly, I have been critical in my blogs regarding lukewarmness, nationalism and fraud within contemporary Christianity, so that is not what bothers me about Paul Kival and his web site.  I'm annoyed because   his complaints are simply inaccurate, outdated and biased.  If you have an axe to grind about Christians, Paul, I'm sorry.  But please wake up, catch up on what has been going on during your slumber, and get your information straight.


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