Tag Archives: Rachel Held Evans

Some interesting things elsewhere V


Not much happening here, but at least I have a new SITE- list for my readers:

The ten dogmas of modern science.

The difference between theistic evolutionism and evolutionary creationism on Jesus Creed. I never liked the first term,  and even if I do tend tend to an old earth and biological evolution (as an explanation for what we can find in the material world, which is NOT AT ALL the whole story of the origins of the universe and humanity), I’d never make an ism out of any creatonal view. But I agree that for a Christian affirming the Creator is more important than affirming any scientific theory.

(The problem between ‘creation’ and ‘evolution’ is not a scientfic one, but a metaphysical and philosophic one anyway, and I do like the way in which ‘evolutionary creation’ crosses those false dichotomies..)

Morgan Guyton being provocative again and criticising Tim Keller for creating a false binary of love and holiness. It also shows where I think Guytons Wesleyanism is more in line with both the bible and the great tradition of Christianity than the reformed tradition, but I think some people will not at all agree with that…

David Flowers has a list of five books that, according to him will be very important for the future of North-American Evangelical church in the 21st century . I mioght not be an American but those are important books to wrestle with indeed:

1. N.T. Wright: Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church 
2. Scot McKnight: The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited 
3. Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet: Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ
4. Greg Boyd: The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church
5. Christian Smith: The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture 

(I read all of those ecxept #4, which might be the book in the list that is most fit for the Americansituation specificall, but I read other things by Boyd and I quite like him)

Rachel Held Evans has a very interesting guest in her ‘ask a…’ series: Ask an Indigenous Theologian.

Justin Lee cfor the gay Christian Network has a very strong point here: Worldliness in the other direction is still worldliness!

Totally unrelated is the news that ebay doesn’t sell magic anymore. I’m not even going to comment on that one…

Richard Beck of experimental theology on the ‘hole rule‘, a good consideration for those who are into simple living…

And then there’s Todd Bentley, still on the other side of the Atlantic ocean

Shalom

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

you and your tradition cannot choose what words mean for others…


[trigger warning: quotes that could be percieved as more than  rather misogynistic]

Yes, I’m still alive. I’ve been in a quasi-internetless place with a lot of trees, bungalows, and a subtropical swimming paradise, in a French-speaking part of this little kingdom by the sea. (Well, internetless is exagerrated I can always go to the bar where they have free wifi, but I choose to be almost disconnected this week.) I will be back this weekend and there will be some blogposts lined up for the following week.

And now I’m here in the bar reading up some blogs that I’ve missed (backsliding into my regular addictions…) And I’m back in the fireline of a very frustrating discussion again again when I’m reading a Rachel Held Evans post reacting to the Gospel coalition, and a reaction from TGC that I find quite weird. The issue is (again) patriarchy and complementarianism perceived as pure misogyny.Still Wilson says:

Here’s a question for critics of the piece: You want these words not to mean a forceful, degrading domination of women, yes? And here is Wilson saying he does not mean them in that way. So why not accept that? Or, instead of insisting they mean the opposite of what he says he meant by them, why not just call him a liar? That’s a quicker line to draw.

And when I try to understand both sides, I’m afraid that no matter how your defending exegesis is, a sentence like this will be sexist, misogynist and quite problematic to most people I know:

however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

I does not in any way describe my views or experience with marriage nor sex, and it sounds not like anything biblical to me either. Maybe in certain neo-reformed or fundamentalist worldviews these words can be taken as non-sexist, as Wilson thinks he does. And I do know there are complementarians with good marriages…

But honestly, no matter how hard I try, I cannot read this kind of statements otherwise as sexism towards both sexes (yes, as a man I find this way of thinking degrading towards myself as much as to my wife!), and as the description of a mentality that would describe everything I know about loving male-female relationships. The only way I can interpret this is as pure one-sided dominion from the male side.

But I really try to understand how people could think otherwise, and I can’t. In the end we come to the same problem with words as with stories, like I noted in an earlier post. Whoever you are, you and your tradition cannot control how words will be perceived by others. You and your tradition cannot decide on what a word means, and what connotations it bears to others...

Which reminds me of a discussion about the world ‘tolerance’. Some see it as the most desired goal in society, and as a very positive mentality everyone should have, while others see it as unloving, merely tolerating everything because we have to. So, define your terms if you speak to someone with another worldview, but don’t expect that they read or hear something the way you do. And yet, no matter how you try, there’s a limit to understanding someone else worldview when views are opposing. And I’m in no way able to read that quote otherwise than sexist rapist-mentality. And I did try… It just conflicts with everything I know about love…

(And I’m not speaking as a feminist here, but merely as the lover and friend I am in my marriage, and as someone who tries to find a way to live out Christian self-giving love in every relationship… I just am not able to see how it would go together with what those complementarians describe…  )

what do you 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