7/16 Flashback: All flesh

7/16 Flashback: All flesh July 16, 2022

From July 16, 2014, “Standing athwart Pentecost and yelling ‘Stop!’“:

“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” — Acts 2:17

The late William F. Buckley described the mission of his conservative magazine, National Review, this way: “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop.”*

Buckley didn’t much care when critics said he was “on the wrong side of history.” The way he saw it, that was his job.

Al Mohler sees that as his job, too. Like Buckley, Mohler prides himself on “standing athwart history, yelling Stop.” That’s very much the theme of his latest screed, denouncing the Church of England for voting to ordain women bishops.

And, like Buckley, Mohler considers it a badge of honor when critics tell him he’s “on the wrong side of history.” (I suppose, as a Southern Baptist, he’s accustomed to that.)

I believe that Mohler probably is, yet again, “on the wrong side of history” in defending the No More Phoebes or Brigids policy of the last 1500 years. But I can’t speak for history: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

That’s abolitionist minister Theodore Parker, writing in 1853, just eight years after the creation of the pro-slavery denomination now represented by Al Mohler.

But Mohler’s main problem is not that he’s on the wrong side of history. His main problem is that he’s on the wrong side of Pentecost.

That is his entire career, his entire agenda and mission statement: Standing athwart Pentecost, yelling Stop.

The wild diversity of Pentecost — the defining moment for the Christian church — would’ve made a guy like Mohler squirm.

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power. …

I picture Mohler doing his best impression of Olson Johnson from Blazing Saddles: “All right … we’ll take the Parthians and Medes. But we don’t want the Elamites!”

But the radical inclusiveness of Pentecost didn’t just encompass national and ethnic diversity, with people “from every nation under heaven.” Nearly 2,000 years before the Church of England finally voted to catch up, the church at Pentecost also declared a radical gender inclusiveness: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.”

Your sons and your daughters. And if that binary isn’t comprehensive enough, try this: All flesh. Male flesh. Female flesh. LGBTIQ flesh. All.

“Do not quench the Spirit,” Paul said. Or, rather, Paul commanded.

But I suppose someone like Al Mohler is free to try. He can spend his life and his energy standing athwart Pentecost and yelling Stop, but he’ll never manage to actually stop it.

You daughters shall prophesy. And God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. Whether guys like Mohler like it or not.


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