Tag Archives: marriage

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

Do you love your wife or a picture in your head?


I’ve been reading throug a blog discussion between Rachel Held Evans and a guy called Tim Challies ,who’s further unknown to me, (see the discussion 1 2 3 4) about a supposed commandment that according to some should be ‘biblical’ and that says that women “should not let themselves go’ and do everything to remain attractive to their man. A lot of the discussion is going on about what is ‘biblical’, and I’m with Rachel here, since the Challies guy seems to be just pushing American values forward under that word, which to me -as a non-American- sometimes just seem irrelevan, and not very related to the used prooftexts (if there are any).

But I wanted to go back more to the question of Rachels first post.

(so, the blog discussion is about married relationships, but it applies to all other couples equally. And I think you should be able to switch sexes also, I just write from the viewpoint of a man because I appear to be one…)

So according to some people it would be biblical to command women to ‘not let themselves go’ and do everything to remain sexually attractive for their husbands. This seems connected for some reason to the false, twisted and toxic logic that if the wife is not able to do that, she’s responsible if the man would commit adultery. How Christians could ever defend such logic is beyond me. My first comment would be that I don’t see why such a comment should be gendered. We all should try to be attracive to our partner anyway, and not just in bodily appearance. Men who don’t do as much effort to stay in shape don’t have any right to ask such a thing from a woman… But underneath the discussion I do smell something else; something very fishy and unhealthy. And I think the problem is not in the woman here, but in the man and the standards of our culture.

How do we look at women? Most basic answer: with our eyes… Now, eveything we percieve through our senses is a mediation. We don’t percieve reality directly, but through our five senses. If we would be able to see light of other frequences like UV-light (bees do that), if we would have a radar (like dolphins or bats) or if we could ‘feel’ vibrations and oscillations with our ears (like snakes) or feel very small electric fields (like sharks) we would have a totally different reality around us. So we don’t see directly, but reality is mediated, in this case through eye vision, which our brains interpret.

So what do we see when we look at a person of the opposite sex? What’s the most important? The person herself or an object sexual attraction? Do we see a person that’s so beautiful we find attractive in all ways including sexuality, or do we see a sexually arousing object that coincidentally happens to be a person too. The second way of looking is very reducing, an insult to humans as created in the image of God (and a violation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28) Female beauty is more than something sexual, especially in the narrow sense of the word. I liked my wife as a beautiful person long before I would ever have thought of her as sexual being the way lovers do.

So, what does a woman mediate when she alters her appearance to be ‘more beautiful’ with make-up, special clothes, whatever? Does she mediate her inner self,  or something else? I do not at all believe that altering your physical appearance will automatically channel your ‘inward beauty’. Even more, I ‘m affraid that if you don’t see the ”inward beauty’ of a woman when she’s just dressed casually and as neutral as possible, that you’re just not able to see that beauty! A woman that you do not find attractive when she’s just plain and naturally herself you just do not attractive for who she really is. If you need dresses and make-up to find her attractive (or sexy underwear and I don’t know what) you don’t find her attractive, but something she’s not, most likely the pictures in your head of how a woman should look to be sey, which she will only resemble by changing her appearances. In the end you end up making love not to your wife to a dummy that”s just channeling some fantasy woman in your head. Which is very close to conceptual adultery if you ask me, and it sounds pretty unhealthy anyway…

In the end it’s easy (and practically unavoidable to a certain extent) to be influnced by the unrealistic ideals of female beauty of this world. Our idea of what a woman is, is a simulacrum, a picture of which no-one knows what the origin is, if there would even be one. Yes it is vaguely based on the idea ‘woman’ in platonic sense, but also of pictures that are based on pictures based on etc…Historically grown and evolved. But this should not be our standard. Our standard should be real women around us, in their ‘natural’ state, not in their ‘altered’ state, nor the accumulation of the unrealistic and unnatural ways of how women look in magazines, on Tv, etc… Look at the real thing in front of you! Base your standard on the reality, which is for you embodied in the your real lover!

So what do I say? Love your wife for who she is,  not for who she becomes in an altered state of outward appeareance. Train yourself to see her beauty in her ugliest moments. That’s when you’re really able to see her beauty. Look at her with Gods eyes. All make-up and dresses and whatever should be channeling and accentuating that beauty that’s always there, and not something else that isn’t there in those ‘uglier’ moment so that her real self should be hidden behind a more pretty appearance to be sexually interesting to you.

And since this discussion is also about what Christians should see as ‘biblical’, I think it’s important to think about the commandment to love our wives as Jesus loves the church. I know that in the end in the New Earth and heavens she will be glorified as a pure spotless bride, but look at Jesus fiancée now. Sometimes church can seem such a strange bunch of hopeless lost people. Doesn’t Jesus also love the church at her worst, her ugliest, and then cry for her? And still Jesus sees the beauty in all of us, and in the Church as a whole.

We should love in the same way, not only our spouse, but everybody. (But of it doesn’t work with our spouse to begin with, it won’t work at all) It will make all of us beautful in a way that trancends all make-up of the planet!

Shalom

Bram

Why I wanted to marry an ugly girl as a teenager…


Rachel Held Evans, a thoughtful progressive evangelical woman who is doing a year of biblical womanhood for a book project, and exploring the bizarre world of conservative ‘biblical womanhood’, has a very interesting post about female beauty and the way some ‘conservative’ Christians approach it. I must say I’m not in that segment of christianity anyway, and that I never fully understood how the described mentality can be claimed to be Christian, but who am I but a stranger on this planet… Anyway, for what it’s worth I can give my view on these things, even if it’s as alien to some as conservative christian gender roles are to me.

Let me first say that I am mostly very annoyed by the sexist way this culture defines the worth of a woman by her beauty (according to standards that are alien to me) and that I’m always surprised to see when some Christians seem to teach essentially the same. It seems superficial, sexist and very unrealistic to me. Surely, women are beautiful (if they don’t put on too much make-up and dress like Lady Gaga that is) and God created them that way, but no-one stays young, and whatever our obsession with youth and beauty in this culture may be it won’t change a thing, and our artificial ways of keeping up the appearance are not healthy at all. And there is more to beauty than this.

To quote Rachel:

I often struggle with what appear to be misogynistic elements of the Levitical purity codes, of ancient Israeli wartime conduct, of the letters of Paul and the doctrines of the early church. But in this case, the misogyny is new. The ancient writers of Scripture seem to affirm what all women know -

That our bodies change as we get older.

That our bodies change when we bear children.

That our bodies change when we get sick.

That our bodies change as we experience joy, pain, life, death, victory, heartache, and time.

And frankly, the suggestion that men are too weak to handle these realities is as emasculating as it is unbiblical.

That last sentence is very important. To me it’s very sexist, not just to women, but to men, to suggest that men are too weak to handle this aging and loss of youth in their wives. Maybe men are if the world teaches it to us, I guess it’s a very Freudian idea which has parallels in certain muslim views on men and woman. But by no means there is anything biblically justifiable in it, nor is it Christlike!!

Rachel ended with a question that sounds just too silly to me to seriously consider.

“Guys – What is your reaction to the suggestion that a wife’s changing body incites men to cheat?”

My reaction on her blog was:

I’m tired of this kind of sexism towards men, as if we’re only interested in sexy bodies and not in a life companion to share everything with. My reaction would be that you’ve never loved you wife in the first place if you cheat for such a reason, but that you’ve projected some ‘smoking hot fantasy wife’ onto the woman you married. Which is not very ‘biblical’ at all, and very superficial and ‘worldly’.

I mean it, if you cheat on your wife because she’s aging and becoming less beautiful, you probably never loved her, only her beauty and what it stood for to you.

Now on to my strange title: my thoughts also went back to some Christian summer youth camp long ago, one to which I don’t have much positive memories. What I do remember is that I was sleeping in a room with a lot of guys who were talking about girls all the time in a not so very ‘christian’ way (not the way the leaders of the camp would have liked…). I can remember some of them making tasteless and not even funny jokes about a girl with unshaved legs. I still feel ashamed I didn’t speak up to silence them. I hated the whole atmosphere of ‘we boys together’, and was sometimes fairly disgusted. I couldn’t look at girls that way, I saw people like me who needed frienship and honesty, and respect. At that age (17 or so) I was still a lonely boy who’d never had a girlfriend though I was good at being friends with girls that I’d never fall in love with.

So about then I had completely crossed over to the other side in the war between the sexes. I saw the way girls, people like me I liked to be friends with, were supposed to conforn to unhealthy standards, and I saw them being hurt by it on the one side, and boys who kicking on playboy posters on the other side. Yes I’m not only moderately feminist from time to time, but even a closet misandrist (who do we have a word for mysogyny but not a male version?) who wants to live in an asexual world when I see some of those abberations of ‘masculinity’.

At that moment I made the decision to marry an ugly girl. I really did. Because it’s just plainly dishonest when people who are less ‘beautiful’ don’t find a lover to share their life with! It’s just immature when the beautiful girls get more chances.

(oh, and I never thought of myself as beautiful nor ugly, it’s always been a non-issue to me.)

I suppose it’s not exactly the average teenage boys dream about girls, but I was very serious. I might have been a struggling christian on some fronts at that age, but I knew love was more important than looks, and I knew that the beauty standards of our world are just not fair. (Later on I wrote the song ‘unfair competition’ about it, you can listen and download it at my bandcamp site)

And it’s not that I’m not very interested in female beauty, I am. That’s one of the reasons why I hate porn so much, because it defiles something so beautiful… But it didn’t seem right to add ‘beautiful’ to whatever list of requirements a future wife should have. It felt kinda evil even… Very unchristlike.

I guess I was a radical (that’s what they wanted us to be on the camp anyway, ‘radical’ christian youth) even though I’ve never talked much about this to people.

And I didn’t succeed anyway: my wife is kinda beautiful. Not only when puts on make-up or pretty clothes, but also when she’s just woken up, or walks around the house in the most uncool old shabby clothes. If you don’t find a woman beautiful in those moments, you don’t find her beautiful, period.

And I do even have a very beautiful baby daughter right now.

And now I kinda wonder if it’s possible anyway to love an ugly woman. Not because ugly people are unlovable, but because we learn to see the beauty in people when we love them. No human being created in Gods image can be really ugly if you love them. There is a beauty that goes deeper than outward looks, and that’s the real beauty. But it might require another way of looking, more in line with the way God looks…

Open our eyes to Love, God

shalom

Bram

Top-ten posts in 2010


For those to whom it may concern, these were the most popular, or at least most read posts in the year 2010 on this blog. I have no idea if my readers liked them at all, but I do pray my writings would be able to enrich peoples lives… Maybe to some my thoughts are only weird and controversial, and to others they are boring and theoretic, but like a wise man once said, there are too many people, and they’re all too hard to please…

The first one on this list is most likely the most dissapointing for people to land on, since it’s popularity is mainly from people who google for porn…

so (drrrrrumrollll) here is the top-ten:

1) on sexy porn models and human dignity
2) On praying for president Obama’s death and Christian black magic…
3) On cross-gender friendships and christians…
4) the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…
5) Michael Gungor Band – God is not a white man
6) sacred unions, sacred passions I: beyond the romantic myth
7) Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you..
8) Rob Bell on atonement or the bible versus (reformed) tradition
9) Post-human broken sexuality… vs the beauty in this innocence
10) Reclaiming supernaturalism: on evolutionary creationism and angels..

[I always love how the code makes a smiley out of the 8 in this kind of lists...]

other posts worth reading from 2010:
Avatar and the core of the christian view on marriage
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
Rethinking my childhood atonement theory
Christian music as a genre?

I hope to meet all my readers and commenters again in the new year for new discussions, and for growing towards Christ together. We all can learn a lot from each other…

peace and love

Bram

Avatar and the core of the christian view on marriage


edit: this can be seen as a follow-up to the posts about the emerging joneses and my anarchist marriage‘ and ‘post-human broken sexuality vs the beauty in this innocence

So I gave in to the pressure of following the hypes of the current western culture, and went to the cinema to watch that one movie everybody seems to have an opinion about these days – avatar. And in fact I liked it much more than I ever expected to… The alien biology and ecosystem was intriguing to my curious kid-like biology-obsession, and the 3D experience was overwhelming! There sure is a lot that can be said about Gaia-pantheism, colonialism, capitalism, militarism, white guilt, and Pocahontas, but I don’t have the time and the energy to do that. And others are already doing that and will continue to for a while I guess… But I still had to write more on this blog about marriage, and the movie gave me inspiration.

The na’vi of Pandora, an alien tribal race looking a bit like like long blue cat-like humanoids, are very interesting in that respect:  They are are monogamous creatures who mate for life. Their mechanics of reproduction are similar to that of humans and Terran mammals. When an appropriate mate has been selected, the male and female Na’vi will connect queues (something inside their braid, which can connect their neurons with those of other beings) to create an emotional bond that will last a lifetime. The intertwining of queues is both highly erotic and profoundly spiritual, but does not in itself lead to reproduction.

Traditionally, once a Na’vi male has passed the tests on the path to manhood and has been accepted into the clan as an adult, he is not only allowed to make his bow from the wood of the Hometree, but he is also expected to choose his woman. After the woman has been chosen, the new couple are mated before Eywa (their God, in a Gaia-pantheïstic sense, or the common consciousness of all the life on the planet). After the resulting embracing and kissing, the couple is sent to sleep by Eywa, and the two dream hintings of their future together. The couple will experience the pleasure of Tsahaylu (the bond) from the moment of connection, until they awaken and have completed mating, when they disconnect and return to the clan, mated for life.

The connection does not automaticly mean that Eywa accepts the couple and mates them: Once the bond is made between the couple, the ultimate in intimacy, pleasure that is unfathomable to humans, causes the somewhat unwillful sharing of the couple’s good memories, and is a sign of Eywa’s acceptance. If a couple can be foreseen to not have a pleasant or happy future, Eywa has been known to reverse the feeling produced by making Tsahaylu, a sign to the couple that mating would only, in simple words, ruin their lives together, and therefore prevents the mating, because of it’s life-long span.

What is so interesting about those blue aliens? Well, I do tend to think that they may give us a clearer picture of the essence of marriage. Surely, homo sapiens isn’t stricly monogamous most of the time. But I as a Christian believe that we were meant to be. Marriage is something that was created into the  human blueprint, even if we deny it…

So When the pharisees want to discuss divorce within the realm of the mosaic law, Jesus refuses to play that game with them, and instead of pointing at the (God-given!)  law, he goes back to the creation of man and woman, to  genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.” Marriage was meant to be part of humanity from creation on…

The phrase ‘one flesh’ has a double meaning: it has a sexual meaning, but it also means that the 2 become one life unit, they become a  family, in which children are born and grow in a loving environment. So sex and marriage, or becoming a family, are meant to be synonyms. Sex in the hebrew culture is seen as the sealing of the marriage covenant, which is exactly the reason why it shouldn’t be played with lightly… Paul says somewhere that having sex with a prostitute is wrong, not because there is no relationship as we would think, but because even then you become ‘one flesh’ even when there’s no chance in the world that you’ll ever start a family with that prostitute…

So I do not believe in pro-marital sex. If it’s really pro-marital it is a timing problem, an earlier sealing of the covenant, which may complicate everything… But if it doesn’t lead to marriage, it is in fact an aborted family . and it is very clear what’s wrong about adultery I gues…

Another thing that I liked about the na’vi is the spiritual dimension of marriage. The na’vi are mated by Eywa, just as we Christians believe that we are joined together by God (‘what God joins together, man shall not separate) and I not only truly believe that, I can wholehertedly affirm that from my own experience. God brought me and my wife together, and is the one who joined us. Not the priest, or the belgian state… We were brought together firstly  by Him, and then by our own vows and the way we live them out for the rest of our lives. The rest are affirmations, which may be practical and needed, but not the essence…

One note, I think we should have the same realistic way to look at divorce. A dicorce is the final affirmation that something is going wrong, and that the marriage is broken, but before that there  most likely already is a problem for a long time, and that problem  is a sin against marriage already. It’s not that everything is okay until you are married and then you are a pariah and sinner. A damaged marriage with continuing destroying habbits  can be as harmful, and as devastating, also to ones relationship with God… And we should not make divorce the worst of all sins, those people are broken already most of the time, and condemnation will push them farther away from God… And we should not forget that the worst of all sins, above all sexual sins, is pride. which we all are guilty of from time to time…

And if I look around in this fallen and broken world, I see that the institution of marriage is dead for a lot of people. Lots of people have a ‘one flesh’ relationship and even a family with children, that may stay together for life, but they will deny that they are married. This is utter nonsense and a case of ‘it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, makes eggs out of which little baby ducks come, and is in fact a duck, but until we have a paper which says that it’s a duck we can’t call it one’…

But we don’t need to revive an institution or any human construct. If the culture changes, we need to re-evaluate those things, and maybe just get rid of a lot of ballast… We need to go back to this simple basis for marriage. Our cultural contextualisations are just that. And they can lead our attention astray from the core of what marriage is intended to be, or they can make it difficult for a couple to join each other in marriage, or they can loose their meaning in a given society…

But what we need is to get serious about love and sexuality. Sex is designed to make a bond, though when you have sealed and broken such bonds without love it is likely to not work this way anymore in ones life. Sex without marriage is not a sin because we make the bible say so, but because it is harmful.

And we are called to show the people among us the reality of love through our friendships, relationships and marriages. May we all grow in this…

shalom

Bram

love stories and broken worlds…


…and then sometimes, when you don’t even expect it, you can shock people, christians even,  just by telling your own love story…I don’t tell it to be subversive, but it’s just how my life happened: I only had one girlfriend in my entire life, the one I’m married to now. And that was almost like how I would’ve planned it.

Though I never had  planned to stay single for 22 yeve me years or so… But it gave me lots of time to think and get serious about relationships. And also to observe what did not work, which was almost everything I could see around me… And then suddenly there was this girl who was my best friend and more, and it was just obvious we’d marry. So the only girl that I ever kissed happens to be my wife. And I think that it’s the best way to do it, just to discover everything together. And I’m really glad that I could experience it this way, and even more that I could give that to her… But none of this can be credited to me, it was God who gave us to each other.

But in the end, it’s just my story and how it happened. I’m glad that it happened this way, but I wouldn’t be able to distill any timeless principles for other out of our story. Except for being careful and being loving, and looking at the person always before looking at the body or listening to the hormones who say that you’re ‘in love’. The english language may be wrong about that sometimes, ‘being in love’ is no guarantee’ for anything, let alone love… I would anyone advise to marry someone you feel at home with, someone you can be best friends with, someone you can pray with…

So that was the story I told. I never was into sexual experimentation, and I never was into being obsessed with having no sex (which also is sex-obsession)… All of this is just irrelevant to me. To be honest i was so sick of everything around sex bye the time of my mid-twenties that I might have become totally desinterested in anything sexual or even worse anti-sexual if I wouldn’t have had the possibility to very slowly discover it in a safe context…

It may not be very male of me, but I’m glad that the whole context of sexuality for me is rooted in the relationship with my wife… And this holistic sexuality is such a breath of fresh air in this fucked-up world… But it does sound alien to a lot of peoples ears…

…and then after this talk the music in the background reminds me of something before I ever had a gifriend, something that might have been close, way too close… And it was surreal… And confusing… Too much in love, both knowing it wouldn’t work if we’d follow those feelings. Nothing really sexual, that would be so irrelevant. No I hadn’t kissed a girl before my wife, but yet I know the feeling of holding someone close, so close, so desperately. Knowing I’d have to let her go in the morning…

It’s been years now. And I’m luckily married to someone who makes a lot better combination than she would have. I should be totally over this… And still… when this song and the long pause in the conversation brings back something from this dark night when the same CD was playing.

We should’ve been friends. You shouldn’t have closed the door. It was just a matter of logic that we couldn’t be lovers, it’ would’ve been a disaster, and I loved you too much to do such a thing, it was just a matter of logic to not do anything with those ‘being in love’ feelings. It was consfusing and complicated, but I could handle it. I could’ve been able.

But when you closed the door and rejected my friendship, you broke my heart… And it has been healed. But you once asked a place in my head, subverting a depressing nirvana song. And It still can be only reserved to you, as a friend…

so peace & love 2 you, wherever you are, I sometimes do still pray for you…

And I wonder about friendship, love, andconfusion. And I’m so glad with the relationship I’m in. I don’t know why God gave this to me, but it had been very healing to me… We don’t understand how important love is, and how deep it goes… And friendship is love…

Bram

For those wondering, a spiritual autobiography…


I grew up in a post-catholic country at the end of its dechristianisation process. After WW II Belgium had changed from a catholic country into a secular one, and when I was a kid in the ’80s the catholic school I went to was on its way from a dilluted liberal catholicism to some kind of secular nothingness. But that wasn’t my main influence for my faith: my father was active in a small pentecostel Church, and I’ve been going to pentecostel churches all of my childhood. To be complete I should add that my parents were not just pentecostals, they were originally converts of the catholic charismatic renewal movement coming out of a cultural post-catholicism.  All evangelical type churches I’ve seen were small (the biggest one in Antwerp is 250 people, most are around 30), and there are not much of them… And the catholic ones mostly have only have a small group of old people in it, and younger living groups are almost as rare as evangelical ones I think.

What I remember from the catholicism is that they did not seem to believe in anything very much; though I felt an outsider in school since I as a protestant wasn’t allowed to do my first communion. The faith in God that was presented may have been at the end of the slippery slope towards atheism, but the traditions were still very alive. But it was in my ‘real’ church that I learned about Jesus and started to believe. I can remember the atmosphere that only we pentecostels were ‘true christians’ because only we ‘had the Holy Spirit’ and were born-again. Another thing that I vaguely remember was the Jesus people influence, the last traces of the jesus hippie movement were still alive when I was young, and lost of people from the pentecostel scene were jesus people conversions…

When I was a teenager, my father, who had been a pastor (unordained, I hardly know any ordained pentecostel or evangelical pastor here) left the church we were in to get involved in a church planting project with Vineyard, which was a fairly new movement in the benelux at the moment. I don’t think I noticed the theological differences, but now I do. The Kingdom theology, and the relative eucemenical openness to the whole Church I readily accepted. It felt natural to me.

what I didn’t care for was the whole Toronto stuff… My father had been there in its early days, I think even twice (before the Toronto airport fellowship and the vineyard movement parted ways) and they did some holy-Spirit nights I think, but for adults, so I wasn’t there. And I never qualified for a good pentecostal, for till this day I never spoke in tongues… There were some controverses about the whole Toronto fire stuff in the flemish evangelical and pentecostel circles, but I do not remember well enough.

Also, it might sound strange for me as a musician, but I’ve never really been into the whole vineyard (or other) worship music hype. The thing is that I as a teenager had the opinion that music played towards God wasn’t something tolisten to and buy on Cd, but to play live to worship God. I must say that I only really got into worship with the discovery souljunks 1950 album, which may sound terrible to a lot of ears, but the honest, raw cries to God really resonated with me. I still am not fond of lots of woship and praise music (a style problem) but I appreciate its connection with God. But please keep your hillsong CD’s far from me…

As a young adult I was (and still am) active as musician and worship leader in our small vineyard congregation (10 years after we officially started it’s still just 30 people, but all evangelical churches are small here, and there are not exactly much of them -except for african and brazilian pentecostel churches in a few big cities, but that’s a third world enclave with not much connection to the flemish culture-) I tried to work out how to live out my faith, and out of my questions I started some kind of very primitive email-magazine ‘hallo medechristentjes’ (‘hello fellow christians’ in funny dutch), in which I wrote articles about thing concerning my faith, my questions, and stuff… I did that for several years; but it finally faded away when I ceased being the hopeless single and found the one girl who is now my wife… Relationships can take time, energy and inspiration…

but I started to broaden my spiritual scope. I first read a lot of evangelical, vineyard and pentecostel books, and a lot of C.S. Lewis, and then some catholic books. And then I got interested in a more radical Christianity, and discovered Christian anarchism (jesusradicals forum style) and read Jacques Ellul, and more stuff like that.  And I got married, in a controversial way for some, but that’s another story (part of it is contained in my emerging joneses and marriage post)
Then a few years ago came the memorable psalters concert here in Antwerp. I was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. And they were also extremely nice people with whom I had some theological discussions. They told me to read a book by one of their friends, called Shane Claiborne. Which really shaked me, and totally resonated with my way of thinking, though I’ve never been able to live it out until now. I need to work that out…

But from Shane Claiborne I came unto the ‘emerging Church’ discussion the last 2 years or so. I read some books and articles and blogs, and discovered I was more than 100% postmodern. I could read ‘a new kind of Christian’ as a native. I had words to describe my worldview and paradigm. I never was sure what ‘emerging church’ was, and I think I’m most attracted to the Kingdom emphasis, the neo-anabaptisch radical discipleship influence, the missional approach to faith, the humble postmodern epistemology and the new monasticism which still impresses me. I hope to one day join it…

But here in Flanders the whole emerging church is still under the radar, and even though there may be some influence in the mainstream of the NOOMA-stuff and some people reading shane Claiborne, most of it is still far away from our small isolated evangelical churches. And the world around is is so thoroughly secular, and the answers we have to give as a church and the questions people in the world have don’t always seem to match… So I pray that we’ll be able to find new ways to live out and bring the gospel, and bring a light to this society that is so lost sometimes…

Now I’m here… Still active in Vineyard (music and sometimes preaching) but looking for new ways to live my faith. I don’t know where we’ll go from here. I want to follow Jesus, and bring His Love and Life to these people… But it’s a long way to go…

Father

Let Your Kingdom Come

Let Yoy will be done

here on earth and in Belgium as in heaven

shalom

Bram

Post-human broken sexuality… vs the beauty in this innocence


Sometimes I feel like an alien on this planet… Maybe it’s not okay for some people to watch this, but otherwise, just watch this video, and ask yourself WTF???

And yes, the f-word is totally appropriate in this context. It is all so fucked-up, and broken, and degraded, and degrading… I’m not a specialist, bu I think it’s a lot worse even than regular porn, which is degrading to both men and woman, woman become objects, men become something less-than human that has to obey the dark side of their instincts. And I’m really I’m glad that all I feel when seeing this is a disconnect. This is far beyond anything that even the darkest evil part of my sexuality could enjoy… It doesn’t feel human anymore, it reminds me more of Marilyn Manson than of the oversexed videos they had when I was a teenager. Everything about her looks fake. There is nothing left of love and playfullness and human beauty.

I’m really glad that I’m not one of these poor teenagers who see this as a mainstream hit video on TV and without knowing for their view on sexuality based on this kind of shit. It is so destructive. I see nothing positive about sexuality in it. Se doesn’t even seem to care, she just gets taken by whoever is accidentally close to her. Her face reminds me of the girls in the red light street, whose eyes haunted me for long after I passed through there…

There’s no good news in sexuality to find in here… It’s so fucking empty!!!

Oh how I wish someone could just give her a hug, and be her friend…

Oh how I wish all of this nonsense is just fake, and that after her working day is over she’ll come home and sleep in the arms of a loving boyfriend, as was the case in the story of a stripper with whom I once heard an interview on the radio…

This one is a bit different, it’s just the consequences of rock’n roll I guess… She’s a human wreck, but I can still see human brokenness in it… But still I see no hope, no light at the end of the darkness, a description of a broken sexuality and a broken humanity. There’s nothing about it that could ever seduce me to ‘go over to the dark side’. Only a foretaste of hell…

All this brokenness makes me so sad and wanting to cry inside.

I know I am so blessed to not have to think that all this fucked-upness is all there is. Praise God!! I think about the way some people in this world are positively surprised by my own relationship. Being together for six years, married for almost 3, and still playful and in love and best friends. It is the opposite of all of this fucked-upness. Maybe not perfect, but there is trust and love and safeness…

shouldn’t we as Christians try to find a way to bring love as ‘good news’ in this sexually broken world? That sexuality doesn’t have to be pain and brokenness, but that it CAN be safe and intimate and loving and stuff, and that lifelong monogamous relationships are possible? It may require a priority and paradigm shift, but it’s worth it. It really is…

‘marriage’ is not about legal contracts, or institutions in the first place, or decadent wedding parties, and whatever. It is about a lifelong commitment, in which a new family is born. It also is about having a safe place for sexuality. Sexuality is something very powerful, and if it goes wrong, it breaks people, it destroys, it tears apart. That’s the message we should bring. Not that sex outside of marriage is wrong because somehow the bible says it, but that it is wrong because it hurts, and destroys, and degrades, and in the end you loose your humanity like the laday gaga character…

Love and Lifelong monogamous relationships are good news…

For a contrast I will end with the lyrics of a song that was recorded on our wedding ceremony. It can be listened at last.fm (look for the player) is a very lo-fi recording, sorry, and it’s just me and my wife performing.

the beauty in this innocence (Bram Cools)

before you touched my lips
i was unkissed
and so were you my love
a new world will open up for us
like an empty canvas
that’s only ours to paint
in a world of ugliness
in a world or lies
let’s paint something beautiful
let ‘s paint something true (my love)

to love means to give
and I gave myself to you my love
and I ‘ll give myself more and more
iust like you do
let God be our witness here
those promises we made
when we were lying on the edge of the world
breaking them wou! d be suïcide
the end of all we stand for

take my hand and come with me
let’s walk slowly
among those flowers
no need to hurry
let’s take our time
go there barefoot
with our toes through the grass
if we’d go there by car
we’d leave a scar in the landscape
and spoil this garden
and it’s the beauty in this innocence
that I’m in love with

it’s the beauty in this innocence
that I’m in love with

Isn’t only the possibility of this kind of relationships already very good news in the world of ‘bad romance’ and ‘I’m no good’???? We should not condemn those people, they are already in hell, we should bring them good new. Love does exist!!! But that means hat we have to live that good news, and show it to the world with our own lives and relationships. Like the gospel..

(And yes it may sound naieve, but is it not equally naieve to believe that this fucked-up brokenness is all there can be?)

shalom

Bram

the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…


I’ve been following the emerging blogosphere the last days, and I notice that there has been a bit of a storm around a post from Andrew Jones (the tall skinny kiwi) whose blog post had been interpreteted as another announcement of the end of the emerging church. I didn’t read it that way, and I don’t care much about labels, so I won’t even enter the discussion about emerging/emergent being dead or emerged or going up in whatever mainstream is supposed to be or moving on to the smurf village… And My opinion wouldn’t change much either… But a lot of other people did, including the other emerging Jones: Tony

But there is another disagreement between the emerging joneses one that I want to get into. Tony has posted an article “A Call to Clergy: Stop Performing (Legal) Marriages!“. His reasoning is that “it requires the clergyperson to act as an extension of the state.” So I guess he argues the best would be to give the marriage business completely over to the state. Which Andrew did not agree with and which I do not find an interesting option at all I am affraid. Marriage is way too serious to be defined by something as trivial as the State. But I may be controversial too, or onorthodox… I think I have a more realistic view on marriage as a creation reality, and an more relativistic (anarchistic) view on the state and its right to define marriage…

Now, I do live in a secular european country where only the state can perform a marriage. You cannot marry for the church. You can do such a thing later afterwards, but it has no official meaning except for the church… And marrying to the church before you marry to the state (something I did btw) would be considered illegal.

And I do strongly believe in marriage. I do think it is an important subject as a Christian. But I do not think that ‘legal marriage’ equals ‘biblical marriage’. If we would look at the gospels, it is very significant that when the pharisees try to trick Jesus into a discussion about divorce and the law of moses, that He does not refer to that law at al, God-given as it may be. No, Jesus points to the Creation, where God created man and woman to ‘cleave to each other and be one flesh’.  So marriage is not first and foremost something any law can define, but something that has been instituted and defined in the creation of man and woman.

Marriage is contextualised differently in different cultures. And it is good that there are laws to protect it. But no state can define what is already defined within creation. When man and woman become one flesh, they are married. And it is incomplete without confirmation to society (and God), but in the end it is God who joins people, not any human authority… In some cultures and times people just went to live with each other and they were considered married and a family, in other situations there are lots of laws and regulations to be followed. But they do not say what a marriage is. ‘living together without being married but with a legal contract’ as is the norm for my generation here is just fooling yourself. A legal contract for living together is some kind of ‘legal marriage light without sing the name’ anyway, and You become ‘one flesh’ and form a family, so it is marriage, or at least it should be treated like one…. Paul even calls sex with a prostitute ‘becoming one flesh’ so the problem is not that there is no marriage, but the problem there is one, or there is something that should be one… The same problem with ‘pro-marital sex’, it may more likely be a unhealthy unbalanced ‘pro-marital marriage’ that might even get aborted before it gives birth to a family. (and it damages people, it’s sin for a reaon…)

Now to my own story… Due to some complicated situations, I have been married ‘illegally’ for a while myself before marrying officially to the state.  We made vows to each other and God in a self-invented church ceremony (with a catholic priest off-duty) with the ones present as witnesses. It was a sacred moment. Some of my Christian friends thought it was a bad idea or possibly even heresy to do it that way(but they mostly didn’t dare to tell me, and I don’t want to know what had been said behind our backs…) But to others, and especially to some non-Christians, it was really impressive, and they started thinking about the seriousness of marriage. It is not just a legal contract. Our vows were much more real. They still are.

[Btw, our ceremony was very 'emerging church', without even knowing about the term or the ideas behind it, we had deconstructed all human constructions and reconstructed them in a way that did make sense to us -unlike most traditions surrounding marriage we knew of- and to do it together with God in a new way, even if the church wasn't ready for it -we had asked the catholic priest and used his chapell because no-one in the evangelical churches around us wanted us to help with it-]

Half a year later we did it over again with our confirmation to the state. It was okay, but in the end it was just a legal transaction… The state has never been the one who joined us… Jesus never says anything about what the state Joins, the state can tear apart again… I still believe it was right to affirm it to the state, and if it would’ve been possible we wouldn’t have separated both. And still, I wouldn’ve done the church first, and speaking the vows in the face of God is much more real and binding than any legal contract can be.

So I would say do not mind too much about how the state defines marriage, and let the marriage be sealed with vows of 2 people with God as their witness, and the community. That includes the state too yes, but that’s just a cultural contextualisation of marriage. It has nothing to do with the essence of it. The essence is 2 becoming one flesh, one unit of life, and being serious about that in a life-long commitment. And if we as Christians can show the world around us that love is real in our marriage relationships and family , they might be touched by it more than any law or contract forced to the whole population could ever do…

Love is the first law, vive la revolucion!!!

shalom

Bram

I’m an alien


hi imaginary readers:

a confession; I’m an alien on this planet sometimes… My own secular post-catholic belgian culture is not mine, but the evangelical and pentacostel churches I’ve grown up in all feel strange to me too. It feels like I never belong anywhere for a 100%.

I don’t fit in in any segment of this society. I’m bored of the status-quo and safety obsessions of the middle class. I’m hardly survived the mentality of the working class when I was working among them for 2 years, and I’m still puzzled by that. It might just be very evil of me, or I’m just too different from the people I was working with, I don’t know. I know I am kinda intellectual, but most of people who go by that label just irritate the peanuts out of me. I don’t have much experience with real rich people, and upper-class stuff, but again I would most likely be bored to death among them… I guess I’m some kind of artist, or wannabe-artist, I don’t know. I don’t fit in.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love people who are inide the categories I described… Au contraire,… I love all kind of people, and even those I don’t like I’ll try to understand and love, and find any common ground with them… Only that might cost me lots of energy…

On the internet I can read lots of stuff, from any kind of writer in any tradition, subculture, or whatever. So I can read what I like, and I don’t even notice most of what I don’t like. That must have it’s advantages, but yet I’m still only moving in my vague segment (whatever that is) without seeing the big bad world outside… Maybe that’s not the best idea either…

I don’t know much, I don’t understand much of this alien planet. But I’m glad that one thing did work out for me: The relationship I’m in is a present from God. If I had to imagina myself a wife I would never have come up with anywthing close to her :p (that might just be a lack of imagination, though on the most areas people say I have too much imagination…) And even though it will never be perfect, the most amazing thing is that it is just a shadow and a vague reflection of something beyond what I can imagine!

YEs, then there is something beyond this world that I know I belong with. or Someone, te be precise. The wholly Other Trancendent and yet Omnipresent, Alpha & Omega, whom I know through Christ Jesus, the one I want to follow. I know He’s the One I belong with. And yet I run off into the nothingness so easily… I get distracted by the opium for the people the new media offer me. Or I just get lost in my own head… How I can be distracted from the Lover, compared to whose love the whole world is just something that could be dissolved in a glass of water, is one of the most dark mysteries, but it’s like that, and that’s the way it is..

And all the time He’s there. Calling me into His Kingdon that is at hand, but which still will only be fully realised at the consummation of all time. Which is beyond my mind, but I know that’s where I belong. And I know that all sense of home that I have in this world somewhere relates to Him, and His Creation, which still points at His greatness is so many ways… And this Kingdom could never be  forced into our human categories without losing it’s essence…

so maybe I should be the alien…
shalom

Bram