Tag Archives: sex

Nothing more natural than cross-gender friendships?


This post is part of the February Synchroblog “Cross Gender Friendships”. The list with the contributions , which I recommend you to read too, can  be found at the end of this post.

I am one of those calvin-and-susie-25895people whose mere existence can be a threat to some peoples worldview…

I really don’t get certain (sub)cultural taboos for example, and they actually are quite unnatural and illogical to me. One of them is the way American conservative people are offended by the word ‘shit’, but that might be for another time. Today it’s about the idea that ‘men and women can’t be friends’. This is something that seems to be a doctrine in certain Christian circles, but I’ve also encountered it in other places that were completely unchristlike, and actually have thought it  to be misogynist worldliness for a long time. And moreover, everything I know in my life points to the obvious fact that this is just nonsense…

If we skip the discussion about the segregation of the sexes that exists in certain Muslim context for example, and just look at the cultures I more or less align with, we still find enough examples. I remember as a teenager that I was watching a Flemish talkshow on the subject, and there were people for whom it was natural that such friendships were possible, but also some kind of weird loud working-class guy who said that it was impossible for men and women to be friend, with some reasoning about sex and gender roles and a lot of stuff I could not relate to. I think that was the first time I realised that some people had the idea that cross-gender friendships are impossible, or even harmful.

Maybe for some personality types it is harder, I don’t know, I suppose so. I also wonder if you’re used to watching women as lust objects it is harder to relate to them as friends… at least that was my explanation for the phenomenon that some people were unable to be friends with the other sex. I had noticed early enough (and seen it again and again) that the type of man who likes to boast about watching porn and make remarks about women passing by on the street was less likely to have ‘just’ friendships* with women (the sort of women they found attractive that is, they might be friends with the old lady behind the bar or so…)

The thing is that I was the kind of boy who always found it easier to make friends with girls than with boys. And there was no ‘hidden agenda’ for me, I’ve always tended to friend girls whose presence I liked, but to whom I did not have romantic attraction. (At that age I was too shy to friend girls I was in love with anyway, it made me uncomfortable and stuff. Poor me…) So anyone who ever tells me it’s impossible to have friends of the other sex is like someone telling a Martian that aliens don’t exist. Not in a million years it will ever be convincing unless you destroy my identity…

As a Christian teenager I  liked to hang out with girls more than with boys, and was friends with several of them, and never heard (or at least did not understand from what I heard) that it could be wrong. I heard a lot of stuff about relationships, but since I’ve been single until I was 21 or so, that stuff wasn’t relevant. what I did hear was that friendship was important in a relationship, and I never conceived that a friendship with a person of the other sex not leading to a romantic relationship or a marriage could ever be a problem…

Maybe I sometimes encountered stuff like stories of pastors who wouldn’t even be alone with a woman not their wife, or of the dangers of meeting other women alone if you had a relationship, but that did not apply to a single person who was not at all such an exotic thing as an American pastor… And to be honest, not much difference happened (except for a shift in priority) when I started a relationship, or even when I married.

Later when I was in my late twenties I saw some signs that it was actually a taboo, especially for married people, to have cross-gender friends. But I was actually married by that time, and both me and my wife still had good friends of the other sex, so I just found it weird, and couldn’t relate to the idea. Upon investigating the subject it turned out a lot of people would find my life and friendships unnatural and dangerous, or just not possible. (Americans seem to like to quote some movie about Harry and Sally on the subject, but I’ve never seen it, and I don believe in the cannonisation of Hollywood movies at all… I also find it quite nonsensical from the viewpoint that a lot of people are bisexual. Should they have no friends?)

But it became a subject that held my interest. I learned a lot about the subject from the blog of Dan Brennan, (and his excellent book sacresacredd unions, sacred passions) who did come from a point of view where he had to defend his positive views about cross-gender friendships all the time, which was not always as relevant to me, but he also laid out a beautiful history of cross-gender friendships, and a quite interesting positive theology of cross-gender friendships in the already-and-not-yet Kingdom of God.  He only confirmed my conviction that friendships are part of the command to love one another, and that this does not exclude people of the other gender.
(Something that’s quite obvious in the way Jesus relates to women in the gospels, sometimes completely contrary to the culture he lived in!)

So, what’s my conclusion: cross-gender friendships should be natural to those who followed Him who called us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is part of the already and not yet of the inbreaking Kingdom of God in our world. I also think that learning to develop friendship-love towards the other sex is a very good antidote to the toxic tendency to  objectify women (and men!) in our society as sex-objects. My life and my faith would be poorer without them, and even my marriage would never have been what it is without what I’ve learned through cross-gender friendships.

shalom

Bram

The other synchroblog participants:
Chris Jefferies – Best of both
Jeremy Myers – Are Cross-Gender Friendships Possible
Lynne Tait – Little Boxes
Dan Brennan – Cross-Gender Friendship: Jesus and the Post-Romantic Age
Glenn Hager – Sluts and Horndogs
Jennifer Ellen – A Different Kind of Valentine
Alise Wright - What I get from my cross-gender friend
Liz Dyer – Cross-Gender Friendships and the Church
Paul Sims – Navigating the murky water of cross-gender friendships
Jonalyn Fincher – Why I Don’t Give out Sex like Gold Star Stickers
Amy Martin – Friendship: The most powerful force against patriarchy, sexism, and other misunderstands about people who happen to not be us, in this case, between men & women
Maria Kettleson Anderson- Myth and Reality: Cross-Gender Friendships
Bram Cools - Nothing More Natural Than Cross-Gender Friendships?
Hugo Schwyzer – Feelings Aren’t Facts: Living Out Friendship Between Men and Women
Marta Layton – True Friendship: Two Bodies, One Soul
Kathy Escobar – The Road To Equality Is Paved With Friendship
Karl Wheeler – Friends at First Sight

Doreen Mannion - Hetereosexual, Platonic Cross-Gender Friendships–Learning from Gay & Lesbian Christians
Jim Henderson – Jesus Had A Thing for Women and So Do I

Elizabeth Chapin – 50 Shades of Friendship



See also on this blog:

Jesus against the sexism of his time: Martha and Mary
On cross-gender friendships and Christians…
teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…
christians and cross-gender friendships
sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit
sacred unions, sacred passions (musical prelude)
sacred unions, sacred passions I: beyond the romantic myth
Sacred unions, sacred passions II: Freud and the irresistible sex drive
on sexy porn models and human dignity

* There is no such thing as ‘just’ friendship. A real friendship is a very valuable relationship that is not at all less valuable than a romantic relationship or a marriage. This expression just shows that our culture has a too low view of friendship!

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

Not a post on sexism, but a post on the uncontrollable power of stories…


Don’t ask me what kind of narrative this picture communicates…

I’ve been following an online discussion between my feminist blogger friends Sarah and Dianne, and some guy called Cory Copeland, a Christian blogger that I don’t know much about. I basically agree with Cory that, whatever the story is, there is always redemption for the fallen sinner. And I agree with Sarah and Dianne that the described story is quite troubling, and full of abuse, and that the difference between consent and coercion is way too important to not be see here. I can even add from a masculist angle that I find it quite sexist to bring up the ‘boy as a dangerous sexual predator’ stereotype, and a flat character in the story. Is there any chance for redemption for him? (And I’m not even speaking of the weird ideas surrounding her virginity here)

But that’s not what I want to address here.  There is another problem, which is quite important, that comes up in the discussion under Cory’s post. Sarah comments on the part of the boy in the story, and I find Cory’s answer quite troubling:

The story wasn’t about the boy. It was about the girl and her struggles. That’s the story I chose to tell. Respect that.

The problem is that a story tells itself, and it can show things that even the narrator isn’t aware of. And the boy in the story is quite problematic:

This girl met a boy and that boy had a way about him. He scaled rooftops and smiled like the sun. He captured the good girl in his madness and she soon fell in the deepest of love. The girl held strong at first, tossing away her boy’s hands as they searched her body, seeking satisfaction. Again and again, she dissuaded him, turning a stone cold cheek and halting heavy breaths before they had pushed too far. But the boy was relentless and vile in his objections to her goodness. He bombarded her wits with fallacies of unrequited love and lacking attention. He had played this game before and he was good.

Soon, the good girl could take no more, so she stripped herself of the righteousness she held so close and took her boy into her bed. Now, she felt emptiness where love used to grow; loneliness where hope once flourished. (please read the whole story here)

You can say what you want, but this tells us a lot about the boy, even if he is just intended a flat character used as a plot device. It tells a lot about how boys are viewed, and (for an outsider) some very troubling things about American ‘purity’ culture. What is described here is a very problematic relationship. I would even say this story tells a lot of unintended things, because of all the unspoken stereotypes and expectancies that drive the 2 characters.

Stories are a powerful and even dangerous device of communication, because they’re not always tameable. If you tell a story, you have to listen yourself too. It might tell you things you didn’t know yourself. And people with other backgrounds might hear completely other things. Like with Jesus’ parables: we think we can pin all of their meaning down, and then someone from another culture sees a lot of details and makes conclusions you didn’t even know where there. And someone like Henri Nouwen has spent a whole life exploring Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, and even he could go deeper.

So, with every text we write, we should be aware with every story that we use to convey a moral, that we create an ‘entity’ that will stand on it’s own, and that will lead a life of its own. We cannot control what it will communicate to other people. The story will just tell its own story. And people will recognise the nuggets of Truth in it, but different people will see different things in it. And there is the possibility that people will see problems in it that are in a ‘blind spot’ of the authors worldview. But that does not mean that anyone outside of that worldview will not see them very clearly…

I do think telling stories is important, and a very powerful way of communicating in postmodern times. But we as Christians don’t have to repeat the same stories of the world over and over again. We need to reframe the stories in the light of Gods Kingdom. We need to tell new stories. We need to go beyond the blind spots of the cliches, and tell stories of salvation, of fallen people of both sexes who find not just forgiveness, but shine redemption in the darkest places of our world. It is darkness that dissappears where light shines! How strong is the light that we posses?

And we need to consider the implications of what we are exactly saying with every story that we tell. We do need to not further propagate the lies of  darkness that bind and destroy people, but dismantle them, and destroy light with darkness. So I applaud Cory for using story to communicate, it’s what Jesus did. But I’d ask him to be more cautious about how powerful stories can be…

what do you think?

shalom

Bram

My beheaded martyr Valentine…


Happy day of St. Valentine to ya all!

Let’s not forget why the church calendar has this day. We do not know much about this Valentine guy, but if the vague legends are true he has been tortured to death and beheaded on februari 14 for his faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s reflect on that!

In all the stuff about lovers, Chocolate and fluffy cupid angels, and weird sexy stuff we are celebrating the nameday of a martyr who was tortured and killed for his Christian fait:

He was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner – until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor – whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. (wikipedia, paraphrasing the Nurenberg Chronicle)

Sure there is a lot to say about a day to celebrate love, if done in the right way (what’s up with all that weird eroticism and over-commercialised nonsense on this day?) But as a follower of Christ every day should be a day to celebrate love.

So let’s not be fooled by the worship of money, stuff and postmodern sexiness. It is not worth our time and effort…

So let’s love.Let’s be love. And let’s not forget those who died out of love for Christ, like Valentine whom is celebrated today! Let’s not forget all who die under an oppressive system that doesn’t want deviants to have their opinion. These things happen today as well as in the days of Cladius the Goth. And not just Christians, all sorts of peope are being killed because they don’t agree with the ruling system…

shalom

Bram

(othrodox icon of Saint Valentine via Micha Jazz on facebook)

teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…


I just fell in love with this picture when I saw it. It looks like me when I was younger:

I don’t think I really wanted and even needed more.

I don’t think I reall needed more. Just love.

Friendship-love. Something real. Something not fake like oversexed music videos, billboards with half-naked women and other nonsense like porn.

I was turned off by everthing about sex at a certain moment. The whole of society was trying to sell me as much sex as possible, and I saw no love at all in it. The Christians sometimes seemed to be more interested in teaching how to not have sex than how to love…

Maybe I did scare girls away because they thought I wanted something I didn’t want. I never cared for sex without love. I don’t think I ever will. I have no problem with sex and I quite like it (which is probably good, since I’m a married man…) but I don’t get the hype. Sex is part of a love relationship. It is not an end in itself, and can be destructive if it becomes an end.

to quote Shane Claiborne:

If we are able to have a healthier understanding of sexuality and to celebrate singleness as well as marriage and family, then we can transcend some of this. One of my mentors is a celibate monk, and he says we can live without sex but we can’t live without love. And there are a lot of people who have a lot of sex and never experience love, and people who never have sex [but] have deep experiences of intimacy and love.

That’s what I needed. That’s what everybody needs. Maybe sex can be a distraction and substitute for some people in a way that just could never work for me, but it cannot replace love and cure loneliness.

Are we there for those who need love and friendship?

I’ll conclude with an old Bram Cools song (lo-fi alert:  strange arrangement, poor melody and not so technical vocals), which can be downloaded here. It’s not really a video, sorry.

on sexy porn models and human dignity


Last night in a dream I suddenly had clear and developed plans to make an awareness system for pornography, which at least in my dreamy state seemed perfectly possible to do. When I woke up a lot of the ideas was lost, and it also seemed a lot less practical and much less obvious to do in the real world than I had imagined in my dream, but nevertheless I thought that I could try to just  write it down the way I remember it, and share with the world…

Even without taking my faith as a christian as a factor, I simply as a human being find the concept of porn a very bad idea that enormously devaluates human dignity. Getting yourself sexually exited on a picture of someones sexy body generally goes together with the reducing of thet person to just her body, and the reducing of that body to just some organs that can give you sexual pleasure… No woman (or man) deserves to be robbed of her humanity that way, and it’s extremely low to make money using people in such a way.

The use of images of sexy women to sell something that has nothing at all to do with them is totally degrading for both sexes. It’s not only woman-unfriendly, but also sexist to the other side. It is just assumed that I as a man will follow my natural urges and buy whatever crap they sell just because those women arouse me. sorry, but tend to I find this very offending! it’s an insult to her, and to me, and it devaluates humanity for everyone who would be conditioned enough to fall for it… For a long time I have been thinking that I should not take this nonsense, but still what can I do about it? I am not the type to write letters and stuff. and I’m not a knight who can fight wind will, let alone real dragons…

(and I’m not even talking about teens in their puberty time who are filled with unrealistic pictures of the female body and sex before they even have sex, which can be very destructing for their relationships later in their lives. I know there are already age limits for porn and that they don’t make any difference in real life, but maybe awareness raising in school suring lessons about sexuality may be a good idea… )

Every woman or man is a person. (As a christian I would add that we are created in Gods image, but that’s not an argument that I can use to convince people who believe differently) so even speaking just from a basic humanist position, every person deserves respect as such, and a whole industry that is built on the abuse of the human sexual integrity should not be allowed to just do anything. At least they should be balanced with warnings and reminders.

Like the warnings we have here on packs of cigarettes, there could be awareness stickers on magazines or other publications of a pornographic type. Just a reminder that the people who are shown are human just like the reader. I had a cool text in my dream, but I lost it.. Something like “All men and woman shown here, are humans just like you are! They don’t only have a sexy body, But  also  a  personality,  and  human  dignity, friends and family, hopes and dreams, and they need love, friendship and happiness just like you and everybody”. The same kind of reminder sticker could be used for publicity and advertisements with (almost) naked women (or men) used to sell something that has nothing to do with sexy human bodies. And naturally also on the boxes of pornographic movies such a warning could be put… And the films could be preceded with a small awareness video clip (like the anti-piracy vids) For example starting with the sexy picture of a model, and then parts of an interview where she is in normal clothes and without make-up, telling about her family, her time as a child, her hobbies, her hopes and dreams, to conclude with a photograph made with ‘aging software’ to show how she might look within 40 years… and then al last slogan as ‘sexy models are as human as you are’

The same could be done to certain music videos (cough, cough, R&B)…

No I’m not a conservative puritan, far from it. And it’s not that I would want censorship as it exist in the USA (which is extremely irritating), just a very personal reminder for the uncensored versions that everybody, also those with a sexy body that make money with it, are much more than their body. and that it is not fair to treat anyone like a sex object. Human dignity is something we should not trample. Not in war and torture, but also not in all this commercialising of sex!

But I guess I’m just being naieve, and my imaginary activism will never do anything in the real world…

shalom

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

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

christians and cross-gender friendships


One of the things of american christianity, which sometimes get copied in this part of europe but seems totally alien to me, is the way some people seem affraid of the other sex, and use theology to justify that.

Now, I do know some people just can’t get along with the other sex. In working class circles I noticed that there sometimes was a really large gap between the sexes that I could not understood, but I always noticed that such a disconnection was almost always paired to a porn-like objectification of the female. which is very evident: the more you treat female humans as sex objects, the less you will relate to them as human beings that you can be friends with… So I’m not that surprised when that kind of men would tell me that it’s impossible for them to be just friends with a woman. It is a deep and grave wound in their sexual human-ness, but totally understand, even though it’s sad and evil and it does no goed for man neither woman and brings lots of hurt to both…

But I’ve always seen Christianity as something which goes beyond that, something which bridges the gap between the sexes (‘in Christ there is male nor female’…) and cures the disconnections bethween people. But some people seem to totally disagree with that. I know some ‘true love waits’ type of people disapprove of being alone with the other sex at all, just like some ministries have rules for pastors to never be alone with someone of the other sex. Like this one from saddleback church. For reasons of temptation or reputation if you’d be seen with someone and stuff… But all of this looks so cramped in my eyes….

My whole life is opposed to that anyway, I am the kind of guy who sometimes makes friends with girls more easily than with other guys, even though the girls I like to be friends with are not the type of girl I would be romantically interested in. (Except for one interesting exception, who is now my wife…) I like to be friends with girls and women, and nothing of that did substantially change when I passed from celibate singleness into a relationshop into marriage, au contraire: she likes about me that I see girls and women as humans to be friends with, and not just sexuals things that could tempt me or that I could sexual fantasies about or something like that. Yike! Women are people to be friends with, and sisters in Christ.

In the end, doesn’t common sense and basic ethics tell us that we should consider every woman as a sister, mother, or daughter, depending on age? Or am I too naieve in thinking such things are a matter or logic? maybe I am. Maybe the disconnect is rooted too deep in our societies, and it may be growing with the explosion of porn and R&B-videos…

But still: that has nothing to do with Jesus And reading through the bible I see Jesus also acting against all that cross-gender paranoia. Jesus breaks all taboos when talkin (alone!) to the samaritan woman at the well: a rabbi doesn’t speak to women, and a jew doens’t speak to a samaritan, and one does not speak to people with the sexual history she has when one wants te be respected. That kind of logic is what I recognise in the Saddleback story, but it’s exactly what Jesus opposes.

Besides, I find it sexist and degrading, the idea that being with someone from the other sex should be considered unsafe. Very insulting even if I would be a woman offering to drive some speaker to somewhere, and he would refuse for that reason. Even autistic maybe. But totally unchristlike. Indeed Christ would not be hired at all in such ministry with the attitude he had towards women, if we look at the samaritan woman, and his friendship with Maria and Martha…

I still don’t get the christian intersexual disconnect, it is totally alien to me, and every time I read things suggesting that it is a controversial subject, like this zoecarnate blog-post, I am amazed again.

May we all learn to love…

shalom

Bram

ps:  for people interested in the subject, I do recommend the blog of Dan Brennan, who writes a lot about cross-gender friendships and related subjects from a somewhat post-evangelical perspective…