On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Idol.” For I will remove the names of the idols from your mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.
~ Hosea 2.16-20
I passed by you again and looked on you; you were at the age for love. I spread the edge of my cloak over you, and covered your nakedness: I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off the blood from you, and anointed you with oil. I bound you in fine linen and covered you with rich fabric. I adorned you with ornaments: I put a beautiful crown upon your head. You were adorned with gold and silver. You grew exceedingly beautiful, fit to be a queen. Your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of my splendor that I had bestowed on you, says the Lord God.
~ Ezekiel 16.8-14
I know it’s a little long for a quote, but I promise, it’s very worth your time:
Within Christianity, the masculine image of God is often defined in these terms of control, power and dominion. Much of the Christian faith, though, requires that men recognize their limitations and depend on God. We accept salvation through his son and sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a faith where the last shall be first (Mk 10:31), marked by a life of service to others….
Consider the definition offered by John Piper: “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships” ([Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood] Piper and Grudem, 2006, p. 35). It is a definition that emphasizes leading, providing for and protecting women. But it offers no insight on how men relate to one another. Depending on your reading of this definition, it either smacks of male chauvinism or places greater value on women’s needs. No doubt well intentioned, it offers little guidance for men who are already confused, wounded and lost about their masculinity….
This is an incredibly hard post to write, but an important one, I think.
A couple of years ago, I started (and never really finished–but I will!) a blog series which outlined a systematic way that as a male, I can incorporate feminist perspectives on theology into the way I think about God and life.
I call it “Male Feminist Theology” because there’s something about truly being a “feminist” that requires having embodied the experience of being a woman–which I have not. (Similarly, I could not call myself a “Black Activist” with any kind of integrity.)
I started this series with a bunch of posts about using feminine language for God. There was a lot of blowback from that, most of it entirely unexpected. I still hold to that belief that God is gender–ful (not gender-less) and so the full range of human language, both masculine and feminine, ought to be applied to God.
And yet, in my actual-lived out spiritual life, this hasn’t seeped into my engagement with God as much as one would expect, considering how strongly I intellectually believe these things. Maybe an occasional substitute of “Mother” for “Father” in the Lord’s prayer or a Creed recitation, but I do it quietly under my breath. Only occasionally do I find myself remembering to pray to God in such terms. My unconscious reflexive depiction of God in my imagination is still fundamentally male. I have to actually exert energy and thought to try and conceive of something different.
This is the dedicated post page for the Advent series “Advent and…”. In it, we looked at the various ways Advent connects to seemingly unrelated parts of our life and existence.
Welcome to Advent, 2012.
This was the series introduction. I looked at how Advent speaks to our whole selves, including a whole host of “un-Christmas-y” kinds of things.
Advent & Sex: we are holy ground
When you think of Christmas time, you don’t often think about sex. This post talks about the implication of Christ’s arrival for our sex lives.
Advent & Sex-lessness: here’s to singleness & celibacy!
The Advent story is a notably sex-less affair. What this means for us is huge. This was by far the most widely read post of this series, and in the top five most widely read posts in this blog’s history. Continue reading
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
—1 Corinthians 5.9–13
Oh what a loving and common sense principal for how to engage the sexual immorality of others. Paul sounds like such a liberal (or the Pope, haha) here when he says that it is not his place to judge or condemn those outside the church. He in essence says that they are acting exactly as they should act. There should be no shock, surprise, or offense at “the culture” acting like “the culture”. No railing against the immorality of society. Instead, work to foster purity among the people of God. We are to be more eager to spend time with the “immoral” outside the church then the immoral inside the church.
So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in the citadel of Susa in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. The girl pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food, and with seven chosen maids from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her maids to the best place in the harem.
She “pleased him.” You know what that means, right?
Here and throughout the book are instances where Esther shows herself time and time again to not be faithful to her people or her God in any way. She is selfish, power-hungry, narcissistic, unmerciful, and only helps her people once she is scared she will get killed with the rest of them. She’s kind of a terrible human being. No wonder this book wasn’t accepted as canonical by huge communities of Jews.
For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will rebel against the king’s officials, and there will be no end of contempt and wrath! If it pleases the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be altered, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, vast as it is, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”
This advice pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan proposed; he sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, declaring that every man should be master in his own house.
I can imagine a conservative evangelical looking at this and saying to themselves, “Now, the king’s court is recognizing a natural order in the way God has made a marital relationship to work, even though they go about reinforcing this biblically-supported picture in the wrong way–through force and not love”. I hope that’s a fair representation.
But either way, (1) they would not want us to pull from this text any lessons about how male headship itself is wrong, just how it’s done badly here, and (2) they would still think the concern of these males is justified (and perhaps even right), as we’ve seen similar dynamics play out in our culture in the aftermath of feminism.
Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve posted a Reading List for you all to enjoy–too long, in fact. These were some of my favorite things I read this week. What were some of yours?
In defense of creationists | The Week
Michael Brendan Dougherty
I referenced this at the end of my post yesterday, but this is a stunningly beautiful piece that wrestles with humanizing those that frustrate us the most in the Christian family. A must-read for sure.
Don’t overlook this piece too quickly. It is an incredibly powerful piece that speaks to how all of us–married, single, gay, straight–engage our sexuality in this world. It showed me how having celibate unmarried people in the world is necessary for healthy marriages, as well as how masturbation ruins even good friendships.
Over the past couple of posts, we’ve been looking at Acts 4, to see if it has any lessons to teach us about how Christian engage with the political realm when they disagree with what the government is doing.
So far, we’ve talked about three things: (in Part 1) how Christians should engage with a political realm that comes in conflict with their faith; what is worth Christians disobeying the civil authorities over; and (in Part 2) the cultural and societal work we are called to that facilitates our Christian living and possible disobedience.
Today, we’ll finish this up with some principles and applications for moving forward.
Some Personal Contraceptive Conclusions
Last week, in light of Catholic institutions moving more towards Civil Disobedience in light of certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act, we looked at Acts 4 to see if there was any guidance we could get in this. We talked about how (1) Civil Disobedience is not warfare against the laws of your geographic home, but simply living in light of your spiritual home–the Kingdom of God. We also pointed out (2) that the State is not around to comply with our every theological preference and whim, and therefore some discretion needs to be used to evaluate what’s “worth” Civil Disobedience.
Today we keep going. I want to offer some summary conclusions, but first let’s point out the last thing the Acts 4 passage helps us see: the work we do in society prior to our Civil Disobedience.
With the Affordable Care Act kicking in, it has certainly stirred up its fair share of controversies. It’s regulations are pretty far-reaching and have started to encroach on some territory held pretty sacred by some major parts of our Christian family. The biggest friction has been with the ACA’s requirement that non-church and ecclesial organizations still have to cover contraception coverage for their employees. Catholics who run non-ecclesial organizations have not taken too kindly to this. NPR recently had an interesting profile about this intersection of faith and politics.
Catholic leaders have vowed Civil Disobedience in response to these regulations, insisting on a religious exemption, even for private companies. In the past, religious organizations have done similar things in response to abortion regulations as well as gay marriage statutes.
Reading through Acts 4 the other day, I read again the account of Peter and John being arrested in Jerusalem and thought it had some powerful things to say about this and how Christians in America have been acting towards their government recently. So, I thought we’d walk through that passage over a post today and on Monday, and discuss some principles behind when and how Christians should fight their government tooth-and-nail for their convictions.
I’m taking a class on “The Urban Christian”, and this past week we focused on what happens when the Christian sexual ethic collides with the urban, secular one. We had three excellent readings to which we were to respond. I’d encourage you to read them:
- The Gospel and Sex by Tim Keller
- Practicing Trust (pdf) by Christi Foist
- The Missional Position by Chuck DeGroat
* * * * * * *
Good lord, growing up in the Bible Belt, I can honestly say, I heard more breathless, obsessive talk of sex, boundaries, and frustration in singleness in Bible Belt suburbia than I ever have in my current urban setting. This is for a few reasons, I think:
1. Most everyone I encounter is no longer a virgin, and so the mysteriousness and over-idealization of the unknown, for most people, is not…uh….unknown. The magic is gone for many and they don’t spend all their energies trying to get what they can’t have. But, the same contradictory human mind will say that sex isn’t a big enough deal to focus any energy on not doing, but it is a big enough deal that nobody better try to put any limits on that sexuality.
Yeah, I’ll admit it. I belong to that ever-decreasing group that thinks that our human sexuality is a big enough deal that how we exercise it has profound implications for human, societal, and spiritual flourishing. Further, I believe God has woven in the design of the world particular rhythms and ways in which sexuality lends itself to that flourishing. I see it as something so integral to our souls and bodies that there is a type of care and stewardship that we are lovingly called to exercise with it. And sometimes “stewardship” means placing limits on oneself.
I’ve talked about what this stewardship looks like in various other contexts, but for the purpose of this post, I’m focusing on one in particular. My focus today–to put it plainly–is on the idea that people who aren’t married aren’t “supposed” to have sex.
This isn’t a systematic defense of that idea. I know there are lots of differences of opinions and nuances (even among Christians) on this. I know that we talk about this in the abstract in one way, and when we get to particular people and situations, these “clear” ideas break-down quickly. I get that. But just walk with me for a little bit.