Tag Archives: christian sexism

A Christian reaction to porn that doesn’t dehumanise the objectified further?


It’s quiet here, so let’s go back to controversy and write about some kind of weird subject like the pornification of images (moving or not) of human beings made in the Divine Image… (generally called ‘porn’ by most people) And let’s give it a long title full of complicated words so I won’t attract too many Beavis and Butthead-type of readers…

Yeah,  it’s been a while since I wrote a post about things related to sex and love and so (the last and only one since July or so being my little effort to raise some awareness of asexuals as the most ignored sexual minority) so why not….

So where to start? A while ago I read this article called 3 lies that kept me trapped by porn from a guest-blogger on Micah Murray’s redemption pictures. To clarify where I stand on these things I must probably start here with saying that, while it’s an understatement to say that I’m not a fan of porn at all, I’m generally not a big fan of most Christian anti-porn propaganda either… so I didn’t expect that much from the article, since most articles with a title like that are just more of the ‘every man’s battle’ stuff, an affirmation that it’s more or less expected for a man to be addicted to porn on one hand and a lot of guilt-creation that partly misses the point on important details on the other hand. I tend to not find that especially healthy. But, to my big surprise, this article turned out to be a completely different cup of tea that needs to be shared more. (if you still get my mixed metaphors here) .

The post was written David E. Martin, who has a Christian website for people who do have problems with porn called ‘My chains are gone’. His website and ministry have an approach to the problem of porn and its solution that is worth looking at, so I recommend you all to not just read his guestpost on redemption pictures but also his site if the subject is of any interest to you.  I might not agree with every line they write, but overall they have a lot of interesting things to say that I hadn’t heard before. It’s quite quite different from the standard stuff most Christian repeat all the time, as the 3 lies in the title already show:

1. The unclothed human body is primarily sexual in nature.
 Therefore, to see another body unclothed is a sexual event.

2. The automatic and natural response to the sight of an unclothed body is sexual arousal. Therefore, the best strategy against lust is to limit the opportunity to view the unclothed body.

3. To be drawn to the sight of nudity (beyond your spouse’s) is a perversion.
Therefore, we must make every effort to eradicate this “perversion” from our hearts.

He exposes these ideas as lies that hinder those trapped in an addiction pornography in breaking with those habits. Maybe a bit counter-intuitive but I do agree with him, and I would say that the de-pornification of the human body might be the most important thing in learning to look at human beings as made in Gods image and loving our fellow human who happens to be of the sex we’re sexually attracted to. His approach is connected to ideas I have been alluding to in some of my blogpostVenus of Willendorfs (See for example posts with titles as On sexy poorn models and human dignity; meditating on sexy models; on nudity in game of thrones and some American bloke again…; Some thoughts on the myth that ‘men are visual’; On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and comsumer capitalism) But it’s not at all something I’ve seen discussed that much by most of my co-religionists even though some of them like to talk about porn a lot…

It’s an easy subject to start discussions of sin and holiness and whatever, but I often feel like important things are missed.  Although I naturally completely agree with Jesus who says in the sermon on the mount that looking lustfully at a woman is to commit adultery in your head, there are some points in the standard blablah that I don’t find very helpful.

Some of these things have to do with what David writes about on his site. the standard approach is not helping in what I earlier called the depornification of the human body, and moreover  ‘Looking lustfully’ is not synonymous with looking at a nude. Also we do easily forget that porn as we know it in our current culture is not a universal thing but in the current incarnation something unique in world history and very specific to our culture. The way bodies are depicted in our porn would not be very sexy to a lot of people from other times and cultures….

Well it actually isn’t even to me. And I’m a 21st century Western male…

So let’s get to some more points that are often overlooked:

1.) Assuming porn addiction is just how men are wired: Normalizing problems of a certain part of the Western population in a very peculiar time and culture as ‘this is how men are wired. Get used to it.’ is not the way to go. Men are not wired into being addicted to what is called ‘porn’ in our time and culture and in the very myopic way a certain subculture frames our human sexuality in a very narrow and unhealthy way. Porn addiction means that persons (male or female) are conditioned to like it and neuroplastically deformed into it.

2.) Missing the core of the problem gives us some pretty bad solutions: The problem is not in the first place what we see, but it is what is in our hearts when we see it. Porn is very often in the eye of the beholder. If we really learn to love watching porn is impossible, since seeing someone as a human being is incompatible with pornificating them.  The deepest problem is not what we see, but how we watch it and why we’re watching it.

3.) Furthering dehumanization is part of what we should eliminate: Pornification is always a dehumanization of the depicted humans into mere sex objects. If we want to get beyond it we should not follow that line of thinking but reject it. Accepting that women are nothing but sexy temptation and then avoid them is equally dehumanising. The ‘rape culture victim-blaming’ stuff that when a man has sinful thoughts when he sees a woman it’s her fault is only perpetuating the deeper sin of dehumanization, and actually not solving even a molecule of the problem.

4. We should also never forget the  formative danger in porn: We seem to ignore as a culture how porn shapes and deforms our view of the human body. It creates a new and perverted reality, in which sex is not that healthy at all and in which humans are less human than how God created them to be.  It is a fake ideal world that fills peoples head but that no living person will ever live up to. We might think that porn is just showing us how sex is and how sexy people look, but it’s actually completely fake on one hand, and transforming human sexuality to its own image and likeness on the other hand.

Yes, one of the exact dangers of porn is how it is making up it’s own very depraved standard of sexiness that isn’t real at all and then it tries to conform the real world to it. Which is especially dangerous for young people who don’t have their view of sexuality fully formed, like teenagers in puberty. Peoples brains are actually altered by watch porn by the way.  This brain-altering already happens with adults watching porn, but it’s extremely dangerous with young people whose view of porn isn’t even formed yet like I said.

5. Porn is not just ‘showing sex’ but  lying: The things depicted in our modern porn are not default human sexuality at all, let alone human sexuality as God meant it. It’s a very peculiar way of framing sex, a language that seems universal to many people.It’s actually a very artificial and unnatural mutation of human sex, not just a way of visually describing how humans have sex. The bodies are fake, the angles are very artificial and unrealistic.  Our modern ‘porn’ goes way beyond nudity in what it gives to stimulate our sexuality so a very big and abusive industry can make a lot of money.

Yup, the end goal of most porn is probably money for some shady types somewhere.

6. Watching modern porn is learned behaviour:
Looking at the beauty and sexiness of the sex one is attracted to is very natural, but modern porn goes a lot further than this and is much more niche… Consuming modern porn is learned behavior, like drinking wine or listening jazz.

It’s something I didn’t learn though. Except for simple nude pictures most porn when I accidentally see it doesn’t work for me, probably because it’s too far away from my own sexual experience (and lack thereof in my younger years).  Most times when I do see real ‘porn’ beyond playboy-level I’m actually repulsed, not aroused.

(Clarification: I do like female nude art a lot btw, maybe too much. But one of the things I like most about female nudes is some untouchable sacred innocence which is so real that any ‘wrong’ thought is misplaced.  Which is completely incompatible with porn and probably impossible to describe to people who don’t know what I mean. Think about Ransom and the green woman of Venus… It is because I love female nudity so much that I hate porn.)

I do think not getting it and being repulsed by what goes for porn nowadays is not a very abnormal reaction for a uninitiated person actually. Look at this description from a (female) guest-blogger at irrestistible Fish (and read the post too later after you’ve finished mine and see also her part II) about her surprise when she started to watch porn:

Porn was not exactly what I had expected.
I knew it would be graphic, but this, this was beyond graphic.
This was not like the sex scenes in a movie.
This sex wasn’t just sex.
Porn sex was different.
The bodies were ‘perfect’, the positions, acrobatic.
No one had a single hair follicle visible anywhere on their perfect bodies. And visible their bodies were. Microscopically so.
Everything was up close and zoomed in. Nothing left to the imagination.

There was no kissing, no intimacy, no love, just animalistic, self-gratifying acts of sex.

Only reading this paragraph makes me feel dirty and uninterested… Call me a romantic but I don’t even want to be able to fantasize sex without kissing, let alone intimacy or love.

What would even be the fun of that? Yuck….

This way of picturing the human body and sexuality is blasphemy against the Imago dei itself. Blasphemy against love.

(I’m actually very lucky to have formed my view of how female  bodies are not from porn but from biology books, more regular nude scenes, and more classical nude art or nude photography, and that the default for a female body in my head is mostly just my wife, not a forced ideal that doesn’t exist. )

So what is the most important thing here? I would say that what we should never forget is that porn is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not what comes in through our eyes that makes us unclean, but our own heart and how we process those things. Sexually perverted people will look at every woman with lust and predatory thoughts, no matter how they are dressed. Being a woman is enough to be subject to pornification for some.

But one of the most important commandments for Christians is to love our fellow humans as ourselves, which very certainly does not include dehumanising them as sex objects.  Even the label ‘humanist’ to me would imply a higher standard than dehumanising other people in to sex object. And not unimportantly  here is that it doesn’t matter that much if we consume them with our eyes as porn or turn our eyes away… The second one might keep us from certain sins like the ‘looking lustfully’, it still makes us regard the person in question as less than human.

How can we ever learn to love fellow humans that we cannot look at because they are only sex objects for us? This approach will never make us love more even if it can help us by means of mere sin management. But in the end we need to learn to love the other. This is why I do think that for example Dan Brennans work on cross-gender friendship is very important (check out his groundbreaking book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘ on the subject) Pornification of the human body is completely incompatible with love and loving the other as ourselves., and we need to let go of it…

But this might requite a letting go of cultural conditioning and might  need some help from the Holy Spirit…

So what do you think?

peace

Bram

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On nudity in game of thrones, and some American bloke again…


Yes, I know I had planned to not interact that much any more to whatever the American Christian blogosphere gets riled up about, but I’m going to break that rule for one time now, even though this post is probably a bad idea.  I do know the John Piper bloke is big in certain circles, but he does not concern me much personally. I have written about him in the context of sexism in North American evangelicalism earlier, but overall he’s not someone that has much impact on me nor does interest me that much generally, but I want to react to one of his recent writings.

(To not have too much controversy I will probably add one post with pictures of Antwerp before I go back to the occult. Oh and I did recieve a book called ‘a farewell to Mars’ that looks interesting even without featuring any Martians… Why can’t I just blog about more regular things?)

Some people in some facebook groups were reacting against one of his recent writings (a transcript of some king of talk more specifically) about nudity and the popular series ‘Game of thrones’.  Now I neither read the GoT books nor watched the series, and I don’t really intend to. This has several reasons, the first of which being that I have a reading and watching list that’s full enough already with much more interesting stuff. The second reason seems to be (if I understand people who like it well) that the background philosophy seems to be something like ‘there is no good and evil, only power, and those who are too weak to get it’. Yes, I actually I do quote professor Quirrel here from the first Harry Potter book. And I do note that Harry Potter rejects that way of thinking without even considering it. There’s enough of that stuff in world politics, and it’s not what I turn to fantasy for. The third reason why I’m not really interested would be that I hear that there’s a lot of sexual violence in it. I don’t enjoy stories with too much sexual violence AT ALL.

Since Piper most probably hasn’t seen any GoT himself, and I did read his article 12 questions to ask before you watch game of thrones, I do feel sort of qualified to comment on some things in the article (though not on GoT).

I must tolkienpipesay that he makes some interesting points here and there, and actually goes back and forth from saying stuff I agree with to things that make me think ‘Dude, what did you put in your pipe, is it an old Toby from the Shire or rather a fine Moroccan hashish? Some of his questions are interesting, some seem a bit besides the point, and others come with an explanation that I just disagree with or find completely irrelevant:

Am I Recrucifying Christ?
Does It Express or Advance My Holiness?
When Will I Tear Out My Eye, If Not Now?
Is It Not Satisfying to Think on What Is Honorable?
Am I Longing to See God?
Do I Care About the Souls of the Nudes?
Would I Be Glad If My Daughter Played This Role?
Am I Assuming Nudity Can Be Faked?
Am I Compromising the Beauty of Sex?
Am I Assuming Nudity Is Necessary for Good Art?
Am I Craving Acceptance?
Am I Free from Doubt?

Actually apart from the article and GoT a lot of these questions are worth meditating on in genera. But what I want to react to is his general reaction to nudity. I do believe as a Christian that pornography is wrong for several reasons. I can argue from the words of Jesus that adultery in your head is sill a sin, and I would add even whether the other person exists or not. (Which is probably quite extreme a teaching for some in this world, but I stand by it. Yes I can be pretty ‘conservative’ indeed…)
Also, the porn industry is quite exploitive towards women and human beings in general. All of which are made in Gods image. Not only is reducing people to sex objects with a camera dehumanising, making people of the other sex watch it and reduce themselves to such things is equally dehumanising.

The thing is that John Piper seems to assume that all nudity automatically works pornographic:

Jesus said everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away (Matthew 5:28–29). Seeing naked women — or seeing naked men — causes a man or woman to sin with their minds and their desires, and often with their bodies. If Jesus told us to guard our hearts by gouging out our eyes to prevent lust, how much more would he say: “Don’t watch it!”

I’ve seen this approach more, both from certain Christians of a more fundamentalist ilk and certain Muslims, but I don’t believe in it. I do not believe at all that men automatically have to sin when they see a naked female body, and can’t do anything about it, although I can’t rule out that some men are probably indeed conditioned that way. (I say conditioned, so I do not at all mean hardwired here, but programmed: In some culture women walk around with naked breasts all the time without anyone seeing it as sexual at all, while in other cultures seeing just the unscarfed loose hair is considered too sexy for a man to handle and keep his self-control…)

I’m sorry, no matter what some mega-selling books claim to be ‘every man’s battle’, I’m not free from flaws and sinful thoughts in the area of sexuality, but no, I do not just automatically want to have sex with a women when I see her without clothes in a movie. I don’t picture me and her having sex just because she’s unclad or scantily clad. Yikes. What an idea… Just as I do not want to have sex with a woman I see in real life just because I notice how attractive she is. (Actually clothes don’t have to make that much of a difference here anyway. The ‘lustful lecher’ type will be doing the same when they see people they find sexy even when fully clothed.)

Yes, sex scenes in movies are arousing and sometimes IT IS better to look away, I won’t argue with that. Completely agree. Watching people having sex or faking to have sex is maybe generally not always the best idea. (Although it is not so far-stretched to just want your OWN partner in such a moment, not the people pictured, I’d say.)
Assuming that people will automatically sin when they see a nude person of the sex they’re attracted to shows probably just too much faith in ‘total depravity’ for me. Moreover, if I were from a tribe that walks around naked with even caring about one breast more or less it would be one more case of telling Mr. Beaver of Narnia that animals will never be able to talk. Even to me this article already feels a bit like it.

And here we come to the problem that porn often lies in the eyes (and mind, and hormones) of the beholder, so this is a difficult discussion… I can’t argue with other peoples POV, but I would be very glad if they do not project their own experiences on the rest of the world either…

It’s probably true that nudity in GoT is used a lot for sex scenes or otherwise voyeuristic purposes, but apart from this, there is no reason at all to always see nudity as sexual. It’s in fact quite dehumanising (speaking as a heterosexual male here, substitute whatever gender applicable if your situation is different if you find this hard to read otherwise) to directly reduce the nude female body to something solely sexual. Censoring breastfeeding for example has very perverse ideas behind it for me, breasts are meant for breastfeeding and sexualising it is quite sick in my opinion.

100_1594Maybe it’s because I am the grandson of the late semi-famous painter Willie Cools, known for his abstract female nudes (that are not and have never been sexually arousing to me at all, no matter what other thing one could say about them) but I think it’s totally overblown to say ‘nudity = pornography, always’ I have seen a lot of classical paintings and sculptures with female nude in my life, and again, most of them are not that sexually arousing as far as I’m concerned.

Maybe it’s not that weird to not equate all nudity (or all female nudity, our society does seem quite asymmetrical here) with porn. I’d rather just think our culture’s attitude towards nudity is unhealthy. There is a lot of evidence that the first Christians practised nude baptism for all believers without anything like this discussion at all…

I thus assume we better reframe one of Pipers questions here, and not ask “Do I Care About the Souls of the Nudes?” but whether we are able to see the image of God in every person we might dehumanise. This might be the case with sexy models as I’ve written about earlier, and for said nudes here, but it applies far outside the category of ‘sexually tempting’ to any person we deem less than human, because they are in our eyes, too poor, too ugly, too different, whatever…

We need to have the eyes of Christ, who was a friend of prostitutes without looking down on them nor looking at them for their sexiness. We should indeed not look at people with lust and reduce them to sex objects in our head, but it’s much more healthy to be able to see some nudity every now and then when we stumble upon it without going completely crazy about it than assume that every time we see a female body we need to think about having sex with them and ‘can’t help it because we’re wired that way’. Such an approach will never be helpful at all.

Another thing that does concern me about the article is that the issue of sexual violence is not addressed. I hope it’s because Piper doesn’t know enough about GoT -I can’t imagine him watching/reading it at all-, and not because for some reason nudity seems much more of a problem than sexual violence (in which case the term ‘rape culture’ would be more than appropriate).

Also, one last thing is that I am more than a bit confused by the ‘violence can be faked and nudity not, so watching violence is OK and nudity isn’t’. Come on, what kind of an argument is that? Does that mean that pornographic manga or computer-generated realistic images of nudes are okay then? I disagree on both accounts: nudity isn’t automatically evil, nor is violence ‘not a problem’ when it is faked.

Some people will not be able to see nudity, whether real or not (or in certain cultures bare ankles or loose hair) without falling into ‘lust’. Just a a lot of people get very unhealthy and sinful kicks out of watching violence (even if fake). Killing humans (made in the imago of God, or representing humanity which is made in the image of God) is one of the most severe sins one can do, and portraying it should always done with a lot of consideration, whether it is fake or real isn’t even the issue. Just as with sexy manga the sinful reaction is present will be completely the same…

what do you people think?

Bram

Some interesting things elsewhere VIII


If you want to get rid of an evil by means of a revolution, work for finding a way of life completely without that evil. Anything just built on reactions to that evil is still bound to said evil and is never going to take its influence away…

I didn’t have the time to finish my first capitalism post yet (it’s getting too long anyway) but I hope it will be ready for this wednesday. Things have been hectic again, and to make up for not that much interesting stuff here I present you the resurrection of the ‘some interesting things elsewhere’ series, with various dreadlocked guys, feminists, fundamentalists, and even the gospel coalition…

Let’s start with some music: The most interestpsaltersing band on the planet (and one of the most distinct bands in the galaxy) has its music available on bandcamp now: the psalters! (Not all albums are there yet…) If you don’t know the psalters, just listen…

Philip Ryken on the Gospel Coalition with ‘how to discourage art in the church’ has some very interesting points.

And then from the ortodox side this article by Father Stephen on Prayers and the One God of all that I’m still processing.

From the feminist side: Libby Anne is blogging through some weird American book called ‘created to be his helpmeet’ which like me looks like the manual for spousal abuse and more disaster in marriage, and she as a non-christian is a lot beter at exegeting proverbs 31 than the writer of that book. This confirms my idea that some things that go under the name ‘fundamentalism’ might say that they take the bible serious, but actually just follow their own (very weird) tradition and use some bible verses here and there to back it up…

Speaking of feminism and women in the church, this breaks my heart. Something is very wrong with how women are viewed in our society, including Christian circles. Be sure to also read this post from just beloved. It is beyond my understanding why women are judged so easily because of their looks, but it still is a very pervasive evil!

Speaking of evil: Roger Olson about ‘satanic realism’ (part 2)

Andrew Jones AKA tallskinnykiwi, the grandfather of Christian blogging, has a 10 year anniversary for his blog so he decided to start again with a whole new blog here.

15 things Jesus didn’t say

Totally unrelated: mosses frozen inside a glacier dating from the little ice age 500 years ago are still able to come back to life!

I leave you with some dreadlocked guy who reads you what he considers the best sermon ever:

peace

Bram

Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…


true love waits
and that’s okay
but you seem to spend your time waiting
ain’t that extremely frustrating?

(the irresistible 21st century virgin boy)

Last week I had a serious flu and I was quite sick, and not able to do much at all, not even reading or thinking, so I was lying on my bed listening to old CD’s with demo songs that I recorded years ago, when I still used the nick/artist name ‘the irresistible 21st century virgin boy’*. One of the old CD’s contained a song I kissed waiting goodbye that I thought was lost forever, one of my earlier attempts to do something with beats and guitars together in a real song. But it also  vocalised  some critique to a book I mentioned in a recent post (‘I kissed dating goodbye’ by Joshua Harris), and I suppose more broadly to the rhetoric of the people of ‘true love waits’ , who then haTLW2d a Flemish division here in Belgium that sent me a lot of news letters because I once had carelessly signed one of their pledge cards on some christian event. (It seems they’re out of the running now though , can’t find anything of them anymore lately…)

The song itself was dismissed later because I hated how I hadn’t been able to find a really fitting melody on the sometimes quite random chord progressions. Re-listening there’s something in it that I like, and some things that I hate (that really bad word flow of the ‘don’t concentrate’ part for example.) But is was a good try, even if it got forgotten without ever been played again…

[please listen to the song ‘I kissed waiting goodbye’ here https://soundcloud.com/bram-cools/i-kissed-waiting-goodbye (lyrics are there also) and tell me; does it suck completely, or is there still something interesting about it?]

The title ‘I kissed waiting goodbye’ does not mean that I (with my weird artist name) had any problem with the idea of sex as belonging into a marriage relationship (I still believe in that, even though I don’t think a state marriage has much to do necessarily with the definition of marriage) but the whole imported ‘purity culture’ had some exaggerations that I found quite weird. And the local people that preached it were quite peculiar specimens too btw… The emphasis on waiting and not doing stuff was what was getting on my nerves…

Like I said earlier in my recent post a purity culture I don’t know, some of the critiques to ‘evangelical purity culture’ I’ve seen lately are describing something I don’t recognise at all, but I did have my concerns with what I did see. If I would have encountered weirdos like the 2 creeps in Sarah Moons latest blogpost my concerns would’ve been a lot bigger. And it might be that I didn’t even register some of the things that didn’t make sense to me, I think that’s how I never picked up those gender roles in Harris’ book if they are there. my brain didn’t even notice them because they made no sense to me, and they got thrown with the ‘this is too American’** garbage bin.

(Remember that an ‘American writer’ for me is as distant and exotic as an Italian cardinal, and Indian Sadhu  or an African Touareg songwriter…)

The whole movement always was a bit too obsessed with sex for my taste. (an obsession with having no sex all the time is just a weird form of sex-obsession.) It seemed like all they wanted to talk about was how to not have sex, and that was not what I was looking for, I was looking for how to actually grow in my relationship in all kinds of areas. All that talk about what not to do is not good for building a relationship. what people need is positive advice about to grow in love, and not just sexually!!!! there’s much more to a relationship than that, and focussing a relationship on that will make it unbalanced, be it a relationship focussed solely on sex or one focussed solely on avoiding sex …

One of the things I probably dismissed as otherworldy nonsense was the idea of ‘never being alone with someone of the other sex’, including the one you’re not yet married to but having a relationship with. As someone who had been always single with a lot of female friends some of which I saw alone regularly such things just didn’t make sense and didn’t get registered in my brain. It was not something that could convince me anymore than the idea that Belgium does not exist… (It would never haver worked with me and my wife either)

Another point that I found troubling was that I did not see how filling people with a ‘no sex’ message and conditioning them all the time to not touch and not be intimate would ever be reversed on a wedding night. I was too realistic to believe such a thing, whatever promises of ‘great sex lives for those who wait’ were gives. I just didn’t see that happen with such an obsessive attitude. And I later read a lot of articles that affirmed, sometimes from people who were completely blocked down sexually, so it wasn’t a false concern… I know it did work for other people, but I who was already blocked on sex and completely turned off by a world around me that seemed to sell sex on every corner but no love was more traumatised about sex on that moment. And in need of simple honest not overly sexual intimacy. It would actually take years of very slowly growing in intimacy before I would even be ready for sex and by that time I’d be ready to get married too.

By the way, there is something really problematic about all the weirdness this kind of movements does attach to the Christian ideas about sex and marriage. There is something dangerous about a good idea or a truth being hijacked by people who exaggerate in preaching it, and lump it together with nonsense and worse… It might work as a really good vaccination to ever believe it again. Those preached to who are first convinced but later see that the ballast is nonsense will most likely throw away the child with the bathwater… (an example of that here)
See also Ken Ham and his weird form of young earth creationism as litmus test for Christianity…

But let’s close with what I think is important about true love: it loves! And loving is not about not doing things, but about doing things. Apophatic theology (saying things about God by saying what He is not) can be an interesting way to communicate truth about God, but not doing certain things is not the essence of any form of love, and if it is you’re distracted from the real thing…

peace

Bram

* There was something sarcastic in that name, mainly the ‘irrestistible’ part… I’ve been single and eh, extremely celibate until I was 22 or so.

** Nothing racist about that. Other cultures always have things that are found to be nonsense and irrelevant by outsiders. But I do think I can indeed say that ‘too American’ is a valid reason for a lot of Europeans to  dismiss something…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

what do you think

shalom

Bram

I don’t understand ‘complementarianism’


I am quite busy this week, and I didn’t plan on contributing to Rachel Held evans’ mutuality week. But eventually this rant had to be written somehow. I hope someone can make sense of it. And even if you disagree with me, take me as an example of someone for whom a lot of traditions seem to be just impossible. Even if I go to far in some directions, from a partial outside blind spots can be seen that insiders will never even would think of…

Warning beforehand: I’m probably naïve, I probably grew up on the wrong planet, and even my own Flemish culture can be alien to me sometimes. So don’t expect me to take American sensitivities and unspoken laws for granted. Being a sometimes rootless postmodern does have a lot of disadvantages, but for a follower of Socrates (Who questioned everything, something which parallels Jewish thought) it has the dubious advantage to easily look through some things that others won’t ever question.

‘Complementarianism’ seems to be a loaded word, if I can rely on what I find when I browse the contemporary Anglo-Saxon Christian blogosphere. If I would not be aware what is meant with it, I would probably heartily wear it as a label: I do happen to believe that not just people in a relationship or marriage, but even most people in most situations, do need to complement each other when they’re doing things together. I don’t think it could ever be otherwise if I’m honest…

But that’s apparently not how people use the word. Christians (mostly of an American evangelical variety) seem to use to word to prescribe role models in marriage that to me are quite alien, and I honestly don’t believe they’d be less alien to a first-century Jew as they are to me. Something that to me looks like old-fashioned Flemish farmers mentality with a bit of lower working-class sexism thrown in. (Accuse me of classism, but when I was working within certain circles I was quite shocked about the sexism and homophobia going on there.) Most descriptions of gender roles that I encountered in this school of thought have not that much to do with the bible, regardless of how much bible verses they use, but more with going back to a historical situation somewhere between the industrial revolution and the 1950’s.

I myself might be lucky. I grew up in a secular country with a liberal Catholicism on the brink of disappearing in atheism. Whatever patriarchal traditions there might be in older communities, I’ve never encountered them as something religious, more like something backwards and primitive. My parents were in the leadership of a pentecostal church (later moved on to the vineyard) and they raised me quite egalitarian, even if I never heard that word. Later I heard that some saw my father as the most woman-friendly preacher of Flemish evangelicalism, but I must say I’ve never seen that much of the ‘woman-unfriendliness’ when I was younger. I always was aware that some Christians teach that women should be obedient to men, or that they should not hold any position in a church or preach. But the pentecostals that I met did allow women to preach as far as I can remember. I can remember having women preacher on all youth camps, and also seeing those women preach .

(I seem to be the lucky man here, and that’s not only due to me being naieve and oblivious. Even my wife has encountered things that I would not believe existed in pentecostal circles, and the last years I’ve seen -thanks to the internet- that the discussion about women in church and their position, one I wasn’t aware of that still existed here is still alive, even among young people.)

I never realised it was that special to hear a woman preach. I don’t know much women preachers, but I’ve also haven’t met any women who aspired to preach. I’ve always had women preacher on the pentecostal events that I attended when I was younger, and never thought anything about it. And I must say that right now in our vineyard church in Antwerp, a lot of people (including me) get to preach, regardless of gender and age, in the spirit of John Wimbers ‘everybody gets to play’ philosophy… So my direct environment only makes it more natural to not see that much differences between the sexes in role.

It is quite logical that different people have different gifts. I know women who are good at speaking, and men who are good at cooking (like me), and this has influence on both roles in a church or enterprise, but also in a relationship. Actually the differences between 2 people of the same sex can be much bigger than between a man and a woman. Generalisations about ‘women are X’, or ‘men are Y’ have never worked for me and always made me feel somewhere uncomfortable and abnormal. Neither the Christian ‘wild at heart’ variety nor the secular ‘Venus and Mars’ ever made much sense for me, my wife, or our relationship. Every person is different, every combination of persons will be different too, and as someone who consistently fails to conform to the lowest denominator I always fail too at this kind of prescribed roles. And I could say the same for my wife, and trying to conform our marriage to some Driscollian theory would just completely destroy our relationship, that has always been very good.

Also, Silencing women is making half of the church passive, which sounds more like the work of Satan to me than like the work of God. I’ve been blessed too much by women who were ‘above me’ in church contexts to ever think it ‘wrong’.

In the end, I can only share what I know. If I am honest, I see no way at all in which the idea of ‘hierarchy in a marriage’ would even work. (I don’t see it working in the trinity either, like Roger Olson says here, pt 2 and pt 3, it’s not just heresy, but plain nonsense) I am a natural mutual person. Yes, there always is hierarchy in certain contexts: if I’m at work I have to listen to my boss, and I have to listen to a police man in a uniform. But I don’t have to listen to my boss outside my working hours, or to a policeman outside his time. Likewise there are moments when one person takes the lead in a marriage, depending on what person is closer to the job that needs to be done. So sometimes I will submit to my wife when things need to be done, sometimes it’s the other way around. But even then, most important decisions could never be made by one of us, but only together after some talking.

To conclude: I do not understand at all what hierarchy-obsessed ‘complementarism’ advocates, it goes counter to all I believe and what I see in the bible, and all that works in my life, and everything where I’ve seen the Spirit at work. I’ve seen it hurt women, and pushed unto me it would hurt me to. I’m not a top-leader, I’m a democratic person. I believe in carrying responsibility together in love.

That’s what I know. And that’s how I see it work. That’s how I see the spirit works. And I don’t want to need to defend myself against some backwards and to me utterly arbitrary and incoherent framework that cannot be mine but wants to push itself unto others as being ‘the biblical way’.

I just want to share that I love my marriage, in which we share our responsibilities in love. I want to testify about all the women who taught me in my life as a believer. Just like the first person to ever preach the resurrection was a woman (Mary of Magdala), who is therefor dubbed ‘apostle to the apostles’ by the church fathers and orthodox church, women are needed in the church as half of the imago dei, and I would not be what I am without them.

Shalom

Bram

sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit


(Now that’s a name for a first blog post of the new year, isn’t it?)

I was reading a blog post by Dan Brennan[1] about ‘sexual dominoes’, which got me thinking about how much we actually believe the bible and take it serious as a basis for our lives as evangelical christians, as we’d claim we do when someone would ask us.

So what are ‘sexual dominoes’? The article by Josh Hunt Dan refers to is a good example. It basicly boils down to the good old ‘slippery slope’ argument applied to the fear of having a affair: all affairs start innocently and then instantly progress like the collective pieces in the domino game. Once one tips over one tile, all the rest of the tiles follow suit. Don’t come near to other women as a man, it is dangerous and flirting with infidelity. A quote from the Josh Hunt article will make it more clear how far this kind of thinking goes:

I’d invite you to make it a part of the culture at your church: around here. . .

  • We don’t share a meal with another woman
  • We don’t get in the care with another woman
  • We don’t counsel another woman
  • We don’t talk about anything personal with another woman.
  • We are never alone with another women ever for any reason.

You will be glad you did. So will your kids, your church, your friends and your God.

Impractical as such a thing is in most working contexts, it is probably is possible for a pastor… And it’s nothing new, Billy Graham had policies like this, and Rick Warren still has. The idea is that one can’t be careful enough… So apparently we are not capable of self-control, and just should avoid any situation in which we **could** be able to sin with someone of the other sex. Nevermind that such way of thinking is devaluating the person of the other sex to just a ‘temptation’, supposing the worst of them. Nevermind that our big example Jesus, who was even unmarried, broke all this kind of unwritten laws and taboos (which were really strong in his culture) with the Samaritan woman at the well, and probably with Mary and Martha too… which is an important subversion of all these kinds of thinking, but not what I was planning to write about… Maybe later…

But then I got thinking about self-control. The pop-Freudianism which gave us this framework might not believe in it, but what about us Christians. Shouldn’t the word ‘self-control’ automaticly ring a bell -and especially for me as a charismatic Christian-? Do we or do we not actually believe in the fruits of the Spirit?

Gal 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ45 have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

Back to my question: Do we really take the bible seriously as evangelical Christians? Do we actually want the Spirit to transform us according to the fruits of the Spirit? Do we really want to follow Jesus’ example, and the law of love for our fellow human, regardless of their sex? Or do we follow the wisdom of pop-freudianism, which makes us unable to have any unsuspect relationship in the end.

And yes, we should be realistic, and not go there where we know we will be tempted beyond what we can handle. But that does not mean that we as Christians in any way can agree with the worldly way of thought that devaluates humans, created in the image of God, to either dangerous tempting sexy creatures or lust-controlled animals who cannot resist them. This is a very unchristian way of thinking, which goes against all Jesus stood for, against the whole Spirit of the New Testament! (It might be compatible with some muslim thought though) We should love our neigbor as ourselves, regardless of sex, and to really love someone will never go together with sexually abusing them (in real life or in thought). A good cross-gender friendship is a much better way to learn how to cope with the other sex than any kind of segregation tactics can ever be…

When will we really believe in the power of the Spirit, in the seriousness of the first law of love? When will we follow the example of Christ and love our fellow human, regardless of sex, income, social class, color of skin,… De we really believe that in Christ there is no male or female, no jew nor greek?

Or are we more inclined to believe the theories of this world? Pop-psychology, freudian reductionism, etc… If that is the case, we better stop using words like ‘evangelical’ or ‘biblical’. There’s nothing biblical at all about this. It’s just fear, and disbelief in the words of Jesus and Paul, in the Love of Christ in us, and in the Image of God that we all share.

Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear, like the bible says? do we really believe such things?

Let there be more of You, Lord
and less of our silliness,
More Holy Spirit and less ZeitGeist
so that Your Kingdom come
and Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven

Shalom

Bram

[1] Author of the much-needed book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions‘, about Christians and cross-gender friendships.