Tag Archives: love

1 Corinthians 13 (II)


In this post we resume my meditations on 1 Corinthians 13 (see pt I here), Paul’s famous ‘love chapter’, and we do so by going to the next verse:

And if I have prophecy,
and know all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can remove mountains,
but do not have love,
I am nothing.

We started out with a rather radical verse, and now we continue in the same vein, maybe even more radical. What Paul says here is that even with all prophecy, mysteries, knowledge and faith we are still nothing if we don’t have love. The love mentioned here is still the NT idea of loving God above all and fellow humans as ourselves, which includes our enemies. The full characteristics ofreLOVEution this love will be summed up in the second part of the chapter so we’ll arrive at that later. Paul is very clear hear. In the first verse he used metaphor and said that all languages of the world and beyond without love are just a noisy cymbal, but here he is very clear.

If I have no love I am nothing.

Let that sink in again.

If you have no love, you are nothing…

The things Paul sums up are what a lot of people are searching for. Prophecies are divine revelations, mysteries are hidden things we cannot know until we are initiated. Knowledge is something we all still search for. All our modern science and technology comes out of that search for knowledge.

All these things will not benefit us in the end if we don’t have love…

Interestingly Paul does add one more thing here: faith. His wording hereis a direct allusion to Jesus, who said that if you have faith like a mustard seed you can move a mountain with it. But without this love for God and fellow humans all faith is just psychology and magic. Faith is relational, and comes down to trust, and trust goes together with love here. We are to have faith in God, to trust God.

(The more I let this sink in the more I wonder about certain things I’ve seen in certain corners of the charismatic world. But I am not the one to judge)

I do not at all think Paul means that those things are unimportant, but he is quite clear that, for a Christian, love is important in such a way that we can have all the rest and still be nothing without it. Love is not just the law, it is both the way and the goal, though it will never be complete on this side of the New Heaven and Earth.

Without it we’re indeed nothing.

(Note also here that stuff like money and power are NOT even mentioned here. I do think Paul mentions things that do have worth for Christians here, and omits things we should not give too much attention to )

Peace

Bram

1 Corinthians 13 (I)


I don’t know where my year of demodernisation is going, apart from trying to stay away from too much Dawkinsian naturalist fundamentalism and not ingesting too much American stuff at the same time. At the moment it might seem that I’m mainly exploring the occult, and sometimes going back to discussions about sex(ism) and stuff like that. I will try to go to completely different domains too though.

I thought it might be good, being a Christian blogger of sorts after all, to spend some time on the bible parts (and other texts probably) I’m trying to meditate on, and write rather short posts -or longer ones like this one- about them. So I will start in this post with a series on one of my favorite chapters of the bible, one of the most famous parts of Christian scripture: the famous ‘love chapter’ from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 13;1
1 Corinthians 13 is maybe one of the most romanticised parts of the Christian bible, but it seems to me that both the importance and the depth of what Paul is telling us here are often understated. The consequences of this chapter are beyond what you’d think when you just read it superficially. That’s why I’m going to break this into small parts of one or more verses, to let every detail sink in.

We begin with the beginning:
If I speak in the tongues of men
and of angels,
but I do not have love,
I am a noisy gong
or a clanging cymbal.

Rosetta_Stone I do know a few languages. My native language is Dutch, and my second language is English (especially written English even). I do know a bit of French as a Belgian, can understand a little bit of Latin, and if I’d work on it I’d be able to read some old Greek again. And then there are languages in which I know only a few words. (My Japanese is better than my Russian, but still almost non-existing…)

There are a lot of human languages that are spoken today, and even more if we count the extinct ones in which texts still survive. One can spend a lifetime learning to still master only a fraction of them. And then there are the languages of angels, of which we do know nothing, and will never know anything, they use our languages to communicate with us, but I do know some Pentecostals believe some people who speak in tongues might have a ‘prayer language’ that’s not human but angelic.

It actually does not matter. We could know all languages of all language-using beings in the universe, but if we don’t have anything to say, it doesn’t matter.
It will all be worth nothing more than senseless noise. I do feel a bit offended as a drummer here that Paul uses cymbals and gongs here to signify something like ‘useless noise’, but it’s true that banging on a cymbal is always a lot of noise, and unless that noise does fit in some context, like a composition, or a ritual, or a lesson or practice for learning to do these things, we shouldn’t do it.

Someone once said to not break the silence unless you can improve it!

And what is the only way to improve the metaphorical silence? What is the only way to make those languages more than mindless noise?

Love

Yes, let that sink in, Love!

Anyone who knows the NT should not be surprised. Love is what it all is about according to Jesus. To love God with all that we are, and to love our neigbor as ourselves is the whole law. And it is the purpose of the law. It’s the Kingdom of God breaking in into this present age when we live in this love.

And nothing else makes much sense.

This goes deeper than I can realise and I’m only scratching the surface here,  so I think I have to meditate some more on this one verse before I go to sleep

Peace to you all

Bram

On basic human dignity and ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’…


Note: I never completely understood the use of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ in the context of homosexuality, and I am not speaking about that interpretation at all here. I would probably be better if that application and its connotations just didn’t exist, for it does not seem to bring much good. I just use the saying here for the plain meaning, apart from its (ab)use in certain discussions…

“Love the sinner and hate the sin.” -St Augustine in Opera Omnia, Vol II. Col. 962, letter 211

man and woman
Let’s start with the Basic human dignity in the title: as a Christian I do believe that every human has an intrinsic worth, just for being a human being. (Just as everything in Creation has to some degree a worth in just being what it is, that surpasses all our ways of measuring value in monetary units) we are all humans: men, women, children, old people, handicapped people, people we disagree with, people who say and do wrong things, people in countries we don’t like, very rich people and very poor people… And we all have more value than money could ever buy. This is because you and me and every other specimen of Homo sapiens is made in Gods image, the Imago Dei as theologians call it in Latin!

God created humans in his image and said “and God saw that what He had made was very good.” But we all know that this isn’t the state the world is in now, long after the first chapters of genesis (and probably long before the last chapters of revelations) But even if the Imago dei has been damaged, it is not destroyed, and we do all still bear the Image of God in us. Every human being, even the worst ones included, have enormous worth, just because they are human. We do not have conditional humanity, even the worst sinner is still to be respected as a human being, even if all his rights or his life are to be taken away by our worldly juridical system. Like the Orthodox fathers say, sin does never destroy our human nature even as sinful fallen being… It can seriously damage it though… No-one is beyond salvation on this side of eternity, so no Christian should treat any human like that…

Surely we all know the paradise story, and that the icon of God has been damaged… ‘Human depravity’ is a term used (and abused) by theologians to indicate that humans are fallen beings, often inclined to do wrong, which will hurt ourselves, our relationships with others, with the rest of Creation and with God Himself. We miss the mark, we do injustice to others and ourselves. This is so with all of us I am afraid. This is what sin is!

I should remark here that this doesn’t exclude that there’s not as well a basic goodness still left within every human being too, even though it might be damaged. All things created by God possess some goodness, as the creation story teaches us. People who come with extreme versions of ‘total depravity’ and argue that even babies are evil wretched sinners with no good intentions at all are just creepy and should not be put within a 1 km radius of any baby. My experience with my own kids shows that this view on babies is just faeces from a big male bovine mammal as the English-speaking like to say it when their grandmother is not around… But our human goodness can be distorted, along with Gods image in us, sometimes at the brink of total destruction.

So we indeed are all sinners and under the influence of sin as it pervades our world and our human systems, as the Christian faith tells us. But sin is not just some abstract condition we’re in that offends an easily offended Supreme being because of some weird theoretical problems with it. It seems to me that our theories so often make sin too abstract, too big and too otherworldly to do anything against in the real world, only accept the sacrifice of Jesus to erase the punishment. Such an approach actually does not do much justice to sin at all. If we can’t help but sin, and having one wrong thought is as evil as killing a whole continent full of people, cute kittens and endangered pandas, what does it matter anyway? It is so over the top that the word sin loses any actual real-world meaning.
Such views do also seem to forget that Jesus did not just come to destroy our punishment, but to do away with sin itself, and with our slavery to evil and death, and to defeat the devil and stuff like that.

Moreover sin is not just something abstract that is evil because it breaks some rules that were written thousands of years ago… It is very real, tangible, and something that does destroy our life and those of others! Bad habits, things that make it hard to have a life in connection with God and our neighbor, things that make it hard to live with ourselves, things that destroy creation itself, and so on. All of those things are sin. They are bad for very clear reasons. Sin always is destructive in some way…

And yes, we should look at our own sin first, but a lot of sin does not just affect one person. We have systems of systemic sin oppressing the poor, destroying creation, and so on. We have people persisting in habits that do not only destroy their own lives, but those of their family and loved ones too. So if I have a friend who’s an alcoholic, who is destroying himself and his family, and our friendship, and more things with that problem, is it then not just appropriate to just hate that sin? How could I love my friend without hating the thing that destroys him? Some people might say that alcoholism is not a sin but a disease, but there are many more aspects to sin than ‘breaking this or this law’, and a lot of church fathers did describe sin as a disease permeating human lives, and it often works that way!

So we should hate sin whenever we encounter its destructive force at work in human lives. And no, hating sin understood properly is not at all a rejection of the person, it is the opposite. The person should never be rejected even if they are being destroyed by sin. We should always try to love and help the person. To live in a way that brings the Kingdom of God here and now, even in this broken world. We know that destruction still reigns here, and that only in an ‘eschatological horizon’ sin will be completely done away with, but we need to live as ambassadors of a world without sin, without hate, without the destruction of good things. Which means that we’ll hate the forces that do destroy, of which sin is a very important one…

We will encounter sin in both our own lives and the lives of others, and see its destroying qualities at work. If we love the person, and see the sin destroy his life or the lives of others, we cannot do otherwise than hate the sin…

Let me also say here that we do not need to denounce everything we think violates certain rules or whatever. Sin is not about breaking rules in the first place. Rules are there(if they are just) to make sure we don’t sin, because the sin is evil. Law is there to prevent evil and destruction (or social incoherence) and is only secondary here. Law is just an aftermath of sin trying to prevent it from attacking again. I am speaking here of situations in which we see sin that is effectively destroying people, about real sin that is objectively evil because it does harm people. Rules, laws and even bible interpretations are not always the most relevant arbiter here…

Note also that a lot of the more horrible sinners -killers, druglords, rapists, slave traders, women traffickers, dictators,…- are just those who manifestly do NOT believe in this basic human dignity and just act upon it accordingly. If you think that poor people, or people of another skin color, culture, language or religion, or the other sex (or those outside of 2 binary genders) are for some reason less human like you, you will most probably automatically treat them as less than human…

But this does not mean that even those people can change and repent and change their ways, and come to a path that leads to life for themselves and many others. Note that for example the apostle Paul was a recovered Christian-hunter who had approved of the killing of Stephen, the first Christian martyr according to the book of acts. He did terrible atrocities that should be hated (and yet forgiven) but afterwards he became a Christian like there haven’t been many in the history of Christianity.

And even if they don’t, we have to respect their humanity that’s created in Gods image, but never their sin. No-one is beyond salvation, no matter how big their sin! Every human being has basic human dignity.

There is no option for Christians to put any human being beyond salvation and write them off because they are ‘too sinful’. We are to love everyone created in Gods image. And the sin is never an intrinsic part of what makes us a human being, it is the damage done to it by our fallen world. And we should be willing to pray for even the most evil of our fellow humans to be saved from their sin, because if it destroys the humanity of others, it does destroy their humanity too!(I do not know if there is a ‘point of no return’ where a person is so destroyed by sin that the imago dei is lost beyond recovery, but we do not need to think like that! It’s up to God to judge in the end what can be salvaged and what not, now we should just love… Showing love to sinners might be the thing that brings them back anyway!)

We should love the sinners. They are human beings like us, equivalent to us. It is not right to think they would be under us in any way just as it is wrong to think we’re more than them in any way. And we should hate the sin, we should never affirm it, or bow for it, or think that the sin is the essence of the person.

If we let the sin between us define the other person as ‘less human’ than us and makes us view or treat them accordingly, sin has already won one more round. Just as much as it would have won if we’d have joined the sin itself…

What do you people think?

Peace

On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?


I read this excellent bvenus_de_milo1logpost by Sarah Schwartz, and American Christian blogger, in which she apologises for the damaging way men are often viewed in her (sub)culture. A quite horrible view of men, that’s preached not just by women, but by men too. The way she expresses it goes probably a lot further than what I know from local Christian circles, but I do recognise it nonetheless. What’s more troubling is that I recognise it not mainly from Christian circles but much more strongly from other places, and it’s something I’ve always been sensitive towards because I found it quite painful.

I posted the post above on my facebook-wall with a quote from her and a short introduction:

Quite sexist to reduce men to this, not? I hope she exaggerates, but I do recognise some of it…
“You are nothing but a slave to your desires. You are a sex hungry, uncontrollable, animal-like creature with no capacity for empathy or self-control. It is laughable to think that you could possibly prize relationships over sex, people over sex, vows over sex. You are sub-human, and no one expects anything different from you.”

The first person on facebook who reacted, Simon, has no connection at all to American Christian fundamentalism at all, but did surely recognise it as a very real problem, even on facebook:

Too bad the capitalist consumerist greedy types never cease trying to rewire our brains… For example: as a male I am constantly bombarded with sex ads on facebook (to a point where it’s disgusting me), even after I ‘told’ facebook I’m in a relationship. It’s a never ending onslaught and I think it’s degrading for men as well as for women. We are more than sex hungry creatures who can’t control ourselves. We are more. People are more. Even most animals are more. But ‘they’ don’t want us to be more. They want to control us, divide us, make us manageable to be able to make lots of profit doing the least amount of effort possible.

And yes, it’s true, if Sarah’s quote above is the description of how men are seen in American Christian fundamentalism and likewise-minded circles, it does not differ much at all of how the media and the advertisement industry in our Western system of consumer capitalism is constantly abusing us, just for profit.
The only big and very substantial difference here is that fundamentalism wants to stop this, to keep men down and to draws walls around them and puts us in boxes imprisoned by guilt, and that consumer capitalism abuses it, that it wants to make money out of it, reducing both men and women to less than humans for the sake of Mammon, which is very, very, very, low.

What’s very painful is that I’ve met enough men (and women) who just go along the lines and follow the flow, who let themselves dehumanise, and act like it could not be differently. As if we are indeed hard-wired for this as modern ideologies as fundamentalism and pop-Freudianism claim, and that we can’t function otherwise. We buy into the lie, and buy the crap the want to sell us, and let it destroy potential relationships and friendships and trust and intimacy, and…
And I refuse to believe the lie, and I refuse to accept that the lie is being spread, that people are indoctrinated and re-wired to fit the “man=animal, woman=prey” stuff. I refuse this as a Christian, as a humanist, as a human being, as the human being that I am, as a friend of both men and women, as a lover, and as a father of 2 little girls.

Problem here, if we speak about ‘wiring’, is neuro-plasticity which results in the possibility of strong conditioning by making connections in our brains. Like Pavlov’s dogs we can be conditioned in a lot of ways, and also reprogrammed later in other ways. If I compare men to Pavlov’s dogs here it’s not to reduce them to animals, but because that’s how it works biologically for both Homo sapiens and Canis lupus familiaris.
On the other hand, conditioning can be changed if we change our habits. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. We are not hardwired, and we can be rewired. We should work on this re-wiring if it hinders us from being human! This leads us to the old-fashioned idea of virtue, in which we follow a certain path of life that forms us.

I might need to clarify the word ‘misandry’ in the title for some of my readers, a words that means something as hatefullness towards man. It is a parallel to the word misogyny, which is actually the more visible part of the same problem here.
I don’t have a better word, but I am aware that it might a word that is rarely used (my spellchecker doesn’t know it) and that when it’s used, it is sometimes employed by people who come from a ‘war of the sexes’ worldview who say feminism should be fought in every possible way and want to turn the relationship between misogyny and misandry in a zero-sum game. I completely reject this line of thought, and want to be clear that I believe that sexism always has 2 sides, and that every system with heavy sexism against female human beings has another way of dehumanising male human beings, no matter how much power and privilege they have. Disconnect both sexes from each other and everybody gets dehumanised.
(I do think about Ursula Le Guins short stories about the planet Seggri here, with men having all the privilege, but women having all the rest, see my post on the sex-life of aliens and sexism on Earth) We need to treat both sexes (and all people who don’t fall into 2 binary genders) equally as humans. There is no other way. A zero-sum game approach to either women’s rights or men’s rights, or emmancipation of any minority group will always and invariably lead to some kind of ‘animal farm revolution’ which ends up with the same amount of oppression but differently distributed.

Women are human beings!
Men are human beings!
Everyone else who doesn’t fit in those 2 gender is a human being too.
And as a Christian I believe all human beings are made in Gods image.

There should be nothing radical about this !!!
It is more logical than our ABC or 2X2=3.

peace

Bram

More posts on similar subjects:
Nothing more natural than cross-gender friendships?
I don’t understand ‘complementarianism’
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…
A purity culture I don’t know…
teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…
On the sex-life of aliens and sexism here on Earth…
Meditating on sexy models

On the sex-life of aliens and sexism here on Earth…


I like to read science-fiction stories sometimes, and I do like different examples of the genre for different reasons. I sometimes just like good stories, and I also like good use of our human fantasy like speculative descriptions of other worlds, complete with completely other plants and animals, or about people or non-human aliens with totally different traditions. And there is something very interesting too about stories about worlds that are very different from our world, where the people take things for granted that are literally totally alien for us. It’s a good way of expanding my world-view and it also helps me to question the world I live in, and the given things we all seem to take for granted sometimes.

We humans are generally nor less cruel, irrational nor less weird than aliens. We might for example think that we’re so great as modern people with our science and technology and human rights and stuff, but all the while human rights are more theory than real life for a lot of people here on Terra, and our science and technology have only helped us to further the destruction of the planet in a way that can in the end only lead to disaster, while we have in our societies a lot of things that are only logical if you’re born into them and have had them imprinted when you grew up.

This summer I’ve been reading read200px-TheBirthdayOfTheWorlding and rereading some works of Ursula Le Guin, including the  ‘the birthday of the world’, a collection of short stories. She’s a writer I do appreciate a lot with her fiction but who also can frustrate me a lot. The stories I’m reading can be classified  as anthropological science fiction, as much of her work. The alien species featured are humanoids quite like us, but still do differ a lot from us humans in the way their societies are ordered, as in their biology sometimes. To make clear what that means I will describe the aliens from the first 2 stories (I leave out the weird 4-person marriage system on O and the even more splintered segregation of all persons on Eleven-Soro in the next one, both societies of humans biologically like us):

The people from Gethen, a planet also featured in her well-known book the left hand of darkness are humans like us in everything, except for the small detail that they are not gendered, except for the few days in the month when they are fertile or ‘in kemmer’, and then they can take either sex, mostly depending on the pheromones of other persons in kemmer that are present. So it’s perfectly possible for the Gethenians to be a mother to one child and a father to another one. They do not have any concept of male/female duality nor do they have marriage like we have. The story of a sexual coming-of-age on Gethen, written in first-person from the POV of a Gethenian, is very weird to read, and not just because the sexually explicit which are a bit awkward to read, parts but just because they are  describing things that are perverse and actually, completely alien to us as if they were the most normal thing on eh, Earth… On Earth the everyone with everyone sex in the kemmerhouse, in which everyone can be of another gender next week just is strange…

The people on Seggri, a planet whose name probably is derived from the English word ‘segregation’ in Ursula’s mind, are on the other extreme: they are humans in a more or less late medieval society, but they have an enormous gender imbalance: only one in sixteen or of of them is male, and both sexes live in very different ways completely segregated from each other, with the males in castles having all the privilege, and the women living in a more normal society. The only encounter between the sexes is to have sex, and the women do pay the males for that, and they pay them even more afterwards if a child is conceived. Marriage does exist between women sometimes, even more than two, but it is not seen as something men are capable of. The story is made up of reports, fragments and short stories that show the evolution of gender relations over a longer time, and also when influence of aliens with less alien gender relations becomes more.

In the last fragment of the Seggri-section we see a young man, a man who has been to college even, like traditionally only a woman did on his world,  after the revolutionary moment when men could go outside of their castles and live in the normal world. He desires a thing unthinkable to anyone who has ever lived on the planet, a thing for which there is no word in his language: a marriage relationship with a woman as equals, or in his own language, t0 be ‘a wife’ and have a family. Something unthinkable for men, who are seen as only good for sex, not for any other kind of meaningful relationships with women. Even a man speaking with a woman is considered not done. (In the end he does break all logic and rules and everything people on Seggri have ever known, and indeed has an equal romantic relationship with a woman, even though it doesn’t last and he does move to the planet Hain afterwards.)

Like you can imagine these kind of stories are not the easiest to read. Trying to follow the thoughts of an alien whose ideas on sex and relationships are so different from our, for whom completely other things would be taboo and perverse as for any human, especially for a Christian who believes in lifelong monogamous marriage relationships. It can be quite a challenge to just take this stuff in…

Another thing, which is also one of my frustrations with Le Guin, is that her stories can be so hard and merciless for the people in certain of her societies. She invents new types of sexism and other forms of injustice and oppression that are really bad for the people living in it. The Gethenians don’t have any chance of sexism (except that they seem a bit discriminating towards the ‘perverts’, those who are always ‘in kemmer’, and thus are constantly male or female. The male alien observer in ‘the left hand of darkness’ does share in those prejudices) but I really wouldn’t want to be a man in Seggri who is only good for competing games and having sex with women, and does not have any chance to partake in ‘normal’ (female) society.

But alas, those aliens are not the only people who have weird forms of sexism that are completely illogical from any outsider… Some forms of patriachy and other gender-imbalanced system do sound as weird and unhealthy as those aliens to me, like this story about patriarchy among an Asian tribe from Lana Hope . The idea of sexual segregation alone in which friendship between men and women are taboo (as exists in some Muslim countries) is quite alien to me, as the bot who always tended to friend girls easier than boys.

I must say, my own society can be quite weird too, and other of our Western countries can be even weirder. The person that I am as a man would not be able to exist in American fundamentalism as described by this guest-poster on the ex-fundamentalist blog  broken daughters for example, just as I couldn’t live on Seggri.

If there’s anything I take away from stories like this is that we as homo sapiens are not better than Le Guins aliens, or that Western people are not better than anyone else. And that the simple idea of love for everyone apart from gender, and the idea of committed loving relationships  (as I know them and live it) which we commonly call marriage it in which a family is formed  can be quite alien, even for people in this world.

Let us be a witness of love and respect, in all aspects including our relationships whether they’re sexual or not,  to all people, even the aliens if they ever visit us…

peace

Bram

Capitalism vs. Christianity I: Rule of the Market


Coin of Augustus PAS 200 px sh“Markets, like merchants, are nothing new, but they are central to the capitalist society in quite a new and more abstract way” – James Fulcher

A bit late because of work, illness, bad time management, alien abductions and the birthday of my wife, but here it is: my first post in what will become a series about the incompatibility of Christianity and capitalism. (Click on link for the introductionary post)

Central to capitalism as it is currently defended by a lot of people is not ‘in whose hands the means of production’ are or should be, but the idea of ‘the free market’. And even more: the ‘free market’ itself has to be quite a priority according to those who like to preach capitalism. Not only is it important for ‘the market’ to be ‘free’, it is also important for that ‘free market’ to be really important in all aspects of our lives. And indeed, for some reason unknown to me ‘the market’, together with the whole idea of ‘the economy’ which is centered around it, is seen by some as the center of reality, and even as the only reality that matters.

Not reasonable or logical at all
So what’s my first problem with this ‘marketisation of everything’? ‘My first critique to this is just philosophical: Contrary to what I’ve heard from some people sometimes, there is nothing ‘rational’ or even ‘realistic’ about putting the economy, centered around the so-called free market, as our top priority in life and all human affairs on planet earth, and as a lens through which all of this world has to be interpreted. If you want to look at the world this way, fine, but know very well that it is purely an ideological choice, and if you ask me it’s a very poor hermeneutic which leads to a very bad and unbalanced exegesis of the book of ‘reality’. Continue reading

Lust is not about sex but power and control?


One of the most critically satisfying phrases in the modern era was the reductionist phrase “nothing but” as in “that’s nothing but a typical Freudian Electra complex at work” of “that’s nothing but a typical Marxist class struggle” [etc.] (Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian)

borat

If this picture of Borat makes anyone lust I’ll take it down…

I generally am a fan of the writings of christian feminist blogger Dianne Anderson, but sometimes feminist logic makes me scratch my head. I suppose because it’s a paradigm that I’m not that well versed in, even though I completely subscribe to the ‘radical notion that women are human’, and do find it quite weird that anyone would find such a thing radical…

One thing I cannot follow is the “Lust is not about sexuality, but about power and control” quote, to which Morgan Guyton (another blogger of which I tend to be a fan) wrote a response recently.

Let’s quote her in context (It’s best to read her post, and the post to which she refers:)

We’ve so perverted the definition of lust – narrowing it and broadening it at the same time – that we have created a paradigm under which no human being could function and come out as healthy. We’ve narrowed lust to be solely about sexual issues, ignoring that one can lust after a person’s car, a person’s position, or marriage. Lust is not about sexuality, but about power and control, as Maynard so eloquently points out.

Now I do get what she says, it could be backed up with the last of the ten commandments even, but I fail to see what this has to do with lust, or why lust would have to be defined as ‘power and control’ as it is framed in feminist theory. I do not think that this is what Jesus is warning about in Matthew 5:28 at all. There might be a factor too of ‘I want to own her and dominate her’, but I do not think at all that you can take the will to have sex with the wrong person out of the definition of sexual lust. There’s always much more involved than just one factor anyway… Like I wrote in the comments of Diannes blogpost:

There is more to sexual ethics than the liberal (as we’d call it in europe) idea of ‘consenting adults’ being what matters most, as the problem of adultery shows. I completely agree that sex without consent is a problem, but there’s much more to be said about it from a christian viewpoint… There’s also something about monogamous relationships and one-flesh covenants and stuf… Lingering in fantasies about consenting sex as equals with a woman that’s not my wife is just not right… Even if I’m not at all even interested in power and control when it comes to sex, adultery would still be bad when it’s flirty playful and without domination dynamics, and Jesus quote is just as relevant if we in our head create such a scenario as when we want to ‘take’ a woman in a more dominant way…

I would connect lust as christians have used the word through the ages more with an absence of self-control (not be able to tame ‘the passions’ as the church fathers would call it), which includes having sexual scenarios about other people in your fantasy, real or not that not our partner because our hormones like to be aroused. There is a big difference between noticing someone as attractive and wanting to have sex with that person and envisioning that in your head, or even acting upon that desire in the flesh. The first is a natural reaction, the second and third are what I would place under lust. As the saying goes ‘you can’t stop the bird from flying over, but you can stop it from nesting in your hair’. (which does not at all mean to close our eyes all the time so we see nothing, including birds, nor shaving of our hair or killing all birds)

[And let's not forget that we as men are indeed receiving Pavlovian conditioning in our Western civilisation to watch women like sexual objects, which is something that is very hard to unlearn.]

Lust might broader than something solely sexual, it can be other unhealthy desires too, including the lust for too much food (gluttony) or the lust for power and control,  but I don’t think framing it  as ‘power and control’ with the modern feminist lingo meaning of those words does define what Christians or the bible call ‘lust’. One can lust without harming or controlling anyone, or people can lust together in mutual consent as adults without power and control involved.

One a side note: like the McLaren quote above notes, there is a tendency in modern theorising to fall into ‘nothing but’ reductions. I think this is exactly one of these, just as the related feminist idea of’ ‘rape is not about sex but only about power and control’. Surely power and control are more important in rape than regular sexual ‘lust’ as the word is commonly used, like in both the recent incident in India as in the biblical Sodom story, and generally in what feminists call ‘rape culture’ but no one can deny that sex is a part of rape and plays a role in it, in some cases more than in others.
And the infamous ‘good guy’ who was confused if he was a rapist from the good man project article is more of an example where rape is fueled by an uncontroled sex drive and a lack of self-control. The guy is more a sexual imbecile who needs to be educated on things that are very basic and to seriously learn how to discipline himself than ‘the devil’ (as the title of Diannes pieces would indicate) being high on search for control and power.

I know that I’ve probably not have given an exhaustive definition of lust at all, but narrowing it down to feminist categories of power and control in a ‘nothing but’ way seems quite unhelpful and counterproductive, as well as closing our eyes to other problems lust gives unrelated to power and control issues, and likely to ostracise and ‘other’ more people than needed. Projecting theories on all people is never a good idea, every story is different… Human lust for power and control is a big problem that destructs lives and societies and all of the planet, and that can be extremely damaging in sexual relationships, but sexual lust is still  a problem and a sin without the slightest hint of  it!

The only real revolution worth fighting for releases both oppressor and oppressed from the evil system and the different ways in which it has harmed different people. Jesus came to set all free from sin. Not just the results of sin. But in the already and not yet that’s a whole process of re-orienting our fallen nature… And learning to love our sisters and brothers, recognise the Divine Image in everyone, and honor it…

shalom

Bram

The revolution of the Kingdom (Greg Boyd)


Let’s go further with the idea of Christian pacifism

Christian non-violence is based on the words of Jesus in the gospel, the idea of love for our neighbor and enemy, and so on… I find it hard to read the NT without finding a lot about being called to love, not hate… The whole idea of the Kingdom of God like announced by Jesus, in which Gods will is done on earth as in heaven, does include it!

The basic idea behind Christian pacifism is the Walter Wink quote: ‘Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough‘. And indeed, Jesus brings us in his life, and in the cross and resurrection, something that goes beyond all our violence and other primitive responses…

Greg Boyd puts it like this in his book ‘the myth of a Christian religion‘. (A book that I quite like, even though I do disagree with the pejorative use of both words ‘myth’ and ‘religion’, but that’s another story…)

The revolutions of the world have always been about one group trying to wrest power from another. The revolution Jesus launched, however, is far more radical, for it declares the quest for power over others to be as hopeless as it is sinful. Jesus’ Kingdom revolts against this sinful quest for power over others, choosing instead to exercise power under others. It’s a revolution of humble, self-sacrificial, loving service. It always looks like Jesus, dying on Calvary for the very people who crucified him. (p.19)

This means more than the non-violence we are talking about, but a complete reversal of our human ways to view power, and a call for us as Kingdom people to live the reality not of this broken world, but the reality of the coming world. The current world is under the influence of the Powers of destruction and violence, but all those things will be dona away with, and the Power through which the new world will come is diametrically opposed to our human views of power:

The difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world comes down to the kind of power they trust. The kingdoms of the world place their trust in whatever coercive power they can exercise over others. We can think of this kind of power as the power of the sword.
In contrast, the Kingdom of God refuses to use coercive power over people, choosing instead to rely exclusively on whatever power it can exercise under people. This is the transforming power of humble, self-sacrificial, Christlike love. Exercising power under others is about impacting people’s lives by serving them, sacrificing for them, and even being sacrificed by them while refusing to retaliate, as Jesus did. We can think of this kind of power as the power of the cross, for the cross is the purest expression of humble,  servantlike, self-sacrificial love. (p.22)

Note here that Boyd is known to put a heavy emphasis on Christus Victor atonement: Jesus, God incarnate became human and suffered with us, and  on the cross Jesus he himself over to the powers of darkness and destruction, sin and defeated them in the resurrection… The self-giving Jesus who endures the powers is the conquering King destroying death and evil… And we are not just to ‘believe in Him’ but to follow Jesus, even in the example of the cross, which means that we are to be different than ‘the world’:

Kingdom people are called out of the world to be a holy, separate people. We’re called to be nonconformists, resisting the “pattern of the world” as we’re transformed into the image of Christ. This holy nonconformity isn’t just one aspect of who we are—it’s the essence of who we are. It’s how we manifest the beauty of God’s character and Kingdom. Out of the wellspring of the abundant Life we receive from Christ, we are to live in revolt against everything in our own lives, in society, and in the spirit-realm that is inconsistent with God’s reign. This can only happen if Jesus followers refuse to get co-opted by other things. (p. 23)

I leave you with one description from Boyd of the paradox of the enormous power of the cross:

While cross-power may look weak next to sword-power, it is, in fact, the greatest power in the universe. The power of the ‘cross is the only power that can overcome evil rather than merely suppress it for a while. It’s the only power that can transform an enemy into a friend. It’s the power that God promises will ultimately transform the world. It’s the kind of power the omnipotent God himself relied on when hè came in the person of Jesus Christ to overcome evil and redeem all of creation from its grip.

what do you  think?

shalom

Bram

Some of my doubts


Sometimes I doubt everything.

Sometimes everything I’ve been taught and everything that is taken for granted by this whole world seems like nonsense… We all swallow the propaganda and follow the authorized version ‘they’ want us to believe…

And I’m not just talking about my faith here… I’d rather deny all grounds on which Western thought are built than deny Him completely… since in a way I can’t deny God just as I can’t deny myself, but I can deny every system of thought describing Him. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe I do not actually exist…

It’s not that I can deny the supernatural, even if I have a hunch that most of it is actually natural but just outside of what we call ‘laws of nature’. I can’t deny miracles and the supernatural but I could attribute them to explanations that we don’t even know about in our thinking, maybe all our our thoughts about it is like medievals knowing nothing about electricity trying to understand how a computer works.

It’s not that I can deny science I can’t deny evolution but I can’t believe that the material world is all there is, so it can’t be the whole story. I do know we can describe enough of the universe in a meaningful enough way to manipulate it. But does that mean that we actually understand anything at all?

I can’t deny that the laws of Love like Jesus articulates them are better and more substantial than anything I’ve seen in the world, and yet hardly any Christian I know even tries to live them. Sometimes I wonder if my own ‘religion’ does even understand a thing about itself….

And I honestly don’t even trust the idea behind all our western thinking that the universe is rational and knowable… Seems like very naive to say the least… I seems sometimes like the other extreme from the Eastern idea that everything we see is an illusion and nothing more, and equally unbalanced…
And worst of all, all of this, all life on earth seems completely screwed up, and still it’s evident that everything is worth more than we can contain. Every human life, every ecosystem, every species that goes down in our screwed-up systems is of incredible worth. And then I get a Pedro the Lion song stuck in my head:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful

if everything would be meaningless?

But everything is so meaningful

and most everything turns to shit

(rejoice)

There’s so much that needs to be saved, but not much stuff that can save in this world. Look at how even our enlightened traditions exchanged the crusades with the nuclear bomb. We are not getting better, we’re getting more (rendabel) in doing work like the factories and computers do, and we’re getting further in death and destruction. From the dodo and the crusades to Nagasaki and drones and cluster bombs we didn’t become better people.

When will we learn that violence will not save us but only breed more violence and destruction? When will we break the cycle of greed and other nonsense?

That’s why I hope in Jesus. That’s why I think nothing else would make sense. Because I love this endagered world and it’s uncontainable creator…

Kyrië Eleison

Christe Eleïson

Kyrië Eleison

Bram

Some more on authority in sex, egalitarian pleasuring parties and rape fantasies…


[trigger warning: stuff perceived as weird misogyny and rape]

This is a elaboration of what I said in my last post (Read it to understand what I’m talking about…) because the more I think about it, the less sense some things seem to make, and the less I understand the conflicting message of the Gospel Coalition about ‘authority’ in marriage. So after the problems of language, definition and connotation, let’s go back to the real issue discussed here. Some things sound quite contradictory for me, specially when the idea the Gospel Coalition wants to promote is “I am a proponent of marriages that mutually edify, marital sex that is mutually submissive, and Christian relationships in general that “serve and protect” rather than “devour.”” What I read in the GC post Rachel quoted points in a totally different direction actually, at least it does to me as an outsider and non-initiated in the weird world of American ‘complementarianism’, even when I try to read it otherwise, and even if the post is supposed to be against the “50 Shades of Grey and other modern celebrations of perverted sexual authority/submission.”…

There are much more things that shock me in the short post than the problematic assertion that “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.“, that Wilson himself supposes to be the main problem (which is quite problematic indeed, when we remember that colonizing and conquering left half of our planet in ruins after we Westerners got better weapons and more lnowledge in the last 500 years..).

He says that “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party.”, but I have no idea at all what he means with this cloudy sentence except that it’s though that he seems to be squeezing in the name of a perceived enemy (‘egalitarianism’) that he seems to associate with ‘modern celebrations of perverted sexual authority/submission’, probably to assert their own identity against it and blame it for the evils of the ’50 shades’ stuff.

So exactly how is it that t’he sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasury party’? As far as I know it is evident that sex both partners are equally naked and vulnerable, and surely ‘the sexual act’ needs 2 different bodies doing different things, so it could be said that the two lovers ‘complement’ each other. But I don’t see how a healthy view of sex could not mean in those differences to still have a mutual giving and receiving at the same time. So as for ‘pleasuring’ the other in ‘the sexual act, isn’t it logical that man and woman in their different ways do give everything to give themselves to their partner? In that way the description ‘egalitarian pleasuring party’ is a very good one, and the other way to understand the phrase (2 people doing exact the same thing) is just impossible and nonsense.

But there is more, what I find even more disturbing is the following:

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine.

Firstly, I am a man and I don’t have rape fantasies, I don’t even understand them, and I don’t want anyone to tell me that they would be normal for people that don’t subscribe to your views on what I can only read as dominion. I am as uninterested in all this authority stuff as I am in rape… As an egalitarian (vaguely, sometimes terms like this carry too much baggage in polarised discussions like this one) I could conclude that these ‘bondage and submission’ games and ’50 shades’ stuff are the unhealthy outcome of an unhealthy system in which endless power plays and dominion damage people… That may be as wrong as Wilson’s theorizing, but to me it seems quite plausible from my kind of view… And connecting this authority-in-sex-gone-wrong just does not make any sense. Sorry.

Btw, aAll this authority-stuff when emphasized all the time will just frustrate people. And especially with a theology that makes 50% of the population supposed to be ‘leaders’ (just because they possess XY chromosomes and a penis) you create a lot of frustration, since having 50% leaders makes most of those ‘leaders’ only leaders in name, with a completely insignificant ‘leadership’, so I can imagine them working that out on their spouses and families, the only place where they can pretend to be the leaders they are only in theory. But again, this is just theorizing in thin air, as much as Wilson is doing in the above quote.

Dominion and powerplay from both sides of the line are not something I enjoy, those things always take a lot of energy that could be used anywhere. It makes me quite frustrated when I encounter people who are too bent on both dominating or being dominated. I probably am a personally ‘naturally egalitarian’ person, and I don’t feel the need to express neither authority not submission towards other human beings; I like relationships as an equal person. (Yes, I will submit to someone if they know more about the job we’re doing, or lead if I am more qualified, but that is a question of role, not of person)

And what the next paragraph means in real life, I can only guess, I understand the words, but they don’t convey anything coherent to me, except when the authority and submission are mutual, which is (as far as I know) the egalitarian point of view that they don’t like :

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.”

Like I said earlier, the only healthy view of sex that I can understand (and that the Gospel coalition seems to want to affirm) is one of mutual self-giving and receiving, which would mean both mutual authority and mutual giving up all authority towards the other. And to be frank, I do not understand at all why anyone would have authority in sex at all, sex is playful, more like a game you do together… If there is any authority in a game, it’s or defining rules made by it’s Maker, or rules that both the players follow together. I just don’t see how ‘authority’ of the man over the woman would ever work without getting abusive. (And I would see it even less if I believed in Calvinist total depravity)

If you want to talk about authority in sex as a Christian, you should speak about mutual submission to the others authority, and to Gods laws (for example the law of doing everything in love and not abusing the other and pushing the partner to do something they don’t want)

Now, one thing that might be forgotten in this discussion is that the Gospel Coalition seems to have a completely different view of how  authority works than I have.  I would think all Christian authority is based in self-giving, in giving up yourself as Jesus did on the cross. All this talk about authority seems to propagate (to me as outsider) seems to be quite opposite to that, and (at least to me) seems like asserting the importance of dominion and control of certain people over others, and not at all self-giving in love. So I wonder if there’s a underlying problem in theological worldview and definitions… All this talk about submission and authority just gives me the impression of dominion and control, even if they say the whole time that they don’t mean it that way….

(And I always thought that ‘submission’ was the translation of  the word ‘Islam’, not of the the core of Christianity. Self-giving love, like Jesus showed on the cross, may be a better candidate here…)

Now to be short about the 50 shades stuff that the original post reacted to, I don’t know anything about it and I choose to remain unknowing about such things. And like I said already, I agree that rape fantasies and actually all forms of control in sex are sinful… But the problem here is that all this talk of authority and submission for an outsider like me does not promote anything but the idea of sexual control of men over women. If that is not what they mean, they need to use other words and explain what they mean differently… To me they are contradicting each other all the time…

what do you people think?

Shalom

Bram