Thursday, August 18, 2011

"How to Read the Bible" on

The curriculum I wrote, "How to Read the Bible" is now available on

If you have kids, work with youth, have friends who've asked, "What's the Bible about?" or would just like to read a quick overview of the Bible, check out this PDF download. It's selling for $14.95 (worth every penny!) and you can make up to 1,000 copies for your church or organization.

As a curriculum for middle school students, "How to Read the Bible" clearly explains the different genres of God's Word so kids can better understand what they're reading and how to apply it to their daily lives. With examples and anecdotes all middle school students can relate to, this kid-friendly hermeneutics will help the ancient Scriptures come alive in new and exciting ways. And hands-on Bible studies flesh out and reinforce the principles being explored and taught. While this flexible curriculum can be given to highly motivated students for personal study, it's perfect for use in a small or large group setting. "How to Read the Bible" can also be a helpful supplement for your current catechism or Sunday school materials.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Are We Gossip Girls?

Note: ABC network recently announced that it will change the title of its TV pilot Good Christian Bitches to Good Christian Belles. But this doesn’t change the content of the show or its characterization of Christian women. It’s like giving a garbage dump a dressed-up name, like “repository” or “treasure-trove,” and thinking folks won’t see what it is … anyhow, below are some thoughts I wrote about gossip in the church before the name change was announced.

Are We Gossip Girls?

Good Christian Bitches characterizes believers in an unfavorable (and partially true) light.
By Holly Vicente Robaina

When a friend told me about ABC’s plans for the pilot Good Christian Bitches, I was shocked. Based on Kim Gatlin’s book by the same title, the proposed show is about a divorcee who’s life becomes the hot topic for the local churchgoing gossipmongers. Several Christian organizations, including the Parents Television Council and the American Family Association, are pushing ABC to cancel the show.

I should say that I was doubly shocked: First, that any station would attempt use the b-word as part of a show’s title. And second, I felt ABC was taking a slap at me.

Why am I taking this personally?
I wondered. The b-word had set me off, but it was the ordering of the words in the title that more deeply troubled me. I couldn’t pass it off as referring to nominal “Christians”—those who would self-label as believers, yet they haven’t made a commitment to obedience, submission, and the pursuit of holiness as Christ-followers. Rather, the title indicates that the show is about good Christian characters—presumably, true believers.

ABC’s writers could have chosen an ironic title, like “Good Christian Girls,” then filled the show with backbiting, judgmental characters. That would have annoyed me, but not stung in the way the actual title does. It’s the juxtaposition of “good Christian” with the b-word. The implication is that “bitch” is an accurate description of a good Christian woman.

In other words, it felt like ABC was telling me, “Admit it, Holly—you, like all Christian women, are a mean, gossipy girl. We’re just telling the truth and exposing Christians for what they really are—malicious, self-righteous [b-words].”

Thing is, I can’t blanketly declare that this is untrue. Christians have a reputation for discussing moral failings for the sole purpose of gossipy entertainment. And that isn’t just a false stereotype. For example, we Christian women sometimes put forth a holy purpose for sharing—such as prayer or organizing aid to meet someone’s need—and then spend more time talking about the needy person than addressing their need.

I’m certain that every true Christ-follower wants to avoid even the appearance of gossiping. So how do we become alert about the words slipping from our lips? And how do we keep gossip out of our churches?

A Natural Breeding Ground

We first have to acknowledge that the church is susceptible to gossip because of its structure. As one of my friends pointed out, gossip is promotional—it requires an audience and a meeting place where it may be promoted. So places where people gather regularly—schools, the workplace, gyms, and unfortunately, the church—are a natural breeding ground for it.

Second, every Christian woman needs to admit that she is capable of gossiping. We have the potential for committing any type of sin, including gossip. Rather than passing it off as, “I’m a Christian—I would never do that,” we need to recognize that our strength comes from God alone. We should regularly be praying that the Holy Spirit will allow us to speak only good words and will shut our mouths when needed. We should consistently be meditating on Scripture passages like Ephesians 4:29 and Philippians 4:8, and asking God to guard our mouths and minds.

And lastly, we must preserve the ability to speak frankly at church. The church is a place for confession and supplication. But too often, Christians keep mum about their struggles and needs because we’re afraid of being judged and becoming the focus of gossip. The sad result: Prayers are never spoken, healing never takes place, and needs go unmet.

My greatest moments of spiritual growth have occurred when I’ve shared my pain and shortcomings with other Christian women. My friend Trisha alerted me that the sleeplessness I’d been experiencing might be related to spiritual warfare. (I’d never considered this—and it was.) Yvonne prayed a bold prayer of healing after I lost part of my eyesight. (I wouldn’t have prayed this myself. My sight was restored.) And Kathryn is the trustworthy person I can run to whenever I need accountability. (She keeps my secret while praying for me and urging me to repent.)

So silence isn’t the answer. While we need to do away with gossip, we must maintain safe community and communication within the church.

To Share or Not to Share

Practically, what can we do to curtail gossip?

Gossip often hides behind the guise of prayer. In group settings, leaders should direct the group to spend more time praying, and less time discussing prayer requests. It’s a lot harder to gossip when we’re consciously including God in our conversation!

Individually, we need to consider: Are we really praying for others when they ask? When we get a prayer chain email or phone call, do we actually pray for the requests, or just digest them for personal enjoyment (Proverbs 18:8)?

And we Christian women should ask ourselves a few questions before sharing anything:

1) Should I be the one to share this?
Perhaps it would be better if the information came from another source, such as the person who has the need, one of their family members or close friends, or a church leader.

2) Do I have permission to share this?
Always ask the person who is sharing a need with you whether this may be shared with others, rather than assuming it’s OK to pass along the prayer request (Proverbs 11:13).

3) To what extent should I share?
Stick to details that help others to pray. Omit any information that you wouldn’t include in a public prayer (Proverbs 20:19).

4) What do I hope to accomplish by sharing this information?
There’s always a reason why we’re sharing something. Consider all of your intentions. Ask yourself if you’re in any way motivated by any of the following:

  • Comparing yourself with others
  • Convincing others to take sides
  • Expressing an opinion
  • Putting someone “in their place”
  • Shirking your responsibility for needed confrontation or restoration (e.g. triangulating)
  • To have something to say and be included in the group discussion
  • Getting the attention and admiration of others, as one who’s “in the know”
  • Proving that you’re a good listener
  • Trying to win friends
  • Demonstrating a connection to your church
  • Feeling like you have a purpose at your church

When we examine our words in this way, it may reveal areas of woundedness or lack in our own lives—we may be the one who truly needs prayer! We may discover unrecognized sin, such as a bias against someone that we hadn’t been aware of. We may find there’s a longing for connection or purpose that we need God to fill.

5) Do I need to share this for the safety of a friend or the church?
If a friend expresses thoughts of suicide or appears to be a danger to others, obviously, we need to share their secret—with or without their permission (Leviticus 19:16b). Similarly, if you know a church member who is unwilling to ask for help in a financial crisis, or who is unrepentant for sin (Matthew 18:15-20), it isn’t gossip if you ask a pastor to intervene.

Good words build up the body of Christ. Let’s strive to be known for the wholesome talk that really does fill the church—our words of exhortation and compassion, motivated by love. Who knows—we might even inspire a television show about Christian women who love God and one another

Monday, April 25, 2011

Evidence for the Resurrection (in brief)

Resurrection Info

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Response to "A Defense of Abortion"

A short response to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” (,Fall02/thomson.htm):

JJT lays a weak foundation by beginning with anomalies as a defense of choice for all. Her first example, cases of rape, is often the first argument pro-choice advocates use because they know people are moved by cases of rape. Rape is alarmingly common. This was my greatest concern when I was contemplating the arguments surrounding abortion: I know dozens of women, including many close friends, who have been raped or sexually assaulted. I was sexually assaulted in high school. The thought of a victim being faced with a pregnancy that has been forced on her is horrifying.

However, pregnancy resulting from rape is extremely rare because:
(1) Many American women use ongoing birth control methods (the pill, IUD).
(2) For most women, there is a very narrow window in which they can become pregnant each month. For the most fertile women on the planet, it’s five to six days; average is perhaps two to four. (This is why couples are said to be “trying” to get pregnant; the average period for “trying” is having sex daily for five to nine months, based on the woman’s age, before a pregnancy is achieved.) Add in the many probability-lowering factors: sperm quantity/speed, health of the egg that month, the fact that eggs don’t always get fertilized even on a “fertile” day and that fertilized eggs often don’t implant, and that trauma increases the likelihood of miscarriage.
(3) rape victims who report the crime usually receive medical treatments to lessen the possibility of implantation of a potentially fertilized egg.

JJT’s second example, of pregnancy presenting a threat to the mother’s life, is also extremely rare. Such cases most often end in miscarriage long before any serious threat presents. More importantly, few pro-life advocates take the position that the at-risk mother must carry the pregnancy to term. Rather, a more consistent pro-life position is to assert that since all life is valuable, the mother’s life is no less valuable than the child’s. Since JJT is prone to using absurd, unrelated illustrations, I’ll use one of my own: Two construction workers are impaled through the chest by a steel rod. While surgeons could save the worker in the front by getting him immediately into surgery, the pressure of his body is sustaining the one in the back. The front worker’s choice will decide who lives.

Compare this with another silly illustration: A man is walking down the street and someone is blocking his path. He yells out, “I have an appointment and I must get there, so you need to move now!” But the pedestrian blocking the path doesn’t move. So the walking man pulls out a revolver and shoots the other pedestrian dead.

What’s my point? Anyone can create a ridiculous illustration (or even a plausible-yet-unrelated one) as a defense. It’s very dangerous to base one’s stance on unrelated scenarios such as the sudden appearance of a violinist that’s surgically attached to your body, or expanding babies that live in teeny, tiny homes and grow so quickly that they crush the homeowner inside. Or people who shoot pedestrians who don’t move quickly enough down the street. I would submit that the topic is far too serious—both pro-choice and pro-life advocates recognize that it’s a moral issue—to build one’s argument largely based on a string of analogies. Do coats and boxes of chocolate really have a direct correlation with mothers and fetuses?

I’d submit that analogies are helpful for explanation, but hardly the building blocks of good argumentation.

Moving on … a precedent shouldn’t be established merely based on anomalies. (Note that the Mosaic law takes anomalies into account, e.g. the norm is to rest on the Sabbath, but if your ox falls into a pit during the Sabbath, it’s good and right to do whatever work is needed to aid the animal.) We base our laws on the norm; we alter our laws to account for extenuating circumstances.

In any case, the above examples, of rape cases and of the at-risk mother, cannot in any sense be considered the norm in regard to abortion. As JJT has constructed her argument, using anomalies as the foundation and building upon that with piecemeal analogy, I find it unsubstantial and unpersuasive.

Aside from what JJT has presented, more important questions have been raised: What is the moral position for a Christian in regard to these rare cases? Is it morally permissible for a woman to terminate a pregnancy that results from rape? Or if her life is in danger? Realizing the limits of my own knowledge on these topics, I would refer those interested in more insight to Scott Rae, a philosophy professor and an ethicist who consults for hospitals on topics such as abortion, euthanasia, fertility treatments, and stem-cell research. He discusses some specific scenarios in his book “Moral Choices,” and I’m sure I could get a list of resource readings from him if anyone is interested.