Archive for the ‘marraige’ Category

Sometimes, you have to smash a few Icons and overturn a few tables.

Bear with this technical introduction a moment. In undergraduate, we were taught to think about our opinions, beliefs, and practices according this list, commonly called the Wesleyan quadrilateral. This is common among many Evangelical institutions:

  • 1. Scripture
  • 2. Tradition
  • 3. Reason
  • 4. Experience

It is number four that is important here.

Experience can be narrow or broad. In the broader sense, experience means culture. If you think of it narrowly, think of it as a pastoral principle: diagnose before you prescribe. A pastor or church leader may be mentoring a new member. Appropriately, that leader first asks the new member about their relationship with God, encourages them to be open about their spiritual struggles, shares in the triumphs and so on. In addiction recovery, for instance, a person who is taking the twelve steps also explores their family history. How they play out those twelve steps will depend on their own experiences.

Experience, however, is also used to prescribe. Here’s how: A popular, and effective, method of teaching and preaching is telling stories. If you listen to any popular Evangelical preacher, you can probably think of dozens of stories they tell. I remember a church leader sharing about a time he had to ask forgiveness for how he treated his sister in law. Greg Boyd, in God of the Possible, shared a story about a divorced woman. Mosaic Church, in LA, publishes a magazine dedicated to sharing stories about what God does in their individual lives. Old-fashioned evangelicalism still encourages people to tell their personal testimonies about what God has done in their lives.

There’s nothing wrong with stories or testimonies. In fact, they’re good teaching tools. They’re so effective that the officially endorsed stories -that is, the ones that Evangelicalism approves of and repeats via blogs, sermons etc.- are sometimes more important or just as important as the Bible.

No where are the official stories more important than when it comes to sex. The official stories go something like this (this is a summary from a meagchurch podcast): Boy is virgin. Girl is not. Girl feels “damaged” and is hesitant to marry boy. Boy says he’s ready to be “damaged.” They have sex. Girl feels used, and they break up. Here is another official story (summarized from a chapel speaker): Football was my high school idol. Sex was my college idol. I had really bad, empty sex. It took me years to recover. Save yourselves for marriage. Finally, there are the inspiring stories: We met in college. When we was 21 and I was 19 we got married. The sex was great. Get married young. It’s worth the struggle. Think about all the testimonies about sex that you have heard from pulpits, speakers, and popular Evangelical media. What do they sound like most of the time?

Now, let’s turn to what don’t hear. Here are the unofficial testimonies of romance, sexuality, and marriage that are not given their due attention:

  • Our relationship began with a romp in bed. He wasn’t my first, I wasn’t his. It’s amazing, though, that we found each other when we did! We’ve been married six years now.
  • I got married when I was 21. It was the worst mistake of my life. Neither of us was emotionally or financially prepared, and we divorced. I am glad that we didn’t make babies, but I know many people who did.
  • Years of religious sexual repression caused me to fear sex. When I got married, I was unable to reach orgasm or even enjoy it. This damaged the spiritual, emotional, and sexual connection with my husband.
  • I am not able to interact romantically with the opposite sex because I cannot tell what is physical attraction and what is lust.
  • The “duck tape parable” made me afraid to be vulnerable with anyone. Then I entered into a sexual relationship. Somehow, that gave me confidence.
  • My family refused to attend my wedding because I married a divorced woman. This hurt both of us deeply.
  • I am gay, and in a happy monogamous relationship.
  • Lot’s of Christian couples wait until marriage before first penetration. They also do everything else before marriage.

Can you imagine these spoken from a pulpit or published by a focus-on-the family webzine? Some of the stories here will actually get you removed from a church, or at least marginalized while you attend. That’s because these testimonies violate the official moral paradigm of Evangelicalism. It’s a kind of spiritual censorship, which makes the goal of “authenticity” impossible. Does that seem right to you?

Despite the dogmatics that come down from Colorado Springs, the spot-light pulpits, and the megachurches, most young evangelicals aren’t buying the official stories or at least aren’t following its subsequent moral prescription. This means that the value-makers and leaders of Evangelicalism are out of touch with reality. If any of us presume to use the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” we have to be candid about what the collective experience is.

It’s for these two reasons that I will donate to this cause:

Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex.

I hope that you will too because their deadline is less than two weeks away. The website is here, at kickstarter.com and they accept pledges from one dollar to a thousand. No one knows what the result of this documentary will be when it is completed, but I think it will do justice to many people who felt the power of religious censor. At the same time, it will help any minister or pastor to take hard look at their congregations, espeically their college ministries.

And it wouldn’t hurt to promote the cause via twitter, reddit, Facebook, or similar means. That’s what the buttons below are for.

I hope though, that we can all be kind when we pick up the hammers and shatter the stained glass.

>As I wandering through Sunae, in Korea, I was listening to another episode of the Boundless show. The hosts were having a round table discussion on who to date and who not date. There is, after all, a tendency of some people not to date anyone unless they know everything about the other person, from their denomination to their sexual history. Boundless thought, correctly, that this is unreasonable. It was their opinion that the criteria of who is eligible for an eligible date boils down to one thing: is that person a Christian?

This a good thought, but you can’t help but wonder if it is that simple. Evangelical Christians and non-Evangelical Christians should be able to enter into a relationship. Yet simply adding religion to a relationship creates an entire spider web of issues that must be dealt with one way or another. Can Evangelical Christians and Non-Evangelical Christian date? (note, I’m asking about romantic involvement prior to marriage, not marriage.)

On facebook, my friends Andre and Nicole rightly mentioned that the terms need a bit more qualification. As a starting point for discussion here are three different pairs of potentially star-crossed lovers. Let’s assume that all couples here are in their 20s and have never been married.

First, She’s new to Seattle and joined Mars Hill Church! He’s a nominal Methodist. They met at a friend’s birthday. Star-crossed?

Second She came from a Catholic high school and he’s a big fan of Rob Bell! They both attend UC San Diego! Star-crossed?

Third He’s from the PCUSA and a conservative Calvinist. She’s from Calvary Chapel. They’ve both been in marathon training. Star-crossed?

So the door is open for discussions. Ponder a bit before you respond. Also, don’t feel like you have to share you own observations and experiences, though it would be nice to see some real life examples here.

For my part, there is one thing worth mentioning. One of favorite theologians once explained that Aristotelian Love is “like seeks after like.” Christian love includes this, but it must go one step further. Christian love loves what is different, alien, and foreign.

In light of that I would like to believe that I am still open to dating an Evangelical despite shedding the Evangelical mantle years ago. Yet I am not naive. I know that evangelicalism has its own list of customs, expectations, and rules that I am not sure if I could fit into.

Yet there is hope. As I type this, I have one friend who is engaged to someone outside of his tradition. He is not the first either.

I look forward to everyone sharing their thoughts, especially those long explanations hinted at on facebook.

>If there’s one thing I like about Korea, its that I have lots of time to listen to podcasts. I randomly downloaded a few from “Boundless” which is far as I can tell is Focus on the Family for twenty somethings. In Podcast 156 the host read an eMail from a listener. It was a question about how to approach men. The guest answered.

Here’s the irony: It is a dating question about men. All three people involved were women.

So for a different perspective, I hope that all guys reading this post -married, single, dating whatever- take a chance to read this question from a concerned reader. Answer -in this blog- about how you would answer this question because your insights lasts longer here than on facebook.

“A couple of friends and I have been trying out eHarmony. In an effort to the let the men lead, I’ve been waiting for my matches to initiate contact before entering into a conversation with them. The trouble is that there are two or three who’ve intrigued me from their profile, but they have not contacted me. After two or three weeks, I wonder if I’ve just gotten lost in the list of matches that accumulate over time. Would it be helpful to them to just drop an ice breaker or initiate a conversation?

How do you answer it guys?

>The Unforgivable Sin?

Posted: 28/08/2010 in marraige, sex

>Today, I really don’t have a statement or an idea to offer. It is more I have some incomplete thoughts brought on by feelings of disappointment and some frustration. This is more of a question that and issue that needs answering. Most people reading this probably have felt some of the things I have felt about the subject. So, I think I can risk sounding whiny.

Christians are usually willing to look past people’s sins, or at least we know that we are supposed to. We know that we supposed to give love, even if someone is not morally upright. We will extend the right amount of love to the lost, in order that they may be redeemed. Why does this stop short in some issues?

Two stories might help. An acquaintance of mine is dating a someone. His family is very Christian and close knit. It has been an issue of great tension that he is dating a divorcee. This tension is so bad that she is not welcome at family gatherings. While I do not know how serious the relationship is, I know that this acquaintance is a very difficult position. He will have to choose when he should not have to.

There is another all familiar story. A young couple knows they must not have sex before marriage. Like any romantic couple, they want have sex. Following the recommendations of evangelicalism, they get married so as to not live in sin. However, it later becomes apparent that neither partner was ready for marriage, and they divorce. The young divorcee is now welcomed in church as a second-class Christian. This is a familiar story to many, and you reading this can probably put in a few names.

Now, in fairness, not all churches will do this. One of the things I liked about Mosaic was that I never felt like the few divorcees (or otherwise single people) were not fully welcome.

There is still a strong streak of metaphorical stone throwing in many churches. Divorce earns someone a permanent scarlet letter. I have great trouble understanding this kind of shaming in light of grace.

>

Every once in awhile, in the world of American politics, someone comes a long and shows us how absurd we all we are. To paraphrase Neitzche, some one does politics with a hammer. The activist with a hammer today is John Marcotte who is starting a grass roots campaign to rescue marriage from the evils of divorce.

Marcotte is confident that those who defended traditional marriage with Prop 8 last year will be just as supportive of his ban divorce. To do otherwise, would be hypocritical.

I am sure many Christians out there don’t appreciate the joke. Snide remarks on his website like “hell is eternal, just like your marriage was supposed to be” are likely to get under people’s skin. Yet he has a point he is trying to get across and it wouldn’t be right to ignore the issue that his project raises. Such would seem to affirm his accusation of hypocrisy. Instead, I think maybe we need to think carefully about the problem reflect on our own social ethic. While I don’t think the charge of “hypocrisy” really sticks, I think there is a serious question about consistency on this issue.

The problem is this: What exactly does defending marriage mean? Conservative Christians have fairly clear idea of its definition: marriage is between man and women. Thus, many Christians felt that it made sense to vote “yes” on Prop 8 because that affirms the traditional view. The reasoning behind the social ethic was fairly simple for most:

1. Christians believe that marriage is between man and a woman.
2. Therefore, we should make sure that is the law.

Now, there are many other arguments that were added, but I don’t think there is much doubt that at the root, it Christians defended traditional marriage because this is the way God intends it. Defending it means protecting it with secular law.

So why not do the same thing with divorce? Jesus condemns divorce explicitly in the Gospels. While we all know many divorced Christians, few Christians say that divorce is concept we want to endorse any more than gay marriage. So consider this reasoning:

1. Christians believe that marriage should not end with a divorce.
2. Therefore, we should make sure that’s the law.

What is preventing us from taking this route? If defending marriage means making secular law that affirms what Christians think about it, then legally recognizing divorce is just as much of a problem as legally recognizing gay marriage. Many of the anti-gay marriage arguments apply here too. Non-divorce is clearly better for procreation and raising children. How might this charge of inconsistency be resolved?

I know that many thoughtful Christians will offer good reasons of how to resolve this issue. Here is mine: Traditional, Christian, ideas about the religious sacrament of marriage cannot be defended by appeals to secular law. I do not think that secular law has the right to define marriage at all, whether “marriage” accepts gays or not. I would happily take a “civil union” if that means my religion -and only my religion- defines my marriage. It was on this principle that I abstained from voting on Prop 8 last year. If Christians want to defend our religious practices, than we need to do it with our own religious institutions and not hold hands with secular law.

This may not be convincing to some, and that’s okay. My way may not be the best way. But I still feel there needs to be a way out of the inconsistency. If you have another and better way, please post it!

After all, someone has to shut up the activist with the hammer.

And if you liked this little blog, go ahead and re-post on facebook!

>We all did it. We all grow up evangelicals or something similar. Then, we went to a Christian college and likely attended a few Christian college and career groups. We probably have been through a few camps and summits. We are all now the quarter life Christians out in the world.

And if any of us are not married, we’ve likely felt the pressure to hurry up and do so!

For those of us, who for whatever reason, remain single in our twenties, I like to think that our Churches get it, but the reality is that evangelical culture can sometimes be less than understanding. Folks like Josh Harris, Dobson et al make marriage seem like requisite for all “real” Christians. Fortunately, I recently stumbled on an old article written by the Internet monk that was a nice change, especially in light of the case for young marriage in Christianity today.

I won’t go through the whole article, but there are number of things in it I liked. Internet Monk asks whether we emphasize marriage to much. His answer is in many ways “yes.” Let’s start with this.

Saying that delaying marriage is bad is overemphasizing marriage. This is too simplistic, and we all know it. Don’t get me wrong. Mohler sees a legitimate problem: singleness as an excuse for immaturity and rejecting legitimate adul;t responsibilities. There are such people. I’ve met them. Kick them in the pants.
On the other hand, there are so many other legitimate, good reasons people delay marriage, it’s almost beyond belief that they are ignored. Mohler is speaking to the culture that he sees influencing America in sitcoms like “Friends.” Let me speak about the single’s culture I see at our ministry here.

Oh wise Internet Monk, you speak the truth. Thank you for affirming those who delay marriage for good reasons. Thank for reminding us that we can be faithful Christians when we live in large cities, have ambitious career, education, artistic or even religious commitments that force us to put of marriage past the ripe age of 21!

We overemphasize marriage when those who are not married are out of the “center” of the Christian community, thus violating clear implications of the ministry of Jesus. I am extremely concerned that the emphasis on marriage in contemporary evangelicalism has created an imbalance within the body of Christ. I am already sensitive to this because of my own life experience.

This is another great point. How many post-college single people stick around the college groups? Feels odd doesn’t it? One wonders exactly what we’re supposed to though, if every other demographic segregation is geared towards married people and their kids.

I would also like to speak for myself here. I am very, very, tired of how evangelical culture shuns the divorced and those who have had or are having sex outside of marriage. Why are these two things the litmus test for who is a “real” Christian? It seems very arbitrary to me.

I think he really hits the nail on the head with this though. What about dating and “courtship”?

1) Courtship is far from a Biblically established and ordained way of finding a spouse. Ever since post-Josh Harris youth speakers began saying “Don’t date. Court!” there’s been enough confusion on this topic to fill a warehouse. This essay won’t attempt to straighten that out, other than to say this: The view of family and adulthood I read in the courtship movement would be quite at home in medieval Islam. If an individual wants a parentally supervised or arranged marriage, then by all means they should have it, but nothing in the Bible compels such a thing. If we are going back to the view of women in Leviticus, please let me know.

2) Dating is not a dirty word. In fact, what I am learning is that there is so much mass confusion over single people of opposite genders spending time together that condemnation of dating is no longer a fringe activity. It is mainstream. Parents of small children confidently assert their children will not date. Those who have dated imply that it was sex, 24/7 and ruins marriage. Dating leads to depression, suicide and certain divorce. All this is said routinely.

I can’t speak to the details of the courtship thing. I can only say that my experience with it was not positive. Believe it or not, dating and relationships is something that is learned by doing not by some kind of pious avoidance of the opposite sex. Even at my Christian alma mater, I know that many of the girls were upset about how the guys were not open to casual dating. Is the courtship movement partially to blame for this? Yes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that people should stay single forever. My own long stretch has gone past due, and is especially poignant since my recent summer relational debacle. Nonetheless, I like that there are those out there will to openly question the “hurry up and get married” script that is so often prescribed in the evangelical land.

Thanks for reading.

>Christianity Today published an article on the case for young marriage. The author argues that in addition to teaching abstinence, Christianity needs to emphasize the virtues of marriage, specifically young marriage, to Christians. This is clearly a step in the right direction, but I have mixed reactions to the article.

For instance, the article cited that 80% of Christians have pre-marital sex. The author also admitted that “not all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks.” It’s nice of him to say so. There is however, an obvious implication here that is unaddressed in the article: of what value, then, is our abstinence culture? It seems that the promises of abstaining do not guarantee a good marriage and sex life later on. Likewise, pre-maritial sex does not curse one’s later marital unions. The high statistic (80%) seems to make the abstinence culture as much of a sham as Sarah Palin’s views on sex-education while bumbling to explain her pregnant 17-year old daughter. Maybe I’m harsh, but I know I can’t be the only one thinking, “the Emperor has no clothes.”

Nonetheless, the author advocates that teaching young people about what marriage is and what it is not. This, I think is a great idea. I have known many young marriages that have turned out beautifully, despite the economic and social hardships that he lists. Yes, getting married young, in many cases, is a still a good idea.

On the other hand, I am also old enough to have known more than a few divorced friends. This is not an issue to be taken lightly. One friend feels like he was simply “following a script” when he was married at 20. Another peer and his spouse where not emotionally or financially ready for the commitment -even despite the idea of marriage as formative institution. I could list a few more, but the examples need not be multiplied. The authors knows well that young marriage correlates with divorce. He is also right to point on that this is not a casual connection.

But in answering objections, I still have some questions -especially economics. The author is right that we have set a higher-than-realistic economic standard for both weddings and young marriages. I also think that he is right that helping young marriages economically is something that Christians ought to be doing. If more established people see new married couples in need of some kind assistance, providing that assistance should be the norm not the exception -if we truly believe it is as important as we claim.

However, I still don’t think that the economic concerns can be so easily overcome. The author writes from Texas, and the situation may be very different out there. I live in Los Angeles. Very, very, few people I think, are established enough to be married here by their early twenties. Putting off marriage to either establish oneself in your career or to pursue more education is, I think, I very smart decision for many people. This kind of thinking is further exacerbated by the economic outlook of my generation. Many of us know that government services like Medicare are not going to be there for us in the future. We are also keenly aware of the high cost of raising children. These are all legitimate concerns and are completely justifiable reasons to delay marriage.

Finally, there was something that the article did not address: that the divorce rate is slightly higher among evangelicals than it is in the general populace. It very likely the lack of teaching about marriage, which the author advocates, that causes this. The consequences of the present circumstance are dire however. I think many young Christians put off marriage because they see less value to it. Why push marriage on ourselves if our ideas about marriage came from the discontent unions of many of our parents, the divorces of our relatives, or even the divorces of our peers? I do not mean to denigrate the institution. I think marriage is a good thing. But if it is the intention of older Christians to inspire younger Christians to be married, then the older generation must understand that many of the young are disappointed with the institution and why.

>Myth of the One

Posted: 15/12/2008 in marraige, sex

>There is a common evangelical myth that God picked out a spouse for you, and that are you are destined to meet this person. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to blog on this. This subject has come up in many conversations with my friends. More than a few events in the past few years have made reflect on the gravity of this error. I have no idea where my blog will go in relation to this. For this blog, I can only describe its ugly consequences. For sake of brevity, I will call the idea that God picks our spouses for us as the “myth of the one.”

Some of you may have read God of the Possible. In it, Greg Boyd relates the tragic parable of “Susan.” Susan came to him very angry one day. It took Greg Boyd some time to figure it out that she was angry at God. Susan had a dream to be a missionary to Taiwan, and she believed strongly in the myth of the one. She met a nice man who also wanted to be a missionary. They dated. He eventually proposed. Surprisingly, instead of saying yes right away, she prayed about it for some time. God told her that this was, indeed, “the one.”

The story book marriage did not go well. He had an affair. They reconciled through careful pastoral care, but he cheated on her again. He was emotionally abusive on top of that. They finally divorced, but it was only afterwards that she found out that she was pregnant. So much for Jeremiah 29:11.

Now we all know what the “myth of the one” is supposed to look like. The whole point of the myth of the one is that such trauma should never occur. God somehow brings us to beatific relationships that last. What we do is just “seek him.” Dating is supposed to be replaced with “courting” for these reasons. Once God has ‘revealed’ our spouse, our relationship should happy and fulfilling. The Susan story is a dramatic counter-example to this. Further examples could abound, but I need to repeat them here.

I know that most people who are reading this do not believe in the myth of the one. Obviously, I do not either. However, I think that there a lot of Christians who do. I think the consequences, like the Susan story, are horrible. Contrary to preparing people for marriage, actually often encourages premature marriages.
Some may object at this point. Someone reading this could be thinking that they followed, or knew someone who followed, the myth of the one and are happily married. To this I say, “Congratulations, I’m happy for you.” As happy as that is, it still does not overcome the numerous Susan stories out there. To be sure, there are many people who do “find the one,” but I cannot help but feel they are an exception.

What I have never figured out, is exactly where this myth comes from. Did it start in youth ministries as the only way to curb the hormones? Was it someone’s own resolution to a bad dating relationship? Does it come out of perfectionism? Some ultra-strong version of Calvinism?

If anyone has any ideas, I am quite open to them.