Interesting stuff, weird creationist edition (May 2018)


And we’re back with a renamed version of the ‘interesting stuff elsewhere’ posts, May 2018 edition. I’ve dropped the ‘elsewhere’ part so I can include my own space, and I might be a bit late. But like someone once said, in some cases it’s better to be late than pregnant…

The picture is the hand of Campanula climbing over the  quay wall in the port of Antwerp. You can make up your own story about that…

Interesting stuff here:
I wrote a post about hell for the renewed synchroblog: The problem of those unable to Love, or the question of hell as a reality and I reflected on the scary incel-movement: Sexual entitlement, Involuntary celibacy, porn and losing your humanity

One of my songs is included in The Co-Op Communique Volume 4, a free compilation, which is a very interesting project that I might blog about myself later. Go and check which one it is, and check out the other 54 (!) songs, some of which are quite good.

I didn’t post my recipe for thistle soup yet. I might later.

A new plant for me that I saw here in Antwerp, Polycarpon tetraphyllum, kransmuur in Dutch and four-leaved allseed in English, new species in this part of Europe.

Stuff elsewhere:

The extraordinary life and death of the world’s oldest known spider 43 years, and killed by a parasite before it could reach old age

Is Capitalism Itself a New God That’s Devouring the Planet? written from a chaos magick paradigm but very interesting nonetheless. It’s on ultraculture, so watch out for people trying to sell you a chaos magick course.

The Paradox of Progressive Political Theology on experimental theology

A Scientist Sat Through an Entire Flat-Earther Convention. Here’s What He Learned. The Flat Earth society is fascinating and terrifying, and might be a subject for a later blogpost here too. This is a very interesting inside view of the movement.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s bad mescaline trip led to the philosopher being followed by imaginary crabs for years. This one makes one ask weird questions about tulpas and the opening of the sixth sense for astral creatures and such.

The price of public shaming in the Internet age

Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

A debate over plant consciousness is forcing us to confront the limitations of the human mind

A fasinating series on creationism and ostriches on the natural historian:
Consider the Ostrich: Job 39 and God’s Commentary on His Creation
Consider the Ostrich—Comparing Theistic Models of Biological Origins
The Prelapsarian Ostrich: Paradise Lost or Portrait of a Good Creation?
Consider the Ostrich: Literal-Day Creationists Unsure about the Ostrich’s Created Condition

The Dark Side of Young Earth Creationism, Jack Chick like cartoon tract that might be a bit over the top but makes some interesting point about the current batch of proponents of YEC like Ken Ham.

One of my favourite Franco-Belgian comics has finally been translated into English last year: Yoko Tsuno: The Titans The original French version and Dutch translation are from 1978, so better late than…

Consider the Ostrich: Literal-Day Creationists Unsure about the Ostrich’s Created Condition

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The problem of those unable to Love, or the question of hell as a reality.


Let’s begin with some good news: The synchroblog is on again!

And because life shouldn’t be too simple the first subject is ‘hell’, one of the most difficult subjects I know to write about, and a subject that has traumatized a lot of people and driven them away from religion. And yet it’s an important subject that we cannot escape if we’re thinking about our faith. Since the usual discussions about the subject are generally unproductive and often just degenerate in theoretical tail-chasing and exercises in giving God a very bad name I’m going to approach it from a completely different angle…

And I’ll start with a question:

Are we ready to face God?

Are we ready to face God for all of eternity, with no part of us hidden?

Are we ready to stand in the full light? If ‘heaven’ or ‘the new heaven and Earth’ is a place where the full Divine Presence is everywhere and no-one can escape it even if they try, will we feel at home there? Will we enjoy this?

Are we ready to lose all of our sins, and be transformed to the person we were meant to be in God? The person who can stand in the full Presence of God?

If not, there is a problem. A serious problem even. No shadow can survive the full Light. No junk that burns up can survive the Eternal fire, only precious metals. No person who wants hate and evil can enjoy a place where there’s only Love.

Are we ready to feel at home in a place where all hate and sin and selfishness are not just absent but also impossible? Could we live in such a place? Could we enjoy such a place?

Only Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Only Love, Light and perfect Justice. Are we ready to surrender to God and give up all other things?

Heaven (whatever form it takes) will be no fun if we’re not completely aligned with Love. That’s exactly why Jesus sums up the whole law into the double commandment of loving God with all of our person and loving our fellow human as we love ourselves. That is not just a law to test us if we’re able to follow commandments. It’s a severe training to enable us to live with God in eternity. Our life here is not just a test to see if we can follow certain rules, as a Muslim once told me. We have to become a creature that lives with God in Love for eternity, following Christ and plugging our Lives in into the Divine Presence. Being redeemed and reformed and recreated into the Image of the perfect Lover.

Which is a process as long as we’re here, but an extremely important one. And a very important factor here is our will. We might be failing people who fall into sin again and again, but if we do not at least have the will to Love, and to be able to completely discard all sin, evil, illusions and so on we will have no place in heaven.

Think of the wife of Lot…

It’s even more serious: the full presence of God might just be hell for those who hate God. We don’t just need forgiveness of our sins and removal of the penalty as some Christians seem to teach. That’s only a first step, but such a view is way too soft on sin and not seeing how dangerous sin is as a Reality. We do need the total eradication of all sin out of our lives if we want to be able to live. And here those who think they’re serious about sin often completely miss the mark here. We need transformation. We need to become a new person. Mere forgiveness is only a start. We need to start a new life in Christ. And that is not just a metaphor. It has to be a Reality, or we will be nothing at al. A good Friday only gospel is not enough. Christ reconciled us with God, and brought us on the Way. The first Christians were called followers of the Way. The way of the cross and the resurrection. The way of overcoming death with life, and living in Love in this world of hate, to not give up Love even if it means to have to pray ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do’ while you are being executed to death.’

Certainly, whatever hell is, Jesus came to save us from it, to solve that and other problems, and not make it more complicated. And Jesus came to show us how the core of life revolves around Love.

Without love you’re nothing, even if you have the perfect religion, right doctrine, faith that moves mountains, and so on (1 Cor 1: 1-3). Without love we gain nothing, and all is lost.

So what with those who are unable or unwilling to be transformed into a being aligned with Love? There are 2 possibilities, which are both terrifying if you think of the consequences..

First there is C.S. Lewis’ idea of hell as absence of God. Somewhere in his books he says that there are two kinds of people. Some will say ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done’ in the end, even with reluctance, and they will be the ones that will be with God for eternity. But others will refuse God, refuse Love, refuse Truth, and in the end God will say ‘your will be done, your kingdom come’, and leave them to their own will. The dwarves ‘who won’t the taken in’ in the last Narnia book are a good example of that. They create an illusion and shut out the Reality of the Land of Aslan. This is a hell, and one that’s locked from the inside.

There is another related but opposite idea, coming from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, that I’ve already alluded to in this post, the idea of hell as Presence of God for those who hate God. The ‘lake of fire’ in revelation, which is seen as hell by a lot of Christians, is interpreted as Divine Presence. (See Alexandre Kalomiros, the river of fire). Sadhu Sundar Singh has described a very similar thing. Funny enough the picture at the end of C.S. Lewis’ ‘the great divorce’ which provided my metaphor of the shadow in full Light also points at this idea.

So hell as a reality for those who are unable to be reconciled with God could work in both ways of completely being cut off from God who respects our free will, or experiencing the all-pervading Holy Presence .

Both are terrifying. To me they both sound like they could end up in annihilation. IF God is the Creator and Sustainer, getting completely cut off from God will just result in non-existence.

The same is true with the shadow in the full light.

On the other hand, maybe God is able to reach people even in that state. Maybe the fire purifies. Maybe the love of God is able to reach everyone in the end. I pray that this could be possible, but knowing how humans are I fear for it. So I don’t know. But I trust Gods love. I trust that God blesses the good and the bad alike as Christ says in the sermon on the Mount. I trust that if God asks us to love our enemies that God will be able to do much more than that, and will do much more than that, since God is love.

……………..

This post is part of the May Synchroblog, in which numerous bloggers around the world write about the same topic on the same day. Links to the other contributors are below. If you enjoyed my article, you will also enjoy reading what they have to say about the topic of hell.

More posts here on my blog about similar subjects:
Holy Saturday meditation 2018: the harrowing of hell
Keep me ignorant so I’ll stay out of hell?
6 + 2 questions for the hell debate
The worst of all sins, the Jesus creed and an orthodox hell…
do we need a hell in order to forgive our enemies????
10 old traditional and/or biblical Christian ideas that are sometimes mistakenly seen as ‘progressive’…
The scary consequences of baby universalism…
would universal reconciliation make the gospel worthless?

 

Sexual entitlement, Involuntary celibacy, porn and losing your humanity


Todays essay will explore some of the problematic thoughts of the so-called ‘incels’, an internet neologism derived from the words ‘involuntary celibacy that seems to have gained a lot of creepy extra dimensions over the recent years in a rather scary corner of the internet. A recent mass murder in Totonto for example brought the word in the news again as a potential new source of violence originating from the internet:

An Ontario man accused of using a rented van as a weapon in Canada’s deadliest mass murder in decades declared himself to be a soldier in the “incel” rebellion, a term referring to a loose social media movement of men who blame women for their celibacy. (Reuters)

Elle has some more disturbing details on this movement, with its very distinct own lingo:

The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” he declared. “We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”Welcome to the world of the “incel,” a world in which well-adjusted, sexually active young men (“Chads”) and women (“Stacys”) are somehow responsible for the misery of the dateless. A world in which the misogynistic spree killer Elliot Rodger is not only the “supreme gentleman” he sometimes imagined himself to be, but a bona fide saint.
The world got its first look at the incel subculture in 2014, when Rodger murdered six people in what he saw as an act of “retribution” against the women of the world for rejecting him. Rodger, who ended his murder spree by killing himself, left behind a hundred page autobiography-cum-manifesto in which he detailed what he called his “twisted life” and set forth the rationale behind his murder spree, which could be reduced to a simple proposition: if others were getting laid and he wasn’t, they deserved to die. (Elle)

These kinds of mass murderers are the most visible part of the movement, and they should probably be called terrorists and treated as such. But the worrying thing is the size of the movement on the social media and the toxicity of the ideology. Reddit deleted an incel group of 40.000 people because they promoted rape and violence last fall. But there probably are even bigger groups active now in darker corners of the worldwide web.

The 40,000-strong ‘Incels’ community was nominally a “support group” for people who lack romantic relationships and sex. “They are involuntarily celibate or ‘incel’.” However, popular posts from the last few months include ones titled “all women are sluts”; “proof that girls are nothing but trash that use men” and “reasons why women are the embodiment of evil”.Members describe women as “femoids” and the men they have sex with as “chads”. There are many examples, documented on a watchdog subreddit called IncelTears, where incels have condoned or advocated rape, or described it as a made-up construct. (the guardian)

I think it’s clear from the quotes what the word ‘incel means in this splinter of our universe: far beyond just people who are ‘involuntary celibate’ it appears to be a movement of violent and frustrated men (never women as they are rather excluded and often completely dehumanised by the movement) who are locked up in an impossible self-defeating dilemma: they seem to want to have lots of sex, but also express a lot of violent hate towards women, and also view women (and other men) who have lots of sex as worthless and worthy of violent destruction. There seems to be a lot of frustration behind the violence. And a worldview that is completely unhealthy, violent and also self-defeatingly incoherent.

A first thing to note is the completely unhealthy archetypes that are used in their lingo. The ‘Chads’ who are sexually active accomplished men and the ‘Stacies’ who mostly are pretty and have sex with their ‘Chads’ and not with the incels are extremely thin characters that might or might not exist but that are in no way worth emulating. Maybe it’s a mutation of the American dream or so; but I see nothing desirable or interesting about the people these incels are so envious of. The grass can be greener on the other side because it’s made of plastic, which makes it very sad that people are willing to get violent over envy at empty stereotypes…

But even worse, both for themselves and any potential partner, is the weird sense of sexual entitlement that these people have. They think that someone owes them sex, which they have been denied. That’s not a new idea but always a destructive one. Let’s get this straight. Sexual entitlement is always a dangerous illusion. Sex is not some kind basic right that you deserve and that needs to be given to you.

No-one owes you sex.

Sex is freely given between people who love each other, but can never be claimed from anyone. Otherwise it becomes rape, one of the most destructive deeds a human can do to another human. Certainly, sexual entitlement is not confined to a new internet movement but probably as old as humanity as a divisive force that destroys healthy relationships. The idea that women are less interested in sex as men but just have to do it for their husbands is another version of the same destructive thing in ‘conservative’ Western ideology. But on the other side of the political spectrum (if such a thing exists) there’s people in very creepy versions of hook-up culture that implore people to not deny sex to people if they’re trans because otherwise you’re trans-phobic. It’s all the same destructive thing.

No thanks.

I owe sex to no-one and no-one owes me sex. Otherwise the sexual revolution has become a new form of enslavement as so much revolutions do…

But the creepy thing about the incel version is how closely their sexual entitlement is linked to very violent agression:

This idea of male sexual entitlement can take many forms in society, often “less explicitly and less grotesquely” than what’s seen in the incel community, Hankes said. It can look, for example, like a husband who believes his wife should consent to sex even when she doesn’t desire it. On the other side is a redditor who said when a woman stops texting him back, “I send them a message saying ‘Ted bundy was a pretty cool guy, I wish it was legal to rape and murder women.’ I mean, id (sic) rather make them upset and fearful then just let them fade out and forget me and treat me like some subhuman.” (USA today)

And here we see the utterly self-destructing tendency of the movement again in clear terms. Nothing is more dangerous or destructive to human sexuality than sexual entitlement without any consideration of the feelings and wishes of the other. Nothing is a better guarantee for a fucked-up sex-life than thinking that people owe you sex without even caring about what they need. Intimacy that’s been won over by violence is not intimacy at all.

The sad thing is that even sex will probably not bring any actual fulfilment either for people that are so damaged; The problem is also that sex itself is not our deepest need. Our need is for love, intimacy, being accepted. As Shane Claiborne says:

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. (the irresistible revolution)

There’s a lot of celibate people (voluntary or unvoluntary) on this planet who are happy and have deep meaningful relationships. There’s people on the other hand who are lonely, fucked-up and empty who have a lot of sex. Sex is not the actual thing we need as humans. And the idea that sex alone can fulfill us is a dangerous lie that’ll lead to any real satisfaction. Sure, sex can be very fulfilling, but not without connection, intimacy, love. It’s always a part of a bigger whole.

And yet there’s a lot of propaganda that tries to tell us otherwise in this brave new world. Adverts use the emptiness inside of us and the idea that sex alone can fill it all of the time to sell a lot of stuff that’s completely irrelevant to human intimacy. And if you think that’s bad already, there’s a whole world of porn where sex is completely disconnected from love.

The fake and self-centered view of sexuality that porn indoctrinated people with is especially destructive if you’re shaped by it before you’ve even had a real relationship. You’ll be formed by lies that reduce what should be partners to thing to use, and your sexual growth as a person will go completely wrong. If your view of sex comes from certain kinds of porn you might effectively be vaccinated against love and intimacy… And you’ll always crave for things that don’t even exist outside of the sexual fantasies of some perverted producers.

Recently it even came out that porn can rewire peoples brains, and not just make relationships impossible but also make people impotent for real-life partners in some cases:

From Time magazine, Porn and the Threat to Virility :

A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic–more prone to permanent change–than in later life. These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning. The results of the experiment, they claim, are literally a downer.

Of course there are much broader concerns about porn’s effect on society that go beyond the potential for sexual dysfunction, including the fact that it often celebrates the degradation of women and normalizes sexual aggression.

Having a partner with ED [Erectile Dysfunction] isn’t the primary problem most young women face with porn, and only a fraction of women report feeling addicted, yet they are not immune to the effects of growing up in a culture rife with this content. Teen girls increasingly report that guys are expecting them to behave like porn starlets, encumbered by neither body hair nor sexual needs of their own.

So we see the source here of the crisis that turned these poor young men in violent incels: Apart from the probably very real rejection there is the damage of how porn and toxic archetypes create an impossible world that cannot exist but that people want more than the real world. And people are so hurt by that are willing to kill for that world…

Now, as a Christian I believe no-one should be written off. These people need and deserve healing. (But before that time it’s safer for any potential sexual partner to stay faraway from them!)

My radical proposal here might be surprising to some: friendship.

Without being friends with someone on a equal level you cannot be intimate with them. Without looking someone in the eyes as equally human you cannot be one with them. If you can’t be friends with the other sex you can’t have a meaningful relationships of any kind with them, and ultimately you can’t have meaningful sex with them.

We also should never forget that sex is not an end in itself, but part of the whole of a relationship, and that there will always be destruction if we use other people as means to get sex.

Let’s really treat everyone like brothers and sisters, and put a needle in all the balloons of destructive archetypes of men, women and sex wherever we encounter them so we can all be human with each other.

We certainly can live without sex, but we can’t live without that!

peace

Bram

There is only one humanity, and one civilisation (C.S. Lewis)


 

The idea of collecting independent testimonies presupposes that ‘civilizations’ have arisen in the world independently of one another; or even that humanity has had several independent emergences on this planet. The biology and anthropology involved in such an assumption are extremely doubtful. It is by no means certain that there has ever (in the sense required) been more than one civilization in all history. It is at least arguable that every civilization we find has been derived from another civilization and, in the last resort, from a single centre—’carried’ like an infectious disease or like the Apostolical succession.

C.S. Lewis, the abolition of man

Some interesting stuff elsewhere, Orthodox fairy edition (april 2018)


And we’re back at blogging here, and also back with a reboot of my monthly collection of interesting stuff I’ve read elsewhere on the web.It’s either a complete coincidence or a humourous plot of the Divine that there are so much Orthodox fairies in this collection, but it looked like a cool title.
Note that these are things that I’ve read recently, but not necessarily things that were published recently. I don’t subscribe to our societies slavery to the endless new.

(Picture is a random medieval miniature of Mary punching Satan.)

Here are the links:

Christ in fairyland at Copious flowers (featuring among others David Bentley Hart and C.S. Lewis)
The Psychic Jesus – Part One: Introduction looks like a beginning of a very interesting series at the God of Green Hope
Fairy Spirits and the Lamb of God – Part 1 and part 2 from Michael King at the Kings of Eden representing the more fringe Charismatic side
, some Orthodox Tolkienologie from A Kimel
Do You ever Think About Being A Hobbit , some more Orthodox Tolkienology but with less difficult words from Father Freeman

Side effects may include atheism by Elizabeth Ester on her side effects of mood stabilizers.
The Church I Dreamed Of, Against Christian Idol Worship by Kwon Jeong-saeng, written in Korea in the nineties, but very relevant and confronting nonetheless
The gift of not knowing by Chad Holtz
Opposite Sex Friendship — a few thoughts by Heather Goodman, one of the best posts I’ve read on the subject over the years.
St. Benedict and the prosperity gospel, Carl McColman the Catholic mystic reflecting on Hillsong and the prosperity gospel

When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance

Purity Culture Can Ruin the Sex Life of Christian Couples: A Therapist’s Perspective is the affirmation that the term ‘purity culture’ can describe something quite toxic in the US that is completely unlike any of the purity teachings I’ve encountered in my life in evangelical Belgium. (see my post A purity culture I don’t know…)

Desert Island economics (featuring Ayn Rand and Karl Marx) at existential comics
How Iowa flattened literature

And finally: an application form from the website of the illuminati where you can join them, provided that you’re not a robot. Sounds legit.

peace

Bram

 

The sexist umbrella that makes no sense at all


The subtitle of this blog is ‘My book of the damned’, because I sometimes touch on subjects that are completely off the radar for most people, even though they might be rather interesting or important.

Today we have the opposite, instead of saving something from the realm of damned and shining light on something interesting that is ignored by the mainstream I’ll shine some light on something that should be banished to far beyond the realm of the damned because it’s both harmful and stupid.

I’m speaking of the so-called ‘umbrella of protection’ diagram here, which seems to be used in certain ‘Christian” environments to explain how the order of the family is supposed to be. According to someone in my facebook list it’s even used in Flemish churches, although I’ve never encountered it myself luckily.

Just look at it for some seconds. Think about how umbrellas work. This is not how umbrellas work. Not even my little ponyland or Utopia are there laws of physics and logic that could be bended to make an umbrella work like this. No matter how you twist the whole thing, all umbrellas except the biggest one will always be redundant.

Now I know that a bad metaphor does not necessarily make an idea invalid,  and neither does a bad explanation of it.  So I know that I have to say something about the ideas behind the whole thing. But I can be rather short.

If the idea that the man is the mediator of God for the wife, and the wife is the mediator of God (through the man?) for the children, then the basics of Christianity are denied here. And the basics of protestantism too (the priesthood of all believers. Making the man a priest for all of his household members has some very weird theological implications outside of Christianity (like nullifying the idea that Christ brings is the one who connects us to God for women and children). And it’s as nonsensical as the ‘all men are leaders, all women are followers’ trope. No, most men are not leaders (and some women are). If everyone is a leader the word doesn’t even have any meaning anymore. And even though they are a minority, the bible certainly has a lot of women leaders and a lot of men who are not leaders.

If this is solely about protection then even psalm 23 doesn’t make sense in this worldview, and is only for me. Women should pray ‘my man is my shepherd, mediating the Lord for me’, while children should say ‘my mother is my shepherd, mediating my father who is mediating the Lord for me’. This is pure nonsense. God will protect anyone, and needs no authority over us to do so.

Hagar in the Desert

Think for example of Abraham, one of the most notorious figures in the history of religion, and certainly a man of God even though not always the best example in family relationships. When his wife Sarah kicks out his pregnant second wife Hagar the angels protect her, even though she just lost her ‘male umbrella’ according to this umbrella paradigm. Later the same thing happens with her son Ishmael when he’s 13. (Picture Gheorghe Tattarescu, 1870, Romania, I doubt angels actually look like that though)  God can protect any of us well enough without having any ‘umbrella’ of any authority over us. And for sure, we should protect the ones we love, but the whole hierarchy chain of the umbrella theory is very cramped and weird.

Where does it come from? It appears that this scheme comes from some bloke called Bill Gothard, who’s also leader of a homeschool movement and seems to be a rather weird cult leader (A FB-friend of me has been hurt and traumatised severely by his influence when growing up). His institute has even turned the theory and other rather weird authoritarian things in very cute but rather brainwashing songs for children and as you see from that link and the comments, more people have been very much hurt, damaged and traumatised by his approach.That alone should be enough to just discard the whole thing, and watch out for his influence in Evangelicalism. Here’s a good introduction to the story of Gothard (although not a super readable website) for those who want to dig deeper, and the afore-linked homeschool anonymous site has interesting stuff too.

To add a layer of irony, this whole Authoritarianism-gone-wrong stuff thwatchmanat is so pervasive in American Christianity is partly a Chinese import. Like the creepy extreme shepherding movement, Gothard is influenced by Watchman Nees ‘Authority and submission’ paradigm, which puts extreme emphasis on absolute submission.  (sample chapter from Nee here) Watchman Nee as a Chinese Christian was influenced by his culture -as anyone is- and imported a bit of Confucius here when it comes to the role of authority and hierarchy, which was taken to an unbalanced extreme.  For those who like to check for themselves: Here’s the whole reasoning behind the theory of ‘umbrella protection’ which is very clearly influenced by Nee if you’re familiar with his way of thinking.

But let’s go back to the diagram and look at it as it is drawn.  if we just open our eyes, the diagram itself cannot hide the truth that all of this is plain nonsense and the truth is still plain and open for anyone with eyes to see. The only ‘umbrella’ we need is the protection of God Himself. No other umbrella under it would ever do anything at all and they are all useless and unneeded…

Yes, we all are a blessing to each other, and we all help each other, but we’re all under the same umbrella together. It’s a basic Christian truth God is available to all of us through Christ.

peace

Bram

The friendship is the benefits (on Christian egalitarianism and cross-gender friendships)


I haven’t been blogging much lately apart from last weekend, but I seem to be full of thoughts that need out, and I’m trying to rely less on Facebook than I used to do -battling an addiction and winning?-, so I might return to blogging here more.

I’ll start with saying that I’m not following everything that’s going on in the US or in US Christianity, but I’ve been following a bit of the situation with the megachurch of Willow Creek from here. and the possible sexual misconduct of Bill Hybels -a man who always seemed rather respectable to me by the way- .  I am by no way qualified to say something about that situation, but the legendary blogger Andrew Jones has a good overview here with some important questions at the Tall Skinny Kiwi blog. (glad to see him blogging again by the way!)

One of the links that Andrew has collected in his post is a very interesting analysis of Dan Brennan here. Dan is one of the biggest experts in this age on Christianity and cross-gender friendships in the world as far as I know, at least in the English-speaking world. (See all my posts about his book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions’ here) HE has some interesting observations about a certain kind of ‘anxious’ egalitarianism that he sees as quite pervasive in certain American circles:

I was in for a big surprise when I started to go public about my friendships with women a little over ten years ago. I thought evangelical egalitarians would enthusiastically see all the benefits of intentional spiritual friendships out in the open. It was quite a jolt to me when I began to run into skeptical egalitarians.

To say I encountered spiritual anxiety among these unconvinced Christians would be an understatement. It was not that they were opposed to cross-sex friendships. They had plenty of opposite-sex friends.

What, then, were they anxious about? It soon became clear to me: my intention to practice dyadic opposite-sex friendships before a watching world. They were highly anxious in men and women sharing authentic power and risk in one-on-one relationships with no one else around. Friendship was not foundational to any Willow Creek model. It was not even up there on the high priority list.

Again, note here I can’t comment on whether this is actually true for certain circles, and my goal here is not to point my finger to certain groups that are on another continent from me, but to find out what the most Christlike way of living and interacting is, and which examples should be emulated and which examples are lacking. And what we can learn from that, either by seeing what we should do, or what we shouldn’t do.

Let’s first say that I certainly am an egalitarian and strongly believe that cross-gender friendships are a healthy thing, for several reasons. When it comes to the reasons that some Christians want to hear first, the ones derived from the bible and the Christian tradition, both more or less have the same foundation:  Jesus who broke all rules of gender segregation that his culture had is an important one to start with. Think of the Samaritan woman at the well, the story of Mary & Martha, and as I pointed out in my last post Mary Magdalene in the garden-. Paul speaking of ‘no male and female in Christ’ is another one. And just the idea of calling each other brother and sister is also a quite powerful -that’s not just a metaphor, people-. Every person is our brother and sister, and needs to be treated as such, with the same love and respect we would treat an actual sibling. (Yes, looking at our sisters as sex objects would be creepy and evil if looked at it that way.)

I also am naturally inclined by my personality type to friend women as easily as men, and any person who will tell me than male-female friendships are impossible is more or less doing something like telling Mr. beaver of Narnia that animals cannot talk.

I’d also say people who are unable to have equal cross-sex friendships are missing something in their humanity, and that New Testament Christianity quite easily leads to the conclusion that all people of all genders should be treated as friends. And that looking at people as sexual objects, either as a prey in our fantasy or as a temptation that we should get away from at all costs is, is a serious disregard of the humanity of our sister.

(Note that I’m speaking as a straight male here but that you can fill in whatever gender  or sex you are that fits for yourself and whom you’re attracted to. It’s applicable to all genders and sexual orientations)

I’m not the only one who has picked up on Dan’s important observations. The internetmonk blog also extensively quotes his blogpost in a post called “Friends without benefits“. Chaplain Mike ends his post with the following points:

In our sexualized society, it is easy to understand why some people might want to erect strong, rule-based boundaries about cross-sex relationships. I have news for you. Those boundaries haven’t stopped or even slowed down immoral behavior, and if I read Paul correctly, trying to control sin by implementing law only exacerbates the problem (Romans 7).

I believe God calls us to maturity and wisdom in all of our relationships. I have long been “egalitarian” in my theological position (I’d rather say I believe in full partnership and mutuality between men and women). But this article has caused me to question a huge blindspot in egalitarian teaching and practice. We have not truly learned to welcome each other, live with each other, and serve one another as true brothers and sisters until we can learn to be friends. Without benefits.

Very important points again, although I have some quibbles with his title. I’d say that the friendship itself is enough of a benefit, not? I already don’t like the expression of just friendship’. There is something very wrong if there’s an actual friendship going on and you call it being ‘just’ friends, a if being friends is not something worth celebrating in this superficial lonely culture… So as my own title here says, I’d say that ‘the friendship is the benefits’!

In a world where people of the other sex (or any sex you find attractive) are so often reduced to a commodity to satisfy your lustful thoughts actually seeing people as humans like us made in Gods image, and treating them as friends, and sisters and brothers of equal value as we have ourselves might be a revolutionary way of living. But in the end it’s just a very logical application of ‘love your neighbour’.

Not dehumanising people into sex objects -to abuse or run away from as a temptation- and just being friends with them are two extremely basic ways of loving your fellow human I would say… And that’s the core of the question. When we grow on our spiritual Path with Christ -who friended all kinds of women including prostitutes, which were never referred to as sex objects of either category by Him, but as fellow human beings in need of love- we should  be able to go much deeper than that. Just being brothers and sisters is the beginning, like learning the ABC when there are whole libraries to read, and all of us will add our own book to them.

peace

Bram

See also on this blog:
Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, and the Risen Jesus
Jesus against the sexism of his time: Martha and Mary
10 old traditional and/or biblical Christian ideas that are sometimes mistakenly seen as ‘progressive’…
Some thoughts on the myth that ‘men are visual’
On nudity in game of thrones, and some American bloke again…(the ‘bloke’ being John Piper)
On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
A Christian reaction to porn that doesn’t dehumanise the objectified further?
sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Meditating on sexy models