Archive for the ‘gender issues’ Category

It’s all to common with a liberal arts education: my degree has about as much economic application as horseshoeing on a spaceship.  I’m reminded of this monthly, when I write those checks to loan companies.  There’s an extra reminder now.  The Alma Mater, Azusa Pacific, has hired students to call me up.  Yes, we all know why.

With some exaggeration, it is easy to feel like this when you get calls from a private educational institution.

"but we gave you 10k in scholarships!!"

“but we gave you 10k in scholarships!!”

Every single alum has at least one reason not to donate.  Additionally, there is a second.  Specifically, many alums are disgusted about the public, and dramatic issue regarding Adam (formally Heather) Ackley the transgender theology PhD who was dismissed (as graciously as possible?) from APU.  Whatever an outsider’s perception of this event, many from the APU community are not in agreement with this dismissal.  A number of students on campus have come out with the supportive slogan “we stand with Adam.”  They may speak for others; students and alum at APU are perhaps more free to speak their minds about human sexuality and Christianity than the people on the campus payroll.  While equally LBGT supportive alums appreciate this, we still know our alma mater has embarrassed itself by doing something we find morally objectionable.  All of this leaves us with a feeling of disgust, frustration, irritation.  No matter how sweet the other person sounds on those cold calls, these feelings aren’t going to go away.

I suggest that these feelings are reasons for alums to donate, rather than an additional reason to shun our alma mater’s inconvenient phone calls.

First, APU’s dismissal of Adam Ackley is horrible mark, but it does not invalidate everything else the school does well.  I regret that I will not be able to attend APU’s celebrate Christmas choral and musical performances this year.  A few weeks ago, several other alums and held a fantastic night of singing, dancing, and improvised comedy.  These nights could never have happened without our APU connection.  There are more altruistic causes too.  One of my former classmates is finishing  up Psy D program with the express purpose to help women pro bono.  Another friend has worked for a children’s non-profit for years.

Second, I think it behooves recent alum (and by that I mean anyone who is between 24-30ish) to consider why APU bit the bullet and dismissed a transgender individual.  It can be only in part because of “Christian Values.”  Whether we like it or not, the older generation has the deep pockets.  These people make up the donation base.  They’re also more conservative on issues of gender and sexuality.  Do other APU hold these views that strongly? I have a hard time believing that any the intellectuals at the campus actually wanted to see their colleague go.  Enough students on campus have shown support for Adam.  As blunt as it is, a transgender professor is probably more offensive to donors than to students or scholars.

I think this is where a humble, and slightly more than symbolic, contributions from recent alums come in.  The silver lining of entire Ackley fiasco is that the university (and anyone connected with it) has to confront this issue of gender identity and Christianity.  We all already know what the result will be in twenty years.  Transgender individuals will become more and more accepted.  Eventually too the broader Christian community will wonder why we thought that dismissing a transgender individual made any kind of sense.  Most of the younger than 30 Christians I know aren’t particularly bothered by LGBT acceptance.  Even those who disagree with things like gay marriage aren’t the type who are pro-actively opposing it.  Eventually, the views of the younger generation will supplant the views of the older.

Therefore, I’d like to put a little money to demonstrate this to University.  I want APU to know that I support my Alma Mater.  I want them to know that I believe in its mission and goals.  I want them to know that my time at APU is still a time I remember well.

Furthermore, I want them to know that I’m sympathetic to LGBT causes.  I believe that “Christian Values” do not demand exclusion on this basis.  Finally, at some point in the future, I want APU to make decisions on LGBT based on purely on conscience, not on donation ledgers.  The only way APU can be freed from the fear of offending a donation base, is if enough of their donation base is demonstrably supportive of LGBT issues.

It might be a drop in the bucket, but I like to show support with my wallet.

The kickstarter Documentary <a href=http://givemesexjesus.com/?>Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex</a> is now fully funded with a day to spare.

Estimated release is mid 2013.  I’m looking forward to it.  Hurrah.

Anyway, I suppose it is worth adding a little bit of personal reflection on this.

I did not date in high school nor to much or my early twenties.  There were a lot of reasons for this, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.  It wasn’t even for lack of attention or interest.  It was largely because I didn’t know how.  I did not even know that it was a skill to be learned.

Unfortunately what filled the empty space in my mind was not practical, secular -yes secular– wisdom but fundamentalist folk teaching that was taught to by an amalgamation of church camps and bible bookstore best sellers.  All of it kept the party line of abstinence, seeking God first, praying for your future spouse, and not wasting time dating but courting -whatever the fuck that is.  I feel overall that the teaching was relationships were to be delayed until God brought a spouse to you and that romance was to be disconnected of sexuality.

The church “just guy times”-at least when it came to sexuality and relationships- were pretty much condemnation fests.  There was a lot of emphasis placed on not lusting with your eyes, even though physical attraction was okay.  So basically we were allowed to be physically, but not sexually attracted, to anyone.  Additionally, we were taught, that way-ward women would (as my friend cleverly put it once) “steal our souls with their vaginas.”  Risk and vulnerability were also things to avoid.  A friend of mine once told me that he didn’t want to give his future wife “a scarred up heart.”  Never mind that God still loves a scarred up heart.  Also that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Most of the guys who were teaching us to repent of our sexuality were married and with kids.  I.e. they were “successful.” so most of us clueless 15-18 year old guys believed them.  Sadly, those moral paragons turned out to have feet of clay.  How else can you describe it though when what is alleged to be “biblical teaching” is little more than a social convention? It is  only “right” because of how often it is repeated and taught.  In fact, I’m fairly well read Christian, but I had to read something written by a pyscho-balls atheist woman before coming across a very thoughtful affirmation of male sexuality.

The biggest irony of all this is that most of that dogma actually caused me to sin.  Not that I blame it, per se, but the dogma certainly did not help me with handling relationships very well.  How?  Well getting into a relationship is a little bit like water flowing down a hill.  The evangelical dogma is like a overly complicated system of dams, buckets, and pipes to ensure that the water flows down the hill exactly as its supposed too.  Also, if you’re taught that a “scarred up heart” will fuck-up your relationship with your divinely appointed future spouse, what does that say about every casual date?  In Azusa Pacific’s student newspaper, year’s ago, there was an article written by a girl encouraging (borderline begging?) guys to be more open to casual dating.  On behalf of all guys who didn’t know better, I apologize.

I repented of that behavior in the most literal sense -changing of the mind- long ago.  Things have been a lot better over the last several years.  Specifics will of course, not be listed here.  I am not concerned about the evangelical dogmas these days, although they still show up in blogs like this one.  Now,  some might say, “oh, but if you don’t date the Christian way you’ll never have a nice upstanding Christian girl to marry and put babies into.”  The subtext there is that “Christian” actually means “Evangelical.”  To those nay-sayers I reply that it’s a good thing that I feel comfortable with high-church Protestants, Catholics, and outright pagans.

Thanks for reading.

 

“Where ya gonna live?…The best thing you can do is buy a home. From an investment standpoint, from a tax standpoint, from a security standpoint, particularly you single guys…” -Mark Driscoll 18 Oct 2008

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” -Luke 9:58 NASB

I have long hesitated to this blog. This is mostly because I try not be totally negative. It’s also because the podcast that motivates this blogs annoyed me. There was so much fail in it that I didn’t know where to start. Then again, I might just be being hissy. I digress a bit.

Anyway, it was very strange when Christianity Today included Mark Driscoll in their list of hipster, cutting edge, pastors. Every time I listen to the guy, he sounds like a stick-in-the-mud conservative. Nowhere was this more evident that his Biblical Man Sermon. This teaching starts with a few verses from proverbs, and then continues with practical advice for about an hour. This “Biblical” teaching is so deeply seated in cultural assumptions, self-help wisdom, and patron-saints of middle class that it raises the question: what does “Biblical” even mean?

When I ask that question, it is not for you to think it is a joke. This is serious. What do you think of when you attach the word “Biblical” to a term? What synonyms would you use? How do you define that adjective as you understand it? Maybe you would agree that it means something like “from the Bible” or maybe “in adherence to the Bible”? Whatever it means when said in the evangelical vernacular, I think we can all agree that it recognizes the Bible in some sense because of its very spelling.

In listening to this sermon, it is hard to understand how Driscoll can mean Biblical in that sense. Now, the sermon is not bad rhetorically. It is sprinkled with stimulating, engaging, questions. The problem is with the answers. The idea is that we need to set goals, and make plans to achieve those goals. We need to think about what lives we want in the future and “reverse engineer” it so that we will arrive. For instance, in planning our lives we must understand what is urgent and important. We must get the job and own the home. We must also make a list of appliances, furniture, and other such things that we will have in our home. In that home we must also be prepared to add equity and value to it so we can buy a bigger home, so as to make our wife and children happy. Sound good?

The problem with all of this is that it it is not “from the Bible.” The first chunk of advice seems to come from an amalgamation of books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and probably a dozen other books of the same genre. He even cited Stephan Covey at the end of the sermon, who by the way, is a Mormon! The other huge chunk are anecdotes of Driscoll’s own success. It probably does not count as bragging, but Mark Driscoll did not write an Epistle. So do not think this is biblical.

Now, understandably, some might think that I’m endorsing laziness, sloth, or perpetuated adolescence. You might be thinking, “so you don’t think setting goals is good? Do you believe that developing plans is bad? Setting yourself up to build wealth or provide for yourself and others is evil?” To all this I answer an emphatic, “no of course not.” I think a books like 7 Habits or Getting Things Done, are great reads. Rich Dad/Poor Dad gave me a lot to think about. Of course all these things are good, but they are not biblical.

So why bother writing this blog? Well, because it is important -for Christians- to know where their values come from because God might challenge them. Some of the things we hold as Biblical might not be so Biblical after all. Take the whole home-ownership issue. Does owning a home, building equity in the home, and buying a better home make you a Biblical man? Is it a necessary goal for the Biblical man? Well, interestingly enough I know lots of men in the Bible who had no homes. Most of the patriarchs were nomads, and Jesus as cited above, warned those who sought to follow him that “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Let’s not forget that he was born in a stable.)

It seems that Jesus is not a Biblical man. Furthermore, he seems to caution would-be disciples that if the follow him, they may not have homes either! I can imagine that many missionary families understand what this means. So what about the denizens of Seattle?

But maybe I am being harsh? It wasn’t as if Driscoll didn’t use some distinctive Christian topics in his sermon. Driscoll did, after all, talk about God as a gracious God. He also encouraged men to “walk with God” in this sermon. Yes he did. God is so gracious, that he might get you into the home of dreams (complete with white picket fence!). “Walking with God” means prayerfully setting up your plans. If you think this is hyperbole, listen to the sermon yourself.

It seems so blindingly obvious that the pervading culture, not an exegesis of scripture, is what is authoritative here. It leads to the bizarre conclusion in which Jesus wouldn’t live up to Driscoll’s standards. I am not the first blogger to notice this either. If hipster Christianity is the liberal-arts student, who smokes clove cigarettes while reading “the Imitation of Christ” at an indie coffee shop, than Mark Driscoll is the transparent poser wearing his high-school letterman jacket over a Radiohead t-shirt. According to Christianity Today, the Christian hipsters want a faith that distinguishable from the values of suburbs. They probably need to look outside of Mars Hill.

So what does the word “Biblical [man]” mean? As far as I can tell, it is nothing more than a synonym for “upright middle class [man]” or “socially and fiscally, conservative [man]” or maybe just simply “right.” It is nothing here than a staple phrase for the American Civic Religion. And you know what? Let’s go for it. I am not against the nuclear family, setting goals, or steadily building financial success. There’s nothing wrong with finding the right career and being nice to your neighbors. I wish that all guys reading this would pick up 7 Habits and all those other great books to enhance their relationships, careers, and share such guidance with others. We can all be on the suburban band wagon and our kids can play little league together.

But when we do, let’s drop the pretense. Let’s remember that the civic religion is nothing more than that. Let’s discard the illusions that it is “from the Bible” and remember it has but a thin connection to the Christian faith.

Thanks for reading, and your comments are always welcome here.