Archive for the ‘sex’ Category

The fourth bomb on why young people leave the church we now discuss.  According to Barna headline it is summed up in this sentence: Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.  The article expands to the following.

One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church’s expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality.

Regular readers of this blog have seen the sexuality issue pop up several times.  For this post two things need to be parsed out: what is official view of the evangelical church, how is it simplistic (and harmful), and what ought we to do?

Simplistic testimonies: Out of Touch and Out of Date.

Evangelical theology is quite often folk theology.  This is not to say that it’s bad.  It is more a comment on how a message gets accepted and how it gets communicated.  You’ve seen it work if you have ever had someone “testify” to the goodness of God or their working in their life.  Evangelical theology is deeply rooted in the folk experiences of God’s winners.  That is, people who can tell us how great it is to live a holy life, all by the grace of God of course.

Exhibit A among “God’s Winners” is Mark Regnerus.  Several years ago, he argued for the case for young marriage.  In it he extolled the virtues of marrying young.  Naturally, he answered many of the objection such as economic insecurity, immaturity, and even a kind of romantic perfectionism.  He wisely admitted that it is unrealistic to expect people to wait.  Instead, he argues that our crisis with sexuality is really a misunderstanding of marriage.  Overall, he feels that inspiring young marriage (and helping people to get there) is the solution to our woes about sexuality.  Not surprisingly, Mark Regnerus married young.

Another issue, we can call it exhibit b for God’s winners, is he frequent testimonies and sharing on podcasts like boundless.org, such as this story about bachelor pastor who got married late in life.  In podcast 246, Steve DeWitt, talks about his lengthy time unmarried life up until age 44.  He shares his thoughts on loneliness, expectations on perhaps always being single, and a scatterings of relationships a long the way.  He remains one of God’s Winners because he remained pure.

Stories like this that help motivate the standard lines of the evangelical sexual ethic.  It can be summed in few sentences: virginity is how the unmarried stay holy.  Multiple partners will make used up.  Young men should not dishonor young women.  Young women should not dishonor themselves.  If you ‘burn with passion’ just get married young.  Marital sex is totally hot.  Look up these in any evangelical message board, any evangelical sermon, and you’ll see these memes repeated ad infintum.

Meanwhile, Tamar tempts Judah like its no big deal.

Meanwhile, Tamar tempts Judah like it’s no big deal.

Overly simplistic, harmful and marginalizing.

For the young Christians the party line creates familiar feeling.  It’s like a baby boomer telling you to “just get a job.” 

Why are these messages so completely out of touch?  Part of it is that the way church leaders dogmatically ignore bad consequences of the evangelical sexual ethic.  Feminist Jessica Valenti outlined some of the interesting lopsidedness of what she pejoratively calls “virginity fetishism.”  At purity balls, young women promise to keep their virginity intact.  Young men promise not to defile a young woman by ‘taking’  her virginity.  Does this not seem strange?  Is virginity only a quality that women have?  Why?  Such a strange emphasis on one gender is damaging.  I like to think that there is a bit more to being a ‘Godly woman’ than what doesn’t happen prior to marriage.  It is also seems to imply that women are not interested in or tempted by sex.  This is such an archaic, outdated notion that I face palm even typing it.

There are however more dramatic examples.  In one instance a kidnapped rape victim, Elizabeth Smart, endured sexual slavery at age fourteen.  She was rescued when her captors brought her out into public.  Why didn’t she just run away the first chance she got?  Elizabeth explained that rape victims struggle with a feeling of worthlessness and that this is made worse by conservative, abstinence only sex ed programs.

Some might say that this is an extreme example.  Indeed it is.  So consider the idea that virginity somehow helps single people prepare for a great marriage.  It is rare to find a Christian in their mid 20s who doesn’t know someone who wasn’t hurt by this myth.  It’s ugly result is a quick divorce to get out of a premature marriage.  One candid story, entitled “My Virignity Mistake” the author tells a story of an expensive marriage, a disappointing sex life, and a subsequent divorce.

She ends with a hopeful note:

Soon after our divorce, he got remarried to someone who suits him better than I ever could have. And years later, I can confirm that I am not that woman who has no interest in sex. I don’t quilt. I haven’t compiled a grocery list in bed in years, and I now know that sex can be amazing … with a bartender who only knows your first name, a pilot you meet on vacation in Costa Rica and yes, with the right guy – sex in a marriage can be beautiful. The key is to figure that out before you find yourself walking down an aisle in a dress that costs more than the family car (my mother has since reminded me). It isn’t the most important thing when it comes to love. But for me, I learned that sex is important enough not to wait. -Salon

As you can see by this quote, this description of sex doesn’t fit with the idea that multiple partners make a person feel used up like a piece of tape that looses its adhesive power.

Shut up and Listen

Many people will see the negative results here -a shamed rape victim, a young divorce, and a lopsided sexual dogma- and insist that these are the results of sin not the morality about sex.  Honestly, can such an attitude really reflect a thorough understanding of how “God’s losers” are experiencing sex?  Remember, part of the problem is that Evangelical sexual ethic is folk theology that’s not just proclaimed but created by the testimonies of folks like a 44 year old bachelor pastor.  I can see no justification to ignore or reinterpret stories of people who failed to get to meet the cut.  These problems are not the result of sin.  These problems are the result of an archaic, out-dated, lopsided, and completely out of touch sexual ideal.

The 80% of young Christians who are having sex anyway likely agree with this point.  If we keep beating the drum about virginity, abstinence, and the virtues of young marriage we expect more young people to leave out of sheer alienation.  If we trudge along with idealistic views of sexual purity, relationships, and dating we will lose the attention of young people who already know it isn’t working.  I can’t emphasize enough that we need to re-evaluate our sexual ethic in light of our contemporary context, rather than appealing to an imagined past or somewhat selective examination of scripture.

Let’s start by honoring young women.  You read that correctly.  The current sexual ethic is not not really helping any woman who feels used up after sex, or is feels guilty about wanting sex.  It bothers me that there are Christians out there who think that dating or marrying a non-virgin is either a taboo or a consolation prize.  We need to erase the virginal purity idea from our minds.  A women’s intrinsic worth as romantic partner no more depends on her not having had sex than a man’s not having viewed pornography.  By way of example, consider this.  Years ago, a friend once asked if she would be ‘used goods’ if she tried to date post-divorce.  I told her that any guy who would think that of her isn’t worth dating in the first place.  Why?  Most likely because he is not totally aware of his own failings when it comes to his sexuality.

More generally, we need to have a more candid two-sided dialogue, when it comes to sex.  You will notice that I did not talk about the famous passage in Corinthians.  Equally, I did not reference lesser known references to the unexpected sexuality of the old testament.  This because I find those conversations hard to start.  The impression I get from most Christian romance media and message-board discussions is that Evangelical zeitgeist is still mired in a very black and white, very dogmatic, way of thinking on this matter.  This is especially true for the organizations like boundless who speak just a bit too authoritatively about purity and romance.  We need to understand what the Bible actually says about sex, and I do mean all of the Bible, not just the verses that reinforce the folk theologies.

Fortunately, the attitude is changing.  Articles such as the ones of shared in this blog, this nice one at Internet Monk, and this wonderful documentary give me some confidence that other people’s stories will be heard.  I hope also that most of the young Christians in what Relevant calls the “secret sexual revolution” will have the confidence to be less secret about it.

Make no mistake: it’s not going to be enough to revise or re-articlate the old ethic about sex.  The current sexual ethic needs to be replaced.  If we expect to keep the coming generations, we need to get sexual ethic that makes sense.  We need to get one that works.  This will begin only when more and more young people become honest and candid with themselves.

God’s losers need to be heard.

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.

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.

I feel that there are three holy days on the Evangelical calendar: Christmas, Evangelism Sunday, and the Super Bowl.  The third is coming up this Sunday.

This year, I won’t participate in any of sacred rituals of the Superbowl.  This means I won’t be gathering around a TV with a bowl fulls of snacks, I won’t be voting for the plethora of Doritos/Pepsi commercials, and I certainly will not be procuring the services of a teenage prostitute.

Real men raise them.

By now, most people are probably aware the Super Bowl is one of the biggest hubs of sex traffic in the United States.  This should probably concern Christians because -despite various other doctrinal differences- we all believe that forced prostitution is a horrible thing.

The above is an illustration of understatement.

It’s good to know that many Churches and blogs are speaking up against this.  Right now, many Christians are helping to put a stop to it.  Churches, like Mars Hill, also speak out against it.  I have attended churches were the super bowl was an event for the church, but those churches did not speak aboutthe trafficking.  I am little chagrined about that, but I could have missed a Sunday.

Obviously Christians aren’t going to be tacit about this, but we can’t all be at the Super Bowl either.  So if you can’t volunteer at the Superbowl, what can you do to stop the trafficking?  It’s something I’ve been thinking about.

For me, I am personally boycotting the Super Bowl this year.  I don’t want the event to get any of my attention or any of cash if it also attracts that much sex trafficking.  Is this unfair to the great American Sport?  Maybe it is, but last year the Super Bowl committee was pretty silent on this problem.  Should I buy their product if I don’t have to?  I specifically walked out of the foreigner bar in Korea last year because they were hosting the Super Bowl.  I did that despite the fun I otherwise might have had that night.

Of course, I freely admit that I am not exactly a grid-iron gremlin.  I don’t even know who is playing this year.  Yet, I understand how passionate people are for this game and the sense of camaraderie it brings.  Besides, who isn’t up for an excuse to barbeque, right?

So for those who will celebrate the Super Bowl, please consider this: count every penny you spend on the Super Bowl this year.  This means the snacks, the meat, the beer/soda, and even the gas you use to drive.  Figure out what that dollar amount is and multiply it by two.  Then donate that dollar amount to International Justice Mission an organization that fights human trafficking.  You’ll spend money either way, but this way you’ll spend money to stop the injustice as well.  If a 2:1 ratio is too high for sex trafficking, trying matching every dollar you spend on fun with a donation.  If you’re like me, and already ignoring the Super Bowl, then post one of the links in this blog somewhere for a honest, descent, football fan to see.

This way, the a giant hub of sex trafficking could turn into a giant sting operation against sex trafficking.  I’d love to read blogs on Monday about how many arrests were made and victims freed.

Go celebrate the Super Bowl, and help clean up the mess in its shadow.

Quick update:  This is one of those rare blogs that are a joy to write because of the comments its brings.  After reading this, please be sure to at least skim through the comments.  Then, please repost this on facebook, twitter, or whichever your prefer because the comments are worth reading by all in the Christian community.

 

As I type this, I am in Korea and making my last plans before I leave.  Soon I will return to Los Angeles county where I will attend a wedding.

Weddings, have been happening quite a bit over the last five years.  The tend to happen a lot after college.   There are two in particular.

The first wedding recently passed and it began the marriage of one of my life long friends.  This was a big step for someone who grew up in a divorced home since he was four.  The wedding had only a few friends attending.  It was at a location that was special to the couple.  It was the wedding they wanted, and not the one their families wanted.  You see, this couple -who had been co-habitating- decided that quick eloping was best because their families were simply making far to many demands.

The second wedding is an upcoming wedding.  It is from a couple that met at our Alma Mater.  Both of the families are two parent homes and have families that support their decision.  I do not doubt one bit that there are plenty of snags in the planning, but this couple is very blessed to have financial and emotional support they do.  Naturally, they are not co-habitating.

Now, which couple is most likely to be welcomed, supported, and approved by your church?  My hope is that you could honestly say “both equally” though we know in many churches this is not the case.  In some cases, a couple in cohabitation will be thought of as a pair of “seekers” who need to be prayed for and carefully instructed.  Other times, maybe they will be asked to leave.  There are, though, many churches that would consider such a situation a non-issue.  Though that is rare.

Whether we’re comfortable admitting it or not, we must look at the negative affects our Christian prescriptions have on people -and the moral prescription for marriage, sex, and cohabition is summed up in one sentence.  “Everyone should just get married young.”  Added in the fine print to the prescription are clauses like, “never marry a divorced person” or “co-habitation is faithlessness” and so on and so on.  It is proclaimed by everything from parachurches like Boundless.org and magazines like Christianity Today.  It is made to sound simple.  If there be any hardship, God will take care of it.  God will take care of it so well, that to not obey is inexcusable.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that this violates the command to love one’s neighbor.

The big problem is this:  There is nothing “simple” about a marriage and that problem is only worsen by making it “young” marriage.  But young marriages can succeed, right?  Yes.  Many young marriages do succeed.  However, it seems that those that do succeed will probably have an entire apparatus of support that many do not have.  Take a hypothetical example of two couples in their early 20s.  A betting man probably doesn’t want to place his chips on a couple from divorced families or unstable ones.  A betting man will put his money on a pair that comes with different background.  That background is two nuclear families that were emotionally stable enough to give the right model for their kids.  Also, both these families are probably going to be shelling out a bit for the wedding.

Now, that model has not been normal since at least the early 90s.  So why are people still willing to declare young marriage “simple”?  Most people who are reading this can think of not just a few, but probably several people they know in their early 20s who either lack the financial means to get married or are not emotionally prepared to do so.  Honestly, it seems to me that there might be good reasons why people would co-habitate rather than get married at 23.  Faithlessness isn’t the only reason.

Now, some may object here and rightfully point out that the beginning of marriage does not actually have to be expensive.  After all, a few legal fees and a visit to a courthouse is all that is actually needed.  The average cost of about twenty grand is actually superfluous.  While this is true, we have to wonder whether a secular institution -and yes courthouses are secular like the  rest of our government- can confer something that Christians believe is deeply spiritual and religious.  Boundless has had a few discussions about what makes a “Christian wedding.”  Does the courthouse visit meet the standards?  Additionally, is the wedding everyone deserves -imagine your ideal for the moment- something that is for everyone or a privilege for those whose families can pay for it?

Many others probably note that referencing people’s lives, hypothetical situations, and not citing scripture much on this issue.  This is because I was steeped in what’s called the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” which states that the experiences of cultures and individuals will not only affect how you ask theological questions, but how you answer them.  This is not a purist, quasi-scientific, notion of sola scripture nor is it rigorous Reformed systematic.  I realize that there are many Christians out there who feel that a deliberate, consious effort to ignore the experiences of human beings in favor of a very strong  sense sola scriptura is the best the way to go.  The Bible, after all, should tell you everything you need to know about anyone.  While I do not share this view, it is probably at least logically consistent.

However, when I do think of scripture, I think of the command to love one’s neighbor as yourself.  It seems from Jesus’ ministry, that love was supposed to trump rules, laws and traditions.   When co-habitating couples are excluded from assembly or otherwise marginalized rules are probably more important than love.  For instance, I have heard rather callous, and knee-jerk, comparisons between visiting temple prostitutes in the world of Rome (see 1 Corinthians 6) and cohabitation.  In the minds of many Christians, these situations are morally and spiritually identical.  Yet I cannot help but feel that this is a violation of the commandment to love one’s neighbor.  The critics, in this case, have not so much as taken the time to ask or to understand why a couple might cohabitate.  Unless they do, they cannot truly know whether or not that couple sins.

Of course, many might think at this point this point that loving one’s neighbor is making sure that neighbor knows that they are not following God’s laws.  Furthermore, they must also know that God gives them the grace in order to follow such laws.  This seems odd because I am fairly certain that any evangelical or anyone who knows an evangelical knows what the evangelical (God’s?) laws are when it comes to sex, marriage, and cohabitation.  They probably don’t need to hear it.  Regarding grace, such an approach is the wrong meaning of the word.  “Grace” does not mean that God helps you follow laws so that you can have a good relationship with God.  Grace means you have a good relationship with God, regardless of how often you fail to keep certain laws.  To borrow from a Lutheran minister, heaven will be filled with failed Christians.  Why should anyone have to be a successful Christian to be welcome at a church?

Maybe if we really want these people who are co-habitating to get married, it might be a good idea to treat them better.

For sake of my own friendships, and for sake of my own conscience, I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to consider a young marriage somehow superior to co-habitation.  It is not that I do not think that a young marriage is not a wonderful thing.  It is that I do not think a marriage or a union is diminished by cohabitation or similar so called compromises or shortcomings.  I am simply no longer able to silently judge those who fail to follow an idealized moral prescription.  Love of one’s neighbor is supposed to transcend laws of holiness.

Some of the best relationships I have seen did not need the laws anyway.

>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.

>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.

>Too Damn Smart to Get Any?

Posted: 01/05/2009 in sex

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After my previous blog on Ayn Rand and sex I have been hoping to post another follow up relational issues. Thanks to my friend Adam, I have new article that is both funny sad. Why is it that being smart doesn’t get you any?
The article starts quite wittingly:

Smart kids usually come from smart families. And smart families are usually achievement-oriented. Bring me home those straight As, son. Get into those top colleges, daughter. Take piano, violin, tennis, swimming and Tibetan throat-singing lessons. Win every award there is in the book. Be ‘well-rounded.’

At the same time, there’s an opportunity cost associated with achievement. Time spent studying, doing homework, and practicing the violin is time not spent doing other things — like chasing boys or girls, which turns out is fairly instrumental in making you a well-rounded human.

Guilty as charged on my part. It’s what you get when you’re half-asian and descended from educators. I can think of a lot of other people who fit this mold too. Can we really help it if we want to be Renaissance men? Super talented ubermenschen?

Ironically, I believe that it is a drive to accomplish and to have a list of accomplishments that make someone attractive. All other things remaining equal, would you want to date someone who has completed college or someone who didn’t? Or how about someone who plays an instrument well as opposed to with mere proficiency? Is someone with a black-belt in Aikido more or less interesting than someone without?

Intelligent type A personalities have such a horrible catch-22 when it comes to dating. They can attract, but are too busy to do anything about it.

Let’s say by ‘smart’ we mean ‘in the top 5% of the population in terms of intelligence and education’. Generally speaking, smart people seek out other smart people to hang out with, simply because they get bored otherwise. And if they’re going to spend a lot of time with someone, intelligence in a partner is pretty much a requirement.

This makes sense to me for the similar reasons as I explained in the Ayn Rand blog.

I think that healthy, confident, people (perhaps men in particular) seek out their equals. Sadly, those who join MENSA find their pools small. I think the article gives some good advice: loosen up.

I still can’t stand stupid girls though.

Finally there is this.

Here’s an incontrovertible fact: every one of your ancestors survived to reproductive age and got it on at least once with a member of the opposite sex. All the way back to Homo erectus. And even further back to Australopithecus. And even further back to monkeys, to lizards, to the first amphibian that crawled out of the slime, the fish that preceded that amphibian, the worm before the fish and the amoeba that preceded the worm.

And you, YOU, in the year 2009 C.E., the culmination of that miraculously unbroken line of succession, you, Homo sapiens sapiens, not just thinking man but thinking thinking man or woman, are the only one smart enough to SCREW THE WHOLE THING UP.

I actually laughed out loud when I read this. Isn’t intelligence supposed to be an evolutionary advantage? I guess not. This creates a whole new level to future idiocracy.

I dedicate this blog to all my friends who are also token single guys. You all know who you are.

Thanks for reading.

>Ayn Rand on Sex

Posted: 26/03/2009 in Ayn Rand, sex


The recent string of marriages and long term relationships have got me thinking about some kind of positive view of sex. Obviously, the Christian faith doesn’t teach that sex is dirty. My many theologically minded friends and I have often joked about the bizarre sexual repression of Victorianism. Yet still the other extreme is really not right either. In Atlas Shrugged, I came across something interesting. Ayn Rand (among the mountains of other expositions) dealt with sex in it. Like just about any secular philosophy, I found a lot of good and some things bad. Either way, at least it gives a secular justification to prefer something other than skirt chasing.

The exposition is the in the form dialogue. Two Characters, both super-men in their own rights, have a frank and intimate discussion on the subject: one is Francisco, another is Hank Rearden. The two men already respect each other as equals. Francisco has even gone to the point of telling Rearden that he is “one of the last moral men in the world.” Hank Hearden is confused by this compliment because Francisco is an apparent rich play boy who is always in the company of women -not exactly someone that you would accept a comment on morality from. What makes it even more confusing for Hank has never thought of Francisco as a low-brow kind of guy. Francisco responds to this confusion:

[Francisco asked Rearden] “Do you know of your own first-hand knowledge that I spend my life running after women?”
“You’ve never denied it.”
“Denied it? I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to create that impression.”
“Do you mean it isn’t true?”
“Do I strike you as a man with a miserable inferiority complex?”
“Good God, no!”
”Only that kind of man spends his life running after women.”

Naturally, this is something that is probably grating in our world of rap stars and Hugh Hefner’s. Fortunately for us, Francisco goes on to explain what he means. First, love and the sexual impulse are not blind, uncontrollable, forces in his world. Rather, sex is connected with our minds and our views of ourselves. He says, “A man’s* sexual choice is the result and sum of his fundamental convictions… Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself.” In other words, who we are attracted to depends largely on how we subconsciously (or consciously!) view ourselves. A man “will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself.” From here, he either expresses his own value, or he fakes it.

Francisco goes on to describe two types of men. The first is Ayn Rand’s hero. This man, as Francisco says, “will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer –because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement, not the possession of a brainless slut.” In other words, real men don’t chase porn-stars and strippers. These women, at very minimum, act like brainless meat. Instead Ayn Rand’s hero will look for someone as accomplished as himself, as moral as himself, as hard-working as himself and so on.

Someone who is secretly insecure is far worse off. Someone who feels worthless “will be drawn to a woman he despises-because she will reflect his own secret self, she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud, she will give him a momentary illusion of his own value.” So the problem with a play boy is this: since they have little value in themselves, and they secretly know it, they try to create through sex with someone equally empty. This is, in Ayn Rand’s terms, is putting the effect (sex) before the cause (self-worth). This is much of fraud as someone who has a college diploma without finishing college, buys a BMW on money they didn’t earn, or takes control of a railroad that someone else built. Most obviously, it may be the attempt to use the effect and expression of emotional intimacy to create emotional intimacy.

Some Flies in the Ointment?

Naturally, there are somethings I don’t like. Ayn Rand believes that sex is a selfish act, and cannot be done any other way. Additionally, what someone admires in another person is all that one sees as good in oneself. Now obviously, people may have sex have their own “rational self interest” but in Christianity I can’t see why it should ever be only this. One’s own interest and the interest of the other need not be disjunctive. Furthermore, Love can never be just a simple extension of narcissism.

Also, in this same conversation, Fracisco decries “charity” as a pitiful response to flaws whereas his idea of admiration is a response to values. It’s evident from the rest of the discussion that this is an implicit criticism of Christian love. What confuses me is that in Christian charity people may respond to flaws, but never because of flaws. Acts of mercy and charity overlook flaws precisely because it sees values -potential values, but still values.

Even beyond that, the type of Love that a Christians have when they take pity or charity on someone in need is different than the kind of love that motivates them to seek out a partner, which in turn is different than the love they have for friends. Ayn Rand is on to a good start, but her look at love here seems very binary, whereas Christian charity is multifaceted.

The end?

So there it is. I really think Ayn Rand had something worth saying here. I like the idea, and am more happy to think of sex and romance being tied closely to my code of values. I like the idea that who I seek out and may be interested in are naturally those who closely reflect those values. I think she is clearly also right about sex and a sense of low self-worth. Even more right that people may use sex to fool themselves.

Naturally though, I think Ayn Rand was off about sex being a purely selfish act. I can’t imagine a healthy sexual relationship can ever happen between two narcissists, and anyone who wants to be lovers to anyone will have to overlook flaws.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment!

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* My apologies to those of you who have the “XX” chromosome set. Obviously, I write from the “XY” perspective. I can’t help my gender or what Ayn Rand wrote.