Monthly Archives: June 2013

Marriage and Values

 

As the arguments over homosexuality continue, I wish to continue the advancement of good biblically founded views on marriage. As I argued in my previous post, “Christians Response to Homosexuality,” we as Christians should never argue that homosexuality degrades our own marriages. Our lack of commitment, love, and value of marriage degrades our own marriages. Therefore, I hope to share a few thoughts on the importance of marriage.

                Our current culture teaches us that marriage is at best, a neutral choice. Television series, advertisements, and t-shirts all communicate that marriage is a burden. Once married you have the, “ball and chain,” it is now, “game over,” and your freedom of doing whatever you want is over. (The issue of freedom is another cultural idol I will speak on later).

                Gene Simmons on his reality show avoids at all costs the “M” word, although it looks like in all practicality, he is committed. (The pun there being a demonstration of small ways in which we make comments that devalue marriage.) All of the couples on television that live together, but are not married, are presented as having the wonderful freeing capability to be able to leave as soon as the relationship starts going south.

                  Almost all instances of sex, or sexuality, are shown between unwed individuals. The rush of the moment and the thrill of something new is emphasized. Rarely is there the presentation of long married couples sharing any amount of fire. They are the old prudes.

                Not only are most of the negative presentations of marriage stemming from an incorrect view of sex, but they also are counter Scriptural. Scripture presents marriage as part of the good creation of God, very good even. Marriage, or the, “one flesh,” is not just the sexual union, it is also the starting of a new family. Through the start of this new family, individuals fulfill the ordinance of being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth.

                In the Greek Scriptures, marriage represents the relationship of Christ and the church. We are to act in ways that show Christ’ relationship to the church. In all, marriage is very important to God. Because of the constant attacks on the importance of marriage, I make it a point to try and abstain from all marriage jokes.  True, our marriages should be stronger than that, but the jewel of marriage on the Church’s crown is rather dull right now. We will need to work hard to bring back its luster.


Evolution of the Swimsuit and Man’s Responsible Mind

                Jessica Rey’s fairly recent video on the evolution of the swimsuit has been creating a small stir on the internet. She argues in her video that contrary to the position that bikinis empower women, they actually give them power to shut down a man’s ability to conceptually relate. The answer to this negative power is showing off ones dignity through modesty.

                I find her argumentation lacking. Although it may have only been because of time constraint, her arguments lack the depth needed for the topic. First, read this post by Rachel Held Evanst. In it she does help to broaden the discussion beyond just men’s brains and a cursory reference to modesty.          

Rachel points out that the article done by Dr. Fiske of Princeton University has several issues. She includes that the there was only a small sample pool, only headless pictures of women, and that the subjects used already had a sexist view. I would also like to add the critique of a control group. According to the book Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers, there is problem with studying the affects of porn and objectification because it is difficult to find a control group that has not had a great exposure to pornography. I would like to know the porn addiction history of the men in the study by Dr. Fiske.

I would surmise that individuals who have not been exposed to pornography, or any form of advertisement, would be less likely to objectify women. Almost all advertisements and pop culture objectifies women’s bodies and trains men to do the same. This is a culturally trained pattern that men must actively fight against in order to responsible for their own thoughts.

                                Men are responsible to keep their thoughts captive, but we cannot expect them to do this on their own. Should women cover everything up? That would depend upon your culture and I will leave that discussion for someone else. What is necessary is that we equip men to be able to deal with culture and its training to sexualize woman’s bodies.

                From car commercials, to advertisements for watches to television series, women’s bodies are portrayed as sexual, completely clothed or not. In most advertisements it goes beyond how much skin is showing and into the body language of the female. She is postured so as to accentuate curves and present herself as a target.

                Are female bodies innately sexual? I don’t think so. But our society is making it that way. As is evidence by some cultures that find the ankle to be the most sexual part of the female body, what is sexual and what is not is simply what we are trained to think. Currently we are training men to think of every part of a female as sexual.

                As we seek to train men to control their thoughts, we also must train them to think counter culturally. They must learn to think of the female body as a person, not an object of value that helps to sell cars, watches, boats and deodorant. The battle of men and women to control their minds is constant. Understanding what culture is teaching us, and then learning what Scripture teaches us is another very useful skill for the battle.

 


Christian’s Response to Homosexuality

                A few weeks ago Minnesota became the 13th state to legalize gay marriage. Today the Supreme Court gave marriage rights to already married homosexual couples and declared prop 8 in California unconstitutional. A rally against the legalization of gay marriage by Christians will most likely begin with new fervor. Unfortunately, that outcry will fly under the claim that homosexual marriage undermines heterosexual God ordained marriage.

                We as Christians must be careful how we talk about the issue of homosexual marriage and the Christian biblical view of marriage. If we say that allowing two men or two women to marry undermines our biblical perspective of a man and a woman marrying, we are the ones responsible for undermining our marriages, not homosexuals.

                As Christians, we believe that God has ordained marriage as a covenant between a man and woman. It is specifically an irrevocable covenant in which we have the opportunity to be like God in how we keep our promises and be like Christ in his relationship with the church. It is set up by God, and therefore no human action can undermine what God has ordained. If God has made something good, it is good regardless of actions that are counter to God’s character surrounding it.

                 Homosexual marriage has no relation to marriage in the church. Even secular heterosexual marriages are not completely like ones in the church. They may represent God’s character in their commitment to the covenant, but they do not carry with them the implications of Christ and the church. Christian marriage before God is irrevocable and permanent. Contrary to culture, divorce is not an option.

                In Matthew, Christ says that, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (NIV). At first glance it may appear not to make sense. How can a woman commit adultery if she is divorced? But that is precisely the point. The only way it would be adultery would be if she is still married. In God’s eyes, she is still married to her husband even if the paperwork says, “divorce”.

                Man’s actions of divorce do not change God’s view of the marriage. They are still in a covenant. There are two implications of this. First, that the biggest thing that undermines Christian marriage is Christian divorce. When we divorce we are not like God in keeping our covenants in that action. We have not been like Christ and his church.

                Second, is that God ignores man’s view the marital status. Regardless of man’s divorce certificate Christ still sees the marriage the way he made it. In the same way we as Christians should not be concerned with what the world calls marriage. Instead, we should be concerned with our relationships and how they reflect on Christ.

                So as you dialogue and talk about marriage with those for and against homosexual marriage as it relates to the church, remember that our first concern as Christians is the state of our own marriages and how we honor God through them.

Recommended Book: Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality


The Knowledge of the Holy

Previously I talked about how we can desire to be like God, and that part of our problem with trying to be like Christ is that we lack the imagination. The late A. W. Tozer speaks to this issue well in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy. In it he shares with us that, “the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

This emphasis on how we conceive of, or imagine God to be is in stark contrast to the emphases on doing that is in the church today. In the preface he laments how in his present culture (true also in ours) that the verse, “Be still and know that I am God” carries very little weight. We are so busy with our lives running about and trying to be productive, that we forget to truly live. We fall to the sin of busyness.

He does not say it directly, but speaking in the same spirit of his book, I would continue and say that a man can never be greater than his greatest thought. The, “mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God.” If we do not conceive of God as he is, if we have an error in our understanding of who He, then the same level of error that we have we will have error in the entirety of our lives.

The book is focused on the character and attributes to God. Even though he does not continually quote Scripture, his writing is imbued with a knowledge and references to the truth found in Scripture. He does not pretend to be writing theologically, for his goal is to write to the common man in order to capture their imagination and cause them to worship.

It is also short, and divided up into short sections. It is a must read of the classics. You could instead, as he even mentions, read the works of Augustine, but those take much more focus in following, and are much longer. If we are going to make crowns in the image of the ones we hope to one day have, then we need to know who the true crown maker is.

In the end I must also say that ultimately we need to know Scripture. But A. W. Tozer references the spirit of the Scriptures and is very beneficial to our imaginations as we go forth in our service of the king.


Being like Christ Emulating God

                There is an odd dichotomy in the Christian community. Often, we are told and tell others to be like Christ, but we are also always made well aware that we are sinful and can never be perfect. I believe that this is part of the reason why when asked who we want to be like, we always qualify, “Other than Jesus.” We all know that Jesus should be our answer. But I know very few people who can honestly say that at the forefront of their imagination.

                In addition, I believe that we have problems relating with Christ not just because of his perfection, but because we have forgotten how to read. When we read Scriptures, we don’t know how we fit into the picture. We can’t imagine it as being real.

                Christ suffered. He was ridiculed. He felt sadness. He cried when his followers did not understand the truth. He was anguished. He was a person. We seem to keep his infinite power and knowledge at the forefront of our minds, and not his humanity. Furthermore, we remember the stories of Scripture as a lesson, and forget to remember them as a story.

                For example, when we want to be like Christ, be like God, we should look at how he responded and acted in certain events. Christ acted with compassion on the sick. At times he was in the middle of trying to get away from the crowds, but felt compassion and stayed to help them.

                In the Hebrew Scriptures, we see stories that exhibit God’s patience. When the Israelites were saved from Egypt, they complained that they would be killed. God saved them. Then they complained about water, then food, then the kind of food. God patiently provided for them even when they were whining.

                If we remember events as stories, and then call these stories to mind when we need that quality that will be much more effective than just telling ourselves to be more patient. We can think to ourselves, “Okay God, you were patient with the Israelites, please help me to be patient with my, spouse/sibling/children/friends/enemies.”

                Know the stories that God tells, and that will show you how to emulate God.


Fathers Day

                Today is father’s day. This means that for many churches the subject of the sermons will be about our heavenly Father. Unfortunately, for many churches that focus on the interpersonal psychological relationship that people have with God, they will focus on how God is not like your earthly Father. “Your earthly father is angry. God is not. Your father is flawed, God is not,” Etc.

                Although many of these statements may be true, that God is not many of the negative characteristics of our earthly fathers, the focus is entirely wrong. We do not define God by what he is not—at least not primarily. We know who God is because of who he is.

                I know from Scripture that God is patient. Read the accounts following God delivering the Israelites form Egypt and you will see his long suffering patience. God rescues them. They whine that they are going to die of thirst. So he gives them water. They whine that they will die without food. He gives them the miraculous Manna. They whine that it is bland. He gives them quail. They whine about to much meat and on and on. God is patient.

                God is faithful. What he promises he brings about. He anoints David as king, and David eventually becomes king. He promises the Messiah, and the Messiah has come. Again and again, God’s word is faithful.

                It is true that at times we can see what God is not. He is not abusive. But even with psychology, we get a lot farther with our lives by focusing what is true, what can be done, what will happen then by what didn’t happen, what should have occurred, and what is wrong with the world.

                So this fathers day, focus on who your heavenly Father is, not who he is not.


The Jacket part ii

It is important to capture our imaginations. Not just of grand and romantic ideas, but of day to day events. Take hold of the ideas we have and place them on paper for future musing. It is also important to appreciate art for arts sake. So there are two good things together when we have a story for the sake of story that captures our imagination of day to day events.

The following story is one of a sad event. I hope that it captures your imagination to create in you an emotive response. The beauty of emotive responses in literature is that the event is slowed down. Each word and moment can be re read and mulled over. The panic of an appropriate response or the rush of sadness that is experienced in events that happen to us is removed, and we get to take a look at the emotion that is not withdrawn like a scientific study, but not immersed like a life event.

So without further to do, 

The Jacket

 “Can she remember anything yet?”

“No. I am sorry Charles. I am afraid not”

“Is she back to functional?”

“No. Not really. It is as if she has reverted back to high school. With a little less independence”

“Does she have any long term memory yet?”

“Well, kind of. She seems to remember who I am. Well, not really. I mean, she remembers that I am the one that is supposed to take care of her” Clair had enough warewithawl to notice his face. “I mean. I am sorry. I know that is supposed to be your job. He sighed.

“I don’t think of it as a job. It is what I want to do. Is she learning anything?”

“She reads some. But it is usually the same books over and over. So no.” There was a long pause. The sun was setting outside, leaving long shadows from every object, and long strands of light coming in through the windows. The floors were red with flowered patterns, that matched the wallpaper on the walls. They stood on the second floor overlooking the entryway to the care facility. Charles had known Clare since high school, and he considered himself lucky to have her at the facility. At least she knew enough about the situation to be sensitive.

                “Uhm, Charles. I really don’t know how to tell you this. But, if her memory hasn’t come back yet, and I mean her ability to remember, not just her memories, then it will probably never come back. She won’t have any long term memory. She will always need a care taker. She also will never remember who her caretaker is.” There was another long pause. For Charles, time didn’t really register at the moment, but for Clare, the pain of having to tell him the inevitability of him ever getting his fiancé back, it seemed like ten or twenty minutes before she got the next words to come. “I know it is hard, though I don’t pretend to really understand, but the best thing is for you to move on. The life you had with her will always be a good thing. The way you treated and loved her is a good thing. But you won’t get her back. You have to let her go. That will take time. I suggest this be your last visit.” A minute passed, and Charles lip began to quiver. The tears slowly built up and began to roll down his face as he looked down and out into memories.

                “al…” he tried to speak. Took a deep breath, and started again, “Alright.” He wiped the tears from his face, but they were immediately replaced by more, that sparkled and shone in the late light. He looked at the floor, to the walls, to the ceiling, as though looking for a way out.

“Hey, uhm, I will give you your time. My mom made some fantastic dinner last night. I have some left overs. I will warm some up and have it waiting for you, okay?”

“Al… Alright”

“Alright. But you are going to need to say something more than that. She is just as spunky and outgoing as ever.” With that, Clair walked passed him and headed downstairs as though to the kitchen. In reality, she stepped in to the bathroom to take care of her own tears that were forming.

Charles slowly walked towards the room, 26a. That was the age that Abigail had sworn she would be married by. The 26 part, not the ‘a’. He stood outside for a few minutes. It would have been longer, but he did realize that he looked kind of creepy just standing outside the room. He knocked quietly.

“I am never going to answer if you knock like that. It doesn’t sound like you actually want to see me. Wait, who is it? Oh no wait. Knock again.” He smirked out a few more tears, and the knocked again.

“Come in.”

“Hello.” He said quietly. She just stared at him.

“Hello, my name is Abigail.” She got up from the chair where she had been reading a kids book, “The Queen and the Cornrow” one that he used to read to her for fun. They would make up their own story to the pictures. In a chest at home, he had pictures that they had drawn to the story. Some pages were stick figures they had done late in the early morning when they were both tired and high on sugar. Other pages they actually took time on, or glued in magazine clippings.

“Oh. My name is Charles.”

“Well what can I do for you Charles? Are you here to play a game?” He paused.

“I would love to.”

“Okay, well I have games, I think. They would be in the closet wouldn’t they?” She began going through the closet, throughout occasional things. A blow dryer, a jacket. “That is funny. I thought I had games. Well what are you hear for then if I don’t have games.”

“Actually. Well I am here to say goodbye… er I mean. To chat for a bit, and then say goodbye.”

“Do I know you?”

“Yes. Well you did.”

“I did?”

“Yes.”

“What do you mean I did?”

“Abigail… You got in a car accident. You had a head injury and you have forgotten everything. We were engaged.”

“Really? Hmmm. Hey are you crying?”

“What? Uh no.” She always had a knack for knowing when he was upset. Apparently it was obvious or she hadn’t lost all of her little quirks.

“Why are you crying?” He waited. “well?” She was also good at prying everything out of him.

“Because I have to say goodbye to a dear friend. Once I say goodbye, I never get to see them again. Though it’s really hard, because they don’t know I am saying goodbye.”

“Wow. That is rough. I am sorry to hear that.” She paused. “Hey, you know what helps a broken heart, a little sharing and caring. Let me show you something. Have a seat.

He sat down in a small chair close to the door. She went over to a draw and slowly opened it.

“Okay, you have to promise not to tell anyone. And to not think I am too weird.” That was another phrase she would use. Everytime before she mentioned some crazy idea she had or a dream of the future of what it could be like driving around the U.S in an R.V full of adopted kids, just to give them an adventure.

“Okay. I promise, with all my love.” She pulled out a jacket from the drawer. It was his. She had borrowed it often. He had had it for years. It smelled like him, had small tears and a few small stains, but was in general good condition.

“This is my special jacket. It is special because every time I am feeling down I put it on, and I feel better. You see, there are times when I feel like I am missing something. That something is just wrong like I am in a dream without any family and if I can just wake up I will have them all right here beside me. But when I put this on. It feels like home. It smells like home.” She paused holding and looking down at the jacket. “But recently. The smell has been fading. I don’t know what to do. When I feel down, I want to put it on, but I am afraid that it is going to lose all of its scent. What am I going to do?” She looked at him pleading. Tears began to roll down his face. Seeing her, even over something so small was unbearable. “Abigail.”

“Oh, what is wrong? Oh dear. Apparently you need this more than I. I am afraid I have forgotten how to cry. Here, put this on, it will help.” She stood up to give it to him, and he leaned forward to take it and put it on. “There. Now you will be better.”

He just cried. He couldn’t take it. He just sat their and cried as she tried to console him. In all honesty he was trying to stay their longer so that he could wear the jacket longer and give it his scent again, but he didn’t have the words to speak.

The sun finally set.

“Hey, uhm. It is dinner time, and I need to go soon. Are you feeling better.”

“Yeah. Yeah I am feeling better.” He lied.

“can I have that back please?” He slowly rose and took off the jacket. He placed it on her shoulders the way he used to. He went to hug her, but stopped, “is it alright if I just”

“Yeah, hear.” She hugged him, with energy.

“Wow. That is amazing. It smells like home again. Your pretty great Mr. You know that? You made my jacket smell like home. I feel at home. Like I am among family again. Thank you so much.

And he just stood their, hugging her and crying for a while. And finally let go.

“Goodbye Abigail.”

“Goodbye Mr.” she said, as she clutched the jacket tighter.