Monthly Archives: March 2010

An index of recommended blogposts

On music:

the brambonius top-25 albums of the noughties
New musical discovery: Brian McLaren
my first band

On free online music:

Bram Cools – I am the Belgian Christian lo-fi scene!
soul-junk – 1940 web EP
more free soul-junk Ep’s 1936 & 1935
happy birthday denison
the psalters


For those wondering, a spiritual autobiography…
Bram-mergent (consider becoming a friend!!)
I’m an alien

On the gospel:

Psalm 51 and atonement theories
dry inside after being soaked for centuries…

On supernaturalism:

Reclaiming supernaturalism: on evolutionary creationism and angels..
Reclaiming supernaturalism II: on my problem with christian materialism

on love, sexuality, marriage and stuff:

Avatar and the core of the christian view on marriage
love stories and broken worlds…
Post-human broken sexuality… vs the beauty in this innocence
the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…

On Christian sexism:

Christianity should not at all be sexist…
Jesus against the sexism of his time: Martha and Mary

On Christians and cross-gender friendships:

On cross-gender friendships and christians…
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

[See also Dan Brennans higly recommended book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘]

christians and cross-gender friendships (older post)

On how Christianity is subversive in love:

A call to subversive Love!!!
a prayer from Shane Claiborne
Jesus saves, or the red pill out of Babylon?
a society built on usury
shane Claiborne in white robes….
blast from the past 2: these are the days of great distraction…
blast from the past 3: Love is the first Law!

On false teachings, misguided theology and heresy:

‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
A tip for heresy hunters: The american conservative religion
fundamentalist dispensationalism
american synchretism
the fossilisation of Christian tradition…

On various theological subjects:

postmodern origins-agnostic Creationism
Derek Webb’s controversy
blast from the past 1: work, sex, love and God…

Sacred unions, sacred passions II: Freud and the irresistible sex drive

So right now I’m blogging about Dan Brennans book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, subtitled ‘engaging the mystery of friendship between men and women’. I’ve started this series with a musical prelude, and part 1: beyond the the romantic myth but I had already introduced the subject in another post earlier this week.

So Dan writes in his book about cross-gender friendships, a topic that is naturally to me (and him) but still it is very controversial for some christians, and some others in this world. One of the reasons for having problems with the idea of cross-gender friends  is the way we view sexuality as an all-controlling power in our post-Freud age. Freud himself reacted rightly againt the repression of sexuality in his victorian age, but what he gave in return was the other evil side of the pendulum… He sexualised and genitalised every form of human tenderness, and interest between the sexes and even within the same sex(even between mother-son and sister-brother pairs) and this myth has been deeply injected in the fundaments of our modern western way of viewing relationships, even for conservative christians.

If you combine this with an almost medieval worldview on creation order, that is still alive in some more conservative strains of evangelical christianity, you get a very deterministic view on any kind of relationships, which does in fact not differ much from St-Augustines, who was so affraid of women that he didn’t let his widowed stepsister stay in the same house as himself. but those were they days the church was absolutely negative about both sex and women (which is not very biblical, just read the song of Solomon…) and I don’t think anyone wants to go back to that time…

Like Dan points out: For many conservative believers, sexual drive towards the other sex is almost embraced as a nonnegotiable part of the created order. A number of Christians, like my former pastor (who told me I was playing with fire), believe men and women are hardwired for sex, as if that is the sole purpose for female-male relationality in Christ’s Kingdom and the world. It is “natura!” and therefore predictable for men and women who enter into any kind of close relationship with each other to take it to the next and ultimate level—which would mean having sex. Romantic and sexual coupling is in our genes as a man and a woman get close to one another, according to this interpretation.
Nature takes over and overrides the best of intentions between the sexes with irresistible force. Conversation, then, about male-female relations before marriage or in addition to marriage immediately goes toward temptation, lust, avoidance, rules, and boundaries. The discussion quickly degenerates into finding a list of rules to stave off powerful sexual urges. This common approach, however, is in danger of reading into the divine order a narrow, Freudian view of human nature as well as the romantic myth.

And from elsewhere: When Christian communities make Freud’s view of sexuality (even modified) and the romantic myth “compatible” with their biblical principles, the idealization of marriage becomes coherent with the rejection of intimate male-female friendship beyond marriage or outside of marriage: all the gestures, pleasures, emotions, and desires of nonromantic love are genitalized on this side of Freud. (..) As Lisa McMinn comments: “Although Freud has been misunderstood and criticized for saying so, hè saw sexual energy as the life force that motivates all human behavior. When conservative Christians adapt a modified Freudian view of sexuality and conflate the romantic myth with the meaning of one flesh, one wonders how Christian husbands and wives are able to pursue deep intimacy and become companions on the marital journey. Perhaps the greatest enemy of marriage when the notion of one flesh has been made synonymous with the romantic myth is the one flesh vision of marriage itself. When the romantic myth makes sex and romantic passion the end of marriage, it creates impossible standards. As Tallis notes, in romantic idealism “we unwittingly expect love to deliver the kind of happiness that was associated with a direct experience of the numinous. In effect, we look to another human being to give life meaning and purpose.

So what is the problem? First that those 2 cultural myths are adapted and used as foundation of bible-exegesis, on which we build our view of relationships. And worldviews and expectations are really self-fulfilling. If you just believe self-control does not exist, and that it’s only logical to look at women like sex objects, it will be that way. I am reminded here in a scene of the narnia book ‘the magicians nephew’, where the evil uncle Andrew, who does not believe in talking animals, tells to himself they are just making animal noises. And in the end he isn’t able to hear anything but animal noises, even if he would try (and the speaking animals don’t recognise his speech as language either.) I believe it is the same with the way how we look at the role of our sex drive: if we genitalise it all, all will be genitalised. If we start from friendship, mutual respect, and love, we will end with them…

It is not true that when I’m in love with a girl, that I have to start a relationship with her. Au contraire, even if you’re both in love you can decide to not start a relationship if you know it wouldn’t work… Like I did once. Neither is the sexual drive ever irresistible. If you really cannot fight temptation, you have a problem, and might even be a danger to society. There are enough people whose life proves that the irresistible sex drive is just a lie, christians and non-christians alike. And others who’ve made it truth in their own universe…

And especially we as Christians should not fall for such determinism that gives our flesh so much power! Don’t we believe in the fruits of the Spirit, including self-control? Don’t we believe that we are called to love each opther (a command which is never sex-segregated) and that in christ we as brothers and sisters live in a new reality, in which there is neither ‘greek’ or ‘jew’, nor male and female? We may do like the bible as a source for abstract truths, but when will we learn to live inside it’s new reality? Did Jesus die in vain to reconcile us, if all we want to believe is exagerrated psychological and biological determinisms, and the power of our flesh? shouldn’t we be living in the law of love, the resurrection and the new life?



Reclaiming supernaturalism II: on my problem with christian materialism

I’m in a blogging streak right now. so one more post in this ‘open-source theology project’ on post-evangelical thought and supernaturalism in Christianity, and I hope that after this one I’ll be writing one more post about Dan Brennans book on cross-gender friendships (see posts  -1, 0, 1).

So I started with my concern about how the currend trends of accepting evolution (and other ones) to me seem to open the door to (post-)evangelicals for a christianity without supernaturalism. I know very well this such a thing is not necessary outcome of accepting a more evolutionary creation view, and also that for example in the more liberal churches that there already are pretty naturalistic forms  of christianity. But still I do see that a lot of people beyond the post-modern paradigm shift and in the emerging church discussion don’t have much to say about the supernatural realm, and tend to be or silent on this subject, or to lean more to the ‘liberal’ side, which accepts naturalism as a reality and tries to incorporate it into a more materialistic kind of christianity.

But my problem -as someone from a charismatic background who from experience cannot deny the supernatural in different forms- with this christian materialism is that I can’t see it as something other than unrealistic synchretism of christianity with the theories of post-enlightenment western thinking, without being informed by a more spiritual reality. I don’t believe that the line between natural and supernatural is more than a practical line, which has been drawn during the enlightenment period between what could be measured and investigated, and what not… So we as westeners divided the visible from the invisible and made a materialistic wordview, in which only the visible exists, the rest is nonsense, superstition, whatever. (Very safe worldview if you are affraid of the onknown and looking for security…)

I do believe that this form on naturalism is mainly a western idea, and Christians nor non-christians in other parts of the world wil never fall for it since they do experience the supernatural…

Now it is true that the one big problem with the invisible still is that it is invisible, and we don’t know much about it… We cannot research it in a scientific way, as we can do with the visible. So it’s one area that we cannot know much of, except from experiences and subjective interpretations of things that go beyond our rationality. And what I lump together here as the invisble does not have to be monolythinc, in fact I very hard doubt it is… There might be lines and divisions in the invisible that could be drawn, that are way more clear than our natural/supernatural divide…

There are cultures in which there is no divide between the natural and the supernatural, in which all of the world is one continuum including both. And even if there might be a lot superstition, wrong explanation of the invisible and even demonic influenced false information, I think they are closer to seeing the world as it is than western materialism will ever be able to be. For example I think there is more than just demonic lies behind all the talk about chackras, auras and stuff, even if the explanations given are wrong, there is some reality behind them. And some stuff in the paranormal department might also be just ‘invisible physics. The problem with us westeners and the invisible is that we are totally disconnected with it, which is very dangerous if we are going to experiment with it unprotected. New agers flashing on everything spiritual and supernatural are very likely to meet some things that are not as friendly -and useful- as they seem….

So I believe that here in the ‘natural’ world there also is an invisible half that we don’t know of, and can’t know of in the same way as we know the visible half, since we are not able to investigate it in any meanigful way according to the standards of our rational and emprical paradigms… But to dismiss it for that reason is just wishful thinking in my eyes, like the proverbial ostrich who pust its head in the sand to not see his enemy. Or is that only an expression in dutch?

(this subject gives funny conversations with new atheists btw…)

The realm of angels and demons might be something totally different than the invisible part of ‘our’ universe… I’ve even wondered if there is a category of more ‘natural’ spirits that are part of our world, and that totally different from the messenger or archangels who have their own world… But that would be more speculation…

But my proposal is that we as postmoderns, even if we don’t know how to categorise it, make room again for the supernatural in our christian worldview. And then I’m not even speaking of the works of the Spirit, just about the supernatural site of Creation (our universe, and maybe beyond…)

(and I do not say that naturalist christians are heretics, I will only say that in my opinion they might miss an entire dimension of Christianity, in which they can experience the Salvation of Christ in the ‘here and now’ part of the Kingdom…)



Reclaiming supernaturalism: on evolutionary creationism and angels..

So I’m looking for people to help me with these questions. It might not be the most important part of theology to re-imagine in this postmodern paradigm shift, but still I’m struggling with these questions without seeing anyone who seems wantig or able to answer them…

There’s been a lot of talk on the fringes of (post-)evangelicalism about evolution lately, and in lots of other streams of Christianity the whole evolution debate isn’t even a question, evolution is combined with christianity without questions. Now I am on neither side of the debate between creationism/evolution, my position could be called something like post-modern origin agnostic creationist.  Agnostic in the sense of ‘we cannot know’ I do believe that the visible does not come from what we can see, and that Creation is something bigger than we can ever grasp, and even if we could, we don’t ahev the words and concepts in our languages to even explain what happened there; so I would not be surpised if the creation stories are just a symbolic way of telling the unspeakable, or godly baby-talk (accomodation in theological lingo)…

But I do believe that our science has the ability to say more or less meaningful things about the physical part of our universe. It has nothing to say about the invisible, and the spiritual, and whatever there is we don’t even know of, but it is in observing and describing the material world… So if we can trust science more or less about the history of this physical part of the universe, we have a history longer than 10.000 years, and there might be some kind of common descent of biological life forms. But for the sake of this quest we will go with evolutionary creationism, in which the Creator  created an ever-evolving world (the implication of free-will theology when you take it beyond humanity?) in which humans have developed from this ever-evolving life; and have been taken to a ‘higher plan’ as ‘imago dei’.

Now we go to a totally different aspect of my faith. I do believe that Christianity implies supernaturalism. I come from charismatic forms of Christianity (pentecostel as a kid, vineyard later until this very moment), and even for all the critique I have for some things in charismatic christianity I will never be able to deny the supernatural. I do believe that signs and wonders are one aspect of the Kingdom of God (one that is not mentioned that much in most of the emerging discussion about the Kingom… though the conversations about the future of the theology of the Spirit on Deep church for example are hopeful) But that’s a topic for another discussion.

There’s another aspect of supernaturalism that I can’t deny, even at moments when I doubte every explanation and theology about it that I’ve ever know. Let’s call it angels and demons, for that’s what it’s mostly called. I cannot deny them, nor can I deny exorcism, I have had some weird experiences in my life (about which I will not blog, but be free to discuss about them with via email) and I’ve heard witness reports from people I trust (and aven more from people I’m not sure of or don’t know…) There must be something like it… Nothing on earth will ever convince me of the opposite…

So here do we have a problem… What do we do with those spiritual entities in a worldview in which at least the material part of the universe is evolving?
* Are they unlike us created and do we follow the evangelical stories about angels who were created as robotlike serving spirits, of whom 1/3th rebelled and created demons?
* Do we find a way to theorise about the evolution of Spiritual entities? Are they ’emerging properties’ of the spiritual side of the evolving world in one way? Are demons viruslike parts of damaged spirits that found ways to live on and in some way reproduce? Or are archangels beings that were create dto oversee the processes of an ever-evolving nature (of which one rebelled?)
* Do we just admit that it’s a mystery of which we will not be able to say anthing meaningful? We miss the words and concepts to explain what they are, so we remain silent? I bet we as humans won’t even be able to do such a thing…

So I want to ask if there is anyone like me, who falls broadly in the category of evolutionary creationists who believe in spiritual entities, what do you think??? (I don’t mind people saying they do believe in old-earth creationism or materialism without spiritual beings, but please do not hi-jack this discussion and be respectful…) How do we reconcile the evolution idea which tend to lead to materialism with spirit beings?

in hope of an interesting conversation…



sacred unions, sacred passions I: beyond the romantic myth

Right now I’m blogging about Dan Brennans book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, subtitled ‘engaging the mystery of friendship between men and women’. I’ve started this series with a musical prelude, but I had already introduced the subject in another post earlier this week.

so now it’s time to start talking about Dans book itself. And what I like a lot about it, is his thoroughly investigation of the subject.You get a lot of background information, history, bible verses, and quotes (somtimes it’s almost academically) of which you wished you’d know it before.

In the beginning of the book he identifies some of the underlying assumptions in how Western society (and thus, in modified form, Christian subcultures too) view sexuality, relationship and marriage. And the sad thing is that we most of the time don’t seem to be able to see through them… One thing Dan identifies as the foundation of a lot of our thinking is what he calls ‘the myth of romantic idealism’, which we all will recognise if I give you 2 quotes that were used in the book:

Our culture generally elevates the romantic experience of falling in love above religious commitment, teaching us that this emotional experience is both beyond our control and beyond all reproach! Idealizing romantic passion as the unique, one-and-only, exclusive form of love between a man and woman has created a pervasive romantic myth in our contemporary world when it comes to male-female paired relationships. (Laura Smit)

Romantic relationships are celebrated as an ideal woman-man relationship in our society. The myths of our culture secure a special status for romantic heterosexual relationships since these myths idealize romantic love and promote the notion that the emotional well-being of men and women is dependent upon their involvement in a ‘successful’ romantic relationship! (Kathy Werking)

So romantic love is seen as the most important and deepest form of love, and ones life will never be complete without it. A lot of movies and books and songs do have that idea as the basis of the underlying worldbview.

The sad thing is that ‘conservative’ christianity has absorbed a lot of this idea, and combined it with the biblical of “one flesh” (an expression used for both marriage and sexual union from genesis, which is referenced to in the new testament by both Paul and Jesus himself) to create something unrealistic. The “one flesh” relationship is supposed to satisfy all our deepest yearnings for oneness, sexuality and deep friendship. So every male-female interaction is viewed in this light:

The Christianized version of the romantic myth exaggerates, idealizes, and isolates the path of dating or courtship to marriage as the only prize in paired male-female relationships under the justification of “one flesh!’ Embodied knowledge, relational depth, emotional closeness, physical tenderness, sensual warmth and play, vulnerability, trust, fidelity, commitment, union, spontaneity, understanding, giving the utmost— these dynamic nongenital relational qualities are romanticized and sexualized under the evangelical rhetoric of one flesh. Some Christians who see these dynamics in male-female pairs presume this “couple” must be on the path toward romantic and genital intimacy.

Which is asking way too much of romantic relationships and marriage. Surely in this sexually broken world it is important that we point to marriage as a place of love, passion and sexual fidelity (also with our lives!), but that does not mean that all other ‘unions’ in our life are just peripheral…: To use Dans words:

Here, classical Christianity calls us out to something much more than the ‘much more” embedded in romantic idealism. God, who is love, calls us all—singles, husbands, wives, widows, widowers, divorced— into a spirituality of love and friendship in marriage, beyond marriage, and outside of marriage. While God honors and blesses the marriage bed, God does not confine delight, goodness, passion, attraction, beauty, sensuality, spontaneity, or creativity to the boundaries of married love. Jesus himself embodied these realities as a single man. The spirituality of love and friendship in classical Christianity does not give us a stark contrast between great mystery of marital love and uninspiring platonic friendship outside of marriage. Both in the Bible and in tradition, the spirituality of friendship is presented as hungering for the good, the beautiful, and the true.

The whole romantic myth is not something we should swallow as truth as Christians. We follow a single man as Savior, and most of our new testament was written by another single man. How could we ever believe that ‘being in love’ and having a romantic relationship is the highest good to pursue without which we’ll never be complete? This is very denigrating to singles, and to all non-romantic relationships too. While friendship and brotherly love have been honored throughout a lot of church history (and in lots of other cultures) we seem to not value it very much in our society. Only the expression ‘just’ friends tells us enough, as if a friendship in itself is not enough to be meaningful…

So the first thing from the book that I think everybody should think about is this romantic myth. It doesn’t matter if it’s the christian or the non-christian form, we shouldn’t fall for it!



sacred unions, sacred passions (musical prelude)

I’m going to blog about Dan Brennans higly recommended book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, a book which I think is needed in soms Christian circles. But before we go to the book i’ll start with a song that I once made, about how I felt when I was a lot younger and a bit lonely. My apologies for those who don’t like lo-fi music… (and yes I know it is weird and slightly out of tune and will never make the charts, but I do happen to like this kind of music)

(yes the video is not that much…)

That’s how I felt, lonely and stuck on the wrong planet and hopelessly trying to get attention. I may have even instinctively tried to flirt on occasion, in my own clumsy way, but the last thing I would’ve been interested in would’ve been sex. The dark part of me filled with stupid sexual teenage fantasies was just so shallow that it ceased to exist when there were real persons around and I hated that part anyway. All I needed was love in the form of friendship; sex would just have destroyed me and everything I wanted and needed. But friendly love  was something I needed. And there were periods when I easier connected with girls than with my own sex.

Maybe the female friends that I had (and still have) in a way were in part a replacement for the romantic absense in my life, but also they were the sisters I never had. It’s not that the reason I seeked the companion of girls was because I was longing for something that would end in a romantic and later sexual relationship. I tend to start friendships with girls I’d never fall in love with anyway. No, those girls were and are friends, and to add the word ‘just’ before that would be an insult to our relationship. A friendship is complete in itself, and being ‘just’ friends with a girl was all I needed at that moment.
I wouldn’t have been ready for a relationship anyway.

That was in my late teenage years and young twenties, but later there was a girl who became my best friend and even more, and then my sexuality got born again very slowly while we came closer in more dimensions than a friendship has… But my relationship with my wife was not something to replace any other friendship, only a new one, with more depth and a sharing of parts of me that had never been shared with anyone… But we both have good friends of the other sex, and our lives would be a lot poorer without them.

For a lot of people my age and younger there isn’t even a question about that kind of friendships, but for others (and especially some christians) it is unthinkable or risky and dangerous. Like you would guess, all I’ve experienced in my life does place me in the first category. I don’t need anything to justify myself, I just feel blessed with all my friends and I know God enjoys it. I never thought of it as subversive anywey before I got into discussions with some people… And I still believe that this kind of ‘friendly love’ can overcome sexual brokenness and hurt about the other sex in peoples lives, if we open ourselves up for it…

So I’m glad that someone has written a book about the subject from a christian perspective… Thanks Dan

Next time I’ll highlight some insights the book has to offer that are really important for us to consider!



A call to subversive Love!!!

hi readers

I will start with a quote from Zack’s response to my last post on cross-gender friendshios (which is worth reading, giving a good explanation of the things I was talking about, from the perception of the culture he was born into):

We don’t often find Jesus bending over backwards to not offend His culture. On the contrary, He went against the grain precisely to demonstrate how backwards their culture was, and to reveal to them what God’s love looks like in society.

That’s the context in which I would place the whole subject of cross-gender friendships, but this topic of subversive love is so much broader that this, and it must have a central place in our Christian life if we want it to make any sense at all. Jesus, Paul and the early Christianity did not only summarise the whole law in the ‘Love God above all and you neigbor as yourself’, but they also lived that way, which was not just a choice, but also an orientation, and a lifestyle, a transformation, a whole new way of being and relating to the world.

So when we look again at the story of the woman at the well (see john 4), we clearly see this revolutionary way of lovingly relating at work. No jewish rabbi at that time would ever even think about being seen with a woman of questionable reputation, even if she wouldn’t have been samaritan. There was a great segregation of the sexes, and a looking down on sinners, and the way Jews reacted to samaritans would be considered racist by todays standards. But against all those cultural taboos, Jesus just talked to her, in a friendly and egalitarian way. No matter how we try, we will not realise how subversive and not done such a thing was. And we are called to follow Jesus and do likewise as He did.

The well-meaning intentions of people who are abstaining from stuff like being seen with people of the other sex or sinners or other wrong company might stem from an honest trying to do good, but it’s far away from Jesus’ teachings and example. And it may be much closer to the one kind of people Jesus always rebuked: the religious elite of his time, like the pharisees and sadducees. He was the one who hung out with sinners and the pariahs of his age, with litteral lepers and traitors of Gods chosen people. We are not called to carefully watch our reputation, we are called to embody christs love, and we are called blessed when we are persecuted for that (see the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5)

In our christian communities we should be one, without distinctions based on race, gender, age, musical preference or social class. Neither greek or Jew, male or female as St-Paul calls it. The first christians lived that way, and so did countless other christian communities in all kinds of situations in the last 2000 years, from old to new monastics, from anabaptists to Jesus people communes. And those communities were not only focussed to keep thier love inwards, but also to sharing it with the world, with hospitality, generosity, charity.

A comment here is that, while I do believe that we have to contextualise the gospel and translate it into each culture we are in ourselves, we do not have to let the culture and it’s definitions and taboos, or even definitions alter the gospel. Au contraire, we should let the gospel transform the culture, just as we need to be transformed ourselves! We come as we are, but no way that we will stay as we are, otherwise our good news does not make any sense at all…

And this may come down to something you could call christian anarchism, or better Love-archy. We don’t listen to then written or unwritten rules that try to put boundaries on our love, just like Jesus who talked with the woman at the well as if it wasn’t special at all to do such a thing…

And I know that I fall short in any way. Both in my personal life and in communal life with my brothers and sisters in christ, and I want to repent of that. I don’t want to see the prayer of st-Francis as inspirational but faraway from my daily life. I don’t want 1 Cor 13 and verses like ‘perfect love drives out all fear’ to be hypothetical theory, but I want to learn how to live them.

This is my new motto for my life:

I want to learn how to love, the rest are details.

will you guide me, Spirit of love?

will you join me, my brothers and sisters?

will you be my all, Christ?



ps, for some inspiration go look at the revolt collective or read shane Claiborne’s book ‘the irresistible revolution’. Or look at those countless hero’s and examples that we have in the history of our faith who lived a life of subversive love. We are surrounded by a witness cloud!!