Tag Archives: love

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

The healing light (Chp 1-3): the science of faith healing


This is my first actual p51oDtrUSsML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ost in a series of blogging through Agnes Sanfords book ‘the healing light’ (1947), subtitled ‘the art and the method of spiritual healing’ which can be read in PDF here. The introductory post can be found here and I will try to cover the whole book in parts throughout the next months, with some spin-off posts addressing certain topics that need to be looked at some more and from different angles. In this post we’ll cover the first 3 chapters.

It’s probably clear already that, while I did learn some things from it, this is not a book that I agree with completely. I can even say that it sometimes takes an approach that sounds quite alien to me, but it was very interesting to read through nonetheless. As the foreword (written by someone named Glenn Clark) says:

Agnes Sanford was born in China as the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary, she has lived for years in New Jersey as the wife of an Episcopalian rector, and she has studied and tried every form of healing that has ever been known. Never have I met one who combined the metaphysical and the sacramental approach as she does. I have never met anyone more Christ-centered nor anyone more church-centered and yet more utterly unconcerned about the creed or lack of creed of those that she administers to.

Before we start with the content of the first three chapters let’s make some more general remarks about the book;  Agnes’ writing style is easy to read. She regularly jumps from more theoretical and instructional parts to a lot of anecdotes, and stories of healing and other own experiences. Her way of writing indicated that she isn’t merely trying to teach some kind of theory that she made up, but that she has a lot of experience with Divine healing and prayer, and afterwards has distilled theory and methods out of that that she wants to share.
The implication of this for me is that I do trust her heart, and her connection to God, but not all of her conclusions and theories. There seems to be a bit of new thought influence and a quite mechanical ‘scientific’ worldview for example that I can’t completely follow.

So, for the actual content of the first 3 chapters then. She lays the basis for faith healing, a scientific explanation of how it works according to her, and a first articulation of her method. It’s probably interesting to start with her theology of healing and the role of God in that:

God is both within us and without us. He is the Source of all life; the Creator of universe behind universe; and of unimaginable depths of inter-stellar space and of light-years without end. But He is also the indwelling life of our own little selves. And just as a whole world full of electricity will not light a house unless the house itself is prepared to receive that electricity, so the infinite and eternal life of God cannot help us unless we are prepared to receive that life within ourselves. Only the amount of God that we can get in us will work for us.

She then begins with developing a ‘scientific’ method for faith healing, in full confidence that it’s possible to use this ‘law of nature’. Like I mentioned before she seems to think that the universe is fully answering to natural laws that God has put into His Creation. Miracles for her are not breaking the laws of nature but following laws of nature that we don’t know yet, and if we as humans will grow to understand them more we will be able to use them just as easily as we use the laws of gravity and electricity now in our technique.

Few of us in the north would ask God to produce a full-blown rose out of doors in January. Yet He can do this very thing, if we adapt our greenhouses to His laws of heat and light, so as to provide the necessities of the rose. And He can produce a full-blown answer to prayer if we adapt our earthly tabernacles to His laws of love and faith so as to provide the necessities of answered prayer.
Some day the world will come to understand this fact, as it now understands the miracle of sound waves, for one generation’s miracles are the commonplaces of another generation.
Some day we will understand the scientific principles that underlie the miracle-working powers of God, and we will accept His intervention as simply and naturally as we do the radio.

And this is already something where I might not really agree. Even if she is right about miracles following for us unknown laws of nature, -which is very plausible to me- then still I highly doubt that we are able to hack those laws and use them as easily as we do with the laws of gravity and electricity in our machines… This is a bit too much modernist thriumph of technique talk for me…
But that there is a ‘natural law’ behind how miracles operate and that we might be more effective in praying according to this law is not something I have a problem with.

The method that she has worked out then, and that she returns to several times in the book has 4 steps:

1. The first step is getting in contact with God. This is worded a bit strangely because she writes for Christians and non-Christians alike, but she’s not compromising here. Maybe having a bit too much optimism about how easily non-Christians can ‘tune in’ to God though.
Later in the book she recommends meditation as a help at this first step, based on the psalms verse of ‘be still and know that I am God.’. Her point is here to actually get in contact with God, something which she seems to do very naturally herself.

2. The second step is ‘turning on the energy’, which she recommends to do with a prayer like “Heavenly Father, please increase in me at this time Your lifegiving power.”

3. The third step is to believe that this power is coming into use and to accept it by faith. This is the next thing that can be easily written about, but isn’t easily as easily done and turned into a method as it might sound to her.
“No matter how much we ask for something it becomes ours only as we accept it and give thanks for it. “Thank You,” we can say, “that Your life is now coming into me and increasing life in my spirit and in my mind and in my body.””

4. The fourth step is observing the power at work. This needs an actual goal to accomplish so we can see it it has worked, so this is where the actual healing takes place.

She adds that if it it doesn’t work that it doesn’t mean that healing doesn’t work, but that we do it wrong and need to find a right way for it to work, and that we better learn to know how to pray effectively.

How strange it is that people who fear to do this do not hesitate to pray for the most difficult objectives of all, such as the peace of the world or the salvation of their souls! If they have so little confidence in prayer that they do not dare to test their powers of contacting God by praying for an easy thing, it is probable that their cosmic intercessions are of little force. If everyone who prayed for the peace of the world had enough prayer power to accomplish the healing of a head cold, this would be a different world within twenty-four hours.

She does speak about prayer power to accomplish things, but that doesn’t mean that she reduces prayer to a magical power by which Divine power gives us everything we want if we just know how to ask it. There is one small detail that isn’t small after all, and that is that we need to pray according to Gods will:

There is no great mystery concerning the will of God, in so far as it applies to our small selves. God’s will is written into His nature,and the nature of God is love. Therefore, when we pray in accordance with the law of love, we are praying in accordance with the will of God.

It might sound simple, but it isn’t that simple. Elsewhere she really implies in certain places that only living in accordance with ‘the law of love’ keeps us connected to God. Which is not exactly the fluffy new age stuff that some might think she is saying at first glance… Love is foundational to everything she writes and seems to be a reality she’s expecting to manifest in everybodies life. She seems to have had such a lifestyle in which she naturally tried to love all people and God (and even the rest of creation). But that will come back in a later chapter.

So, while it sounds easy to have a method of faith healing based on a ‘scientific’ method and an to us unknown law of nature that can be used if we just know how, it seems that she at least requires 3 things that are easier said than done:

A) connecting the Creator
B) have real and specific faith in healing
C) naturally living a lifestyle based on loving God and our fellow humans…

If you master those things, faith healing is as simple as turning on a radio apparently…

I must say that, even though I have a tiny bit of experience with prayer healing very similar to what she describes, I cannot say how good her method works. I feel not that good at step #1/A, I am more a person who prays ‘if it be your will’ than who has faith for healing to really happen when it comes to #3/B, and while I try, I don’t know if I really can say anything about really living a life of love in C… Maybe a better (wo)man than me could try it for me though.

So what do you people think? A lot of this is very controversial ground, so I’m open to input from all angles except for those who are mocking or engaging in anti-supernatural gaslighting…

Peace

Notes: Some of these quotes might sound like God being an impersonal energy, but in other places she does affirm the personality and will of God. She is not at all pantheist, but she does like the Eastern Orthodox believe in a distinction between the transcendent essence of God and the immanent energies of God, that sustain all of creation.
Her Christianity also shows in the importance she places on the person of Jesus. One of the most quoted parts of the bible in the book is the sermon on the mount, which seems very foundational to her faith -something I do agree with-. She doesn’t mention the cross yet, but later on in a later chapter she’ll develop a theory of atonement in which the cross and resurrection are very important.

the danger of anger and the law of love (Agnes Sanford)


The next text is taken from DSCF0083Agnes Sanfords ‘the healing light’ (1947), a book that I am wresting with and that I might blog about later. I’m not sure I agree with the way she frames some things and some of her conclusions at all, but from everything I know she is a woman of God with spiritual insight who lived what she taught.

Danger lurks in every form of energy. The flow of energy that we call the law of love is the rhythm for which our beings were created, the thought-vibration in which we live and move and have our being. Every thought of anger, therefore, throws a contrary and destructive counter-vibration into the body, and places us in danger. “Whosoever is angry with his brother—shall be in danger of the judgment.”

This judgment begins immediately. One of its first evidences is the failure of the prayer-power of the angry one. He will find that he cannot pray, no matter how hard he tries. He will also notice in his body the immediate results of anger. A fit of wrath destroys the appetite, upsets the digestion, weakens the muscles and confuses the mind. And the anger that solidifies into hate, resentment or hurt feelings deposits a continual sediment or poison in nerves, arteries, bones and mind, and prepares the body for death. Doctors tell us that anger tends to destroy the body. Jesus said that it also tends to destroy the soul. “But whosoever shall say ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

The words sound harsh, but they are true. For the forces of spirit, mind and body are synchronized and ordered by the same inner control center, and that which affects one affects the others. As long as the thinking of the conscious mind is in harmony with God the sub-conscious mind directs the functioning of the body in a marvelous way. But as soon as we turn the dial of our thoughts to hate, bitterness, hurt feelings, resentment and irritations we send a contrary order down to the engine room of the subconscious which responds with the general order, “Hurt! Destroy!” The protective and life-giving forces of the body are weakened so that one falls prey to germs and infections, to pain and weakness, to nervousness and ill temper, and to the spiritual dullness that results from the dimming of the life force. If one looks with an open mind upon the history of war and epidemics he will perceive this fact.

The One Who Knew, therefore, was neither harsh nor fantastic. He was only realistic as He stated, in His own blunt, straight-from-the-shoulder way, a fact that cannot e evaded; the one who is angry with his brother is in danger. Christians have tried so hard to avoid this unavoidable law! Their excuses for anger range from the “righteous indignation” that slew the unbeliever to the “righteous indignation” that thunders against modernist or fundamentalist or Catholic or Jew. But there is no way of side-stepping the law of God, because it is written in our own subconscious minds. And the subconscious mind cannot figure out the difference between “righteous” and “unrighteous” indignation. Its working is inexorable and absolute, founded on laws set in motion before the foundation of the world, and no puny excuse of man-made mind can change it from its course. A man might drink poison in ignorance, mistaking it for water. In so doing, he would be acting righteously. No blame could possibly be attached to him. But that would not prevent the poison from destroying him. Therefore the Teacher, who was a most profound psychologist, told us that the poison of hate is dangerous, no matter what the cause of the hate may be.

(…)

We would be wise to direct our lives as much as possible toward paths of peace. We would be wise to plan our food, rest, work and recreation in as healthful a way as possible in order to soothe and harmonize our beings. For much of our bad temper springs from no other cause than weariness and over-strain.
We would also be wise to take the wrath-provoking words and acts of other people as assignments from God, as spiritual exercises, or as helpful hint along the way of life rather than as excuses for anger.

(…)

Not all spiritual adventures, however, are without pain. There are those who would strike one upon the cheek or steal his coat or compel him to go a mile with him as a burden-bearer, as the Romans did to the Jews. There are those, in other words, who would insult, defraud or bully one. The human answer to this problem is self-defense. What did the Way-Shower have to say of that?

Alas! He showed a way that very few have learned. He instructed those who would follow him into that happy and powerful life, the Kingdom of Heaven, to practice forgiveness rather than revenge. They were not only to love those who deserved to be loved—their friends. That was easy. Even the heathen did that. They were also to practice love toward their enemies. He suggested that when struck upon one cheek, they turn the other cheek toward the angry one; that when defrauded, they give to the defrauder; that when bullied, they perform an extra service for the bully. Those who have taken these suggestions literally and tried them out have found them to be the most perfect methods of self-defense.
And we become perfected in love by trying to do it. The method is so simple that any child can learn it. It is merely to connect in spirit with the love of God, send that love to the other person, and see him re-created in goodness and joy and peace.

What do you think?

peace

Bram

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

I Corinthians 13 (V)


reLOVEutionIn this post we proceed our meditative explorations on 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s well-known ‘love chapter’.  This is always the first thing I think about when people say ‘Paul isn’t important’ for whatever kind of reason. I can’t believe that anyone would want a bible without 1 Corinthians 13, and Gods message to mankind that was brought by Jesus is not complete without an understanding of what Paul is saying here.

Let’s just read the next part slowly:

Love never ends.
But if there are prophecies,
they will be set aside;
if there are tongues,
they will cease;
if there is knowledge,
it will be set aside.
For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part,
but when what is perfect comes,
the partial will be set aside.

This is a well-known piece of the bible, not only used for meditation but also for fierce theological discussions.
Some have used this piece for the defence of cessationism, which is the idea that the supernatural works of the Spirit have ceased after the time of the apostles. I don’t see how one could make that exegesis without having to conclude that not only speaking in tongues and prophecies, but knowledge itself would have ceased. And knowledge is quite important to most cessationists I’ve met. Also in this interpretation it seems that one has to conclude that the ‘perfect’ that will come is the canon of the bible. I really can’t see that work at all…

No, the piece is just noting the fallibleness of everything in this fallen world, in contrast with the love this chapter is speaking about. You don’t have to be postmodern to have  a very humble epistemology! Just reading 1 Corinthians 1′ may suffice…
Prophecies, tongues and knowledge are incomplete in this age, but they will be perfected in the next age, when the Kingdom of God comes. So the last verse here really is eschatological.

Read the piece again. Let every detail sink in.

Everything is incomplete in this world. Our religious things as well as the non-religious, and we are just fallible humans.

One day there will be a perfection of Creation, but we won’t see it in this lifetime… And then the partial, the incomplete will be set aside.

Love will be completed then… We can not even start to understand what that might mean, but it surely will be good!

Peace

Bram

1 Corinthians 13 (IV)


reLOVEutionAfter my explorations in the realms of magic, (false) scepticism and the defence of the middle ages it might be time to go back to writing about the Christian faith, and so I continue my meditations on 1 Corinthian 13. In this post I continue with the second part of the chapter, in its entirety. We could pause at every single line too (and you can do that on your own if you want), but I’m just going to let this part speak:

Let’s read this, and try to understand what Paul means here:

Love is patient,
love is kind,
it is not envious.
Love does not brag,
it is not puffed up.
It is not rude,
it is not self-serving,
it is not easily angered
or resentful.
It is not glad about injustice,
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Take time to read every line slowly and to let it sink in…

But what does it mean? We don’t see this kind of love in our lives. Sure, it means that we must strive to love this way (helped by the Holy Spirit), even if this kind of love will not be perfect in our lifetime. It is meant to grow into perfection, since the only way to be in ‘heaven’ in eternity is to actually be able to ‘love our neigbor as ourselves and God with all of our mind, soul and strength’.

So there’s more to it than a description of ‘ideal love’ that only exist in some kind of Platonic ‘world of ideas’ of which we only see a dim shadow here and now.  There is also more than our human love in the most ideal circumstance.

Darin Hufford in his book the misunderstood God says that those are the characteristics of God, since 1 John says that God is love. This view might be challenging to some, but it is not too big a stretch to make: Why would the Love of God be less than what the apostle writes here about love? It would be utter nonsense to assume that God, who is said to be Love, would ask us to love more than He does himself.

So the love God has must go beyond the ‘love your enemies, bless those who hate you’ of the sermon on the mount.

So let’s read the verses again, and now focus on these characteristics being the characteristics of Gods love for us. For me, you and everybody… What does this mean? What are the consequences?

Radical, isn’t it?

PS: Please don’t start discussions here about Gods love and Gods judgement as if those were 2 different things. If God loves His Creation and His Children, God will probably need to get very angry when the things He loves get destroyed… And things need to be set right. Sin is a very destructive power that needs to be dealt with… But all judgement is rooted in love. If anyone does harm to your children and creation you would get quite angry too..